Collecting ideas and thoughts slightly too big for @digital_pharma

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My guest blog post over at ExL. 

Yes. You need to be in the mobile game.

Why mobile?

Well, that’s easy. 40% (and rising) of Americans have a smart phone. 20% have a tablet. These are the young and the affluent, people you want as your customers or very shortly will be.

Adoption rates lead us to expect that at least 80% of Americans and Western Europeans will have either a smart phone or tablet in the next three to five years (and half of them will have both).

Doctors will be living on tablets in the next 12-18 months (and right now, most assume they’ll want an iPad, though that was before Amazon’s announcement).

Tablet users buy more, buy more often, and generally don’t see their device as a work-tool, but as a personal tool (HCPs are a notable exception here as they are one of the fastest-adopting professional sectors for tablets). This is where you want to reach your customers, not in between meetings and appointments, but when they are on their own time, thinking about themselves and their family.

Clearly the audience is almost there. And when they are there, they will be ready to listen to your message, provided you present it in an appropriate fashion.

What does it mean to be in mobile?

The key to be successful in mobile is to embrace the idea that mobile shouldn’t be a silo of your existing content strategy, but should become the core of your content strategy.

For the last ten years, you’ve probably been building a patchwork quilt of content. It started with a web page that was pretty much a label and a logo, but then you added more content like testimonials and videos. Then you added an HCP site. Then you thought about adding a blog. Maybe somewhere in there, you redesigned because you realized that your design didn’t handle all the new content you built. Then you added a YouTube channel and more tools like sample requests and method of action eDetails. You had to build some microsites because you had some new messaging and you didn’t want to interfere with the existing site, Now, you’re spending a lot of time thinking about adding social media. Um, that’s a lot.

Did you ever have that moment when you said, “if I had a blank sheet of paper, this is how I’d do it right?” Mobile is that moment.

Because mobile isn’t another add-on, it’s a paradigm shift. You shouldn’t be thinking “I need a gimmick that’s mobile-friendly” because thats just another silo. Instead, you should be thinking, “how do I get everything from all of our web presences onto mobile.”

Any plans for mobile should have as it’s goal “everything we’d ever want on the web site should be mobile-ready.” So anything that goes on your web site should be able to go on the mobile site. The smart play is to think about it in reverse: if it fits on mobile, it will fit on the web site.

So you need to start thinking about how to make everything mobile-ready. Not long ago (and by that, I mean last week) you really only had to make a simple decision: app or web? If you went for app, you started on either iOS or Android and then completed the other once the first one was done.

But the waters have been muddied by Amazon’s announcement. With web tablets that only cost $200 (the cost of an iPhone if you sign a 2-year contract), a whole new population is about to emerge. While the Fire runs a version of Android, it’s a completely forked version (meaning, Google isn’t updating it) so it might share lineage with Android, but it really is it’s own creature. And since we don’t know about how well it handles apps (I mean, it will have to have apps, but we don’t know how Amazon will be selling or distributing them: through an open marketplace like Google, or through a more managed system like iTunes), we have to treat it separately.

So instead of having to develop for three separate app platforms, maybe the Fire is the tipping point to getting people to focus less on apps and more on the mobile web. Suddenly, the economics of “build twice for apps or once for web” has changed to “built three times for apps or once for web” and I can guarantee more and more people will stop making apps in favor of a web-based tool.

Consider this a do-over. A mulligan, if you will. Take all the lessons we’ve all learned over the last fifteen years of being online and start clean with a new mobile platform and build. Make all your content mobile-friendly and port it out to the website.

Start fresh. Do it right. Now is the time.

The good folks over at Pixels and Pills have been having a debate as to whether technology can replace the rep (catch up with part one and part two).

I was both a witness and a warrior to to great internet takeover, those days when every and any bricks-and-mortar business seemed ripe for digital conversion and the money freely (I once worked for a company that got $3 million in start-up capital because the person who proposed it said she wanted to build “The Amazon.com of Gardening.” Please bear in mind that this person had never run a business, never built a web page, and knew nothing about distributions, operations or marketing. She just picked “gardening” and paired it with Amazon and got a check. Yes, I am jealous. That company lasted less than 18 months, even with another infusion of cash and two changes of business models. THOSE were the days). Name an industry and someone thought they had a way to internet it (yeah, using the internet as a verb sounds weird). They did it because we were in a weird situation where there was too much money chasing too few ideas. Any idea could get funded, even if it was laughable.

So what? Here’s what. Those businesses (almost) all failed because they thought the problem was that there wasn’t money funding the solution. Wrong. Any profitable solution will find funding eventually. The real problem is showing how the solution helps the end user. Why would anyone buy a rake online from that dot-bomb when shipping costs far out-weighed the 15% discount they got buying the rake and the 5-day wait for delivery? Or if that person was crazy enough, why wouldn’t they just buy it from Amazon, who probably figured out a way to offer it at 16% off and gives discounted shipping and already has your credit card number on file? The problem isn’t that there wasn’t a solution, the problem was that there wasn’t really a problem.

No one thought anyone would buy shoes online once, remember? Shoes NEED to be tried on and tested before purchase. Anyone building an online shoe store was throwing out their money. Until some smart guy figured out that the problem of “needing to try them on” can be mitigated with free shipping if (and this is a BIG if) you can give them a reason to bother. The reason? Unbelievable selection. Shoes, are an object of some fetish among so many of us (I love my brogues and Pumas, so I count myself among your numbers). I’ll wait two weeks or three week and try on a few shipped pair if I can get a pair of shoes that are unusual, have personality, and look great. You can’t say the same about gardening implements.

So what does all this mean? Simply that we are in a stage of trying to define the solution and throw money at it BEFORE we’ve figured out the value of the solution, or even what the problem is. Saving 7% of costs because you can start firing reps isn’t a compelling reason to move into the digital realm. Offering a cool/sexy/neat/whizbang doodad to your HCPs is not a compelling reason to switch.

What’s a compelling reason? Offering the HCP the opportunity to learn about your drug in the form/channel/time/format/size/place they choose. Using technology to make 20 minutes of slide show understandable in 4 minutes (who wouldn’t want that! You just gave the HCP 16 minutes). Using technology to deliver just-in-time content. 

At no point did I say “iPad” or “tablet” or “internet” or “email.” Focusing on the channel (iPads are cool, yes, but until they actually cure cancer, they are just a tool) is the fastest way be left by the wayside when the iPad/tablet/iPhone bubble bursts.

So bring the fight! Comment and call me out on Twitter. That’s always fun!