Collecting ideas and thoughts slightly too big for @digital_pharma

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Do you have a process or method for creating a new marketing strategy? I’d like to see what others are doing. I’m not asking anyone to reveal anything they don’t want to, of course, but help us all understand how common it is to have and abide by a defined process (and conversely, how many of us just “wing it.”).

Three questions (and one is a yes/no, so that hardly counts) that won’t take three minutes. 

Click here to take the survey. And anything you can do to spread the word is always appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

If you haven’t read Pixels and Pill’s post on the Challenges of Getting People Involved on Your Website, you should go get acclimated (and really, why aren’t you reading them?). Their four major challenges are: Failure to understand the audience, stale content, being boring and overly-complicated navigation.

Those are all valid arguments, but I think they are unnecessary. In the end, there is only one hard and fast rule about how to make a great website and here it is: Give people something useful. Everything else is decoration.

Here’s an example: Amazon.com. Until last week’s redesign (which is pretty nice), I loved to refer to it as the ugliest web site everyone uses. There was too much stuff, it was everywhere, the navigation was a mess, etc. And yet, a good percentage of all internet traffic went through its doors (and more importantly, a good percentage of all online sales were on Amazon). They broke so many design and user experience rules, it was almost funny. And yet, because they gave people something useful, they thrived.

Depending on who you talk to, they thrived for differing reasons, like the blind men and the elephant. Amazon is so big and complicated, they thrived because they sold everything, or because they offered professional and user reviews, because they could lower shipping costs, because their logistics gave them a price edge, because everyone knew they could be trusted, because they held users’ credit card numbers on file for easy purchasing, etc. No one reason is THE reason, but together, they helped Amazon work.

But the underlying message is that Amazon worked really because it offered its users something they wanted and needed. Users want products, selection, speed, security, convenience, more information, all that. Because they gave people what they wanted, they could afford to break most of the other (lesser) rules.

And here’s where things get tricky. Pharma isn’t in a position to give people what they want. Well, pharma is, but pharma marketing sure isn’t.

What do consumers and HCPs want from pharma? On-label content? No, they can get that anywhere. Marketing materials? No, no one wants your marketing materials. Your reps have a hard time delivering them to people and they’re willing to make an appointment and wait in the waiting room with a gift.

Um… that’s pretty much all you can give them in a branded way, right? No matter how good your navigation is, and how “exciting” your marketing is, its not content your audience really wants. I mean, they don’t hate it, but would they cross the street to get it? Look at Amazon’s example: their site was so ugly and a pain to navigation but it didn’t matter because it gave their users something useful. They almost had to work at getting it.

So where does that leave pharma?

Comment! Tell me you love/hate the new design! Tweet me! Complain and argue!

So Twitter finally turned on promoted tweets within your feed (It took them long enough). But that hasn’t stopped everyone from freaking out about it. I’ll just spoil the end of this and say that Promoted Tweets are a step forward for marketing in general. Anyone who doesn’t like this isn’t seeing the big picture.

So what is it? If you follow a brand, and that brand paid Twitter some money (okay, it’s probably fair to say that it’s not an inconsequential sum of money), you get a promoted tweet. You know what this is like? It’s not at all like most standard marketing/ad campaigns and that’s excellent for us.

If this was how broadcast TV worked (or newspapers or magazines or websites), I’d only see commercials and ads for things I’ve already decided I like. Man, I’d watch that channel. 

Now, I know how this starts out. Brand X does a cool giveaway (get an iPhone 5! or a wing form a space shuttle!) if you follow them, and then they promote their stuff. But you know how I (and you!) can turn these promoted tweets off? Stop following the brand.

Oh no! You have control! Wait, that’s a good thing.

This is the leverage we need to keep brands from being jerks and spamming us all the time. Since we can walk away any time, its in their best interests to make sure their messages are relevant and useful (Who doesn’t want more stuff that’s relevant and useful? I can’t get enough of relevant and useful, it just seems like it’s in short supply). 

Do you see where where this is leading us? That we only get promotions that we want to get? It gets us to the point where marketing isn’t screaming at us, it’s us opting into the conversation because we think there’s something in it for us (a deal, awareness of a new product, a chance to get access to a special most people don’t normally get, etc). This sounds remarkably like opt-in marketing, doesn’t it? Because it is! The glory of it is that it doesn’t clutter up our inbox, our mailbox, and is where we already are. This leads us to marketing’s Holy Grail: Marketing that’s so useful, we actually want it!

On the marketer’s side, it means no more success defined as “> 0.01% clickthrough rate.” It means we can build relationships with our customers and extend those relationships out through their networks. These relationships for real ties that help us understand our clients and work to position our products to be of more benefit to our clients (I know! Cool, huh?).

So I, for one, salute our new Twitter overlords and say, “If you want me to keep following your Twitter account, be a good corporate mouthpiece and keep giving me helpful, relevant and useful info. Do onto me, and I shall keep buying from you.” Good deal?

This is where the blog post should have ended, but I kept going…

But let’s take that further. I was having a conversation with one of our writers here (A Stadler to my Waldorff, as it were) and we were talking about how when you shop for certain things, Google knows and Google shows you a lot of ads for it. If you haven’t noticed it, go to Old Navy and “shop” for a shirt. Or Zappos and “shop” for a shoe. Now go to Google Reader or another Google property with display ads and you’ll probably see the shoe or shirt you liked.

A friend of mine (Hi, @derekmabie!) is at #moxcon and someone said that 58% of all searchers want to search and complete the action as part of their search experience. 

Hmm… When I go shirt shopping, if I see a shirt I want, I buy it. Now that I’ve bought the shirt, I am now the last person you shoul be showing a shirt ad to. What would be useful? Understanding that if I searched for (and bought: c’mon, If Amazon and the next top ten online retailers connected to Google, that’s like 80% of all shopping in one place, right?) a shirt is handy, but if it knew that most people who bought that shirt then went on to buy a pair of sunglasses they should be showing me sunglasses ads. I bet with that kind of data, Google could know that most people buy the complementary product within X hours and stop showing that ad after that timespan. Google already knows so much about me, they should start stepping up and being actually helpful with its ad system. Google will be able to tell me with XYZ% certainty what I am looking for next. Couple that with my browsing history and search history, Google will soon be able to be my automated assistant.

Quick vote: is that scary or cool. Right now I lean towards cool.

Twitter me @digital_pharma or just comment.

Chances are that if you were looking for an invitation to Google Plus, you’ve gotten one by now, right? Google doesn’t seem to be playing that Disney-game of opening the window for access every once in a while any more and the “Invite more people” icon seems fairly permanently affixed to my sidebar.

So my boss asks me this morning: What’s the deal with Google Plus? He doesn’t get it. And frankly, since 80-90% of all postings to Google Plus seem to be variations of “What do I do now?” I can’t imagine that this is an isolated question. Here is my perspective.

One: Google Plus won’t work until everyone you know is on it and has been assigned a circle. You don’t remember the way Facebook rolled out, where it was only to college kids, then anyone with a college email address, then the rest of us. This process of opening in ever-widening concentric circles ensured that when you jumped in, most of everyone you wanted to talk to was already on. Not withstanding this weird “Lets let them trickle in for a few weeks before we open the doors” model means that the first few people end up walking into a mostly-empty room. In the next few weeks, as everyone and their dog who gets social joins in, we’ll see how many of your friends stop posting to facebook and start posting to G+.

Two: G+ is an empty hub. A year from now (if not significantly less), G+ will be your home page. It will have your Gmail, your Gcalendar, Photos, etc. It’s already in that dark header across most of Google properties. G+ will be the place where social and non-social intersect. And until step one happens, this step can’t happen.

Three: This is a personal medium. Google has already stated that it doesn’t want companies and brands to set up G+ pages… yet. They have some sort of plan and it will probably be some sort of Facebook Pages thing. Though frankly, if 1+ takes off, people won’t need to build G+ Fan Pages: they will just use their own web site. Example: Aspirin would normally build a fan page, but instead, it just asks its fans to +1 its home page to show up on their G+ pages/feeds.

In the end, G+ has an opportunity to make a serious challenge on Facebook, which has been on top for a long time now (Bye bye MySpace and LiveJournal!). This much time without a challenge probably makes FB feel pretty invincable, to the point where it is pursuing a “Let’s just *be* the internet” strategy (much like AOL in the late 1990’s where your great aunt wouldn’t ever leave AOL, but felt like she was on “the online”). That’s a bad strategy, especially for us users (please note FB’s recent privacy stances which can be summed up as “You have as much privacy as we feel like giving you, you Farmville/status addicts”), so even a failing G+ that pushes back against FB is a win for all of us.

Comments are open and are checked semi-regularly, but you should argue with me via @digital_pharma. It’s fun!

I’m gonna stop the song and dance about social media and how pharma can use it, because we’re all struggling with a mostly unspoken issue.

As marketers, we want to be able to get our message into every channel we can: we know that it’s not the first commercial that causes people to buy, it’s the tenth (or twentieth or hundred, depending), so we know being in every channel increases the odds of hitting that magic number of impressions (yes, it’s not about sheer numbers. A clever message can cut the number of necessary exposures from a hundred to two. But that’s not the point here).

But good marketers know that in order to work, our message needs to abide by the rules of the channel. Not much value in a TV commercial without video, a billboard that’s only four inches tall, or a banner ad that doesn’t link to anything, right? These are the rules of the medium, and marketers can bend them some times, but otherwise, they have to respect them.

So what are the rules of social media? Simple: people connect to people. That’s what the Social in Social Media is referring to. You can make an emotional connection to a brand, yes, but you can’t really talk to a brand and get a response. Plenty of people have an emotional connection to the Apple or Google brand (or Lexus or Audi or Skullcandy or Twilight or Twitter or or or…) but though I love Twitter and what it stands for, I don’t expect the brand to have a conversation with me. I will never meet Twitter at a party. I will never run into Twitter walking its dog.

I can have a conversation with anyone on my friends list. I might see them at Starbucks. I can be social with them.

But since the world went social, marketers have followed, trying to bend the rules of social to work for brands. Old Spice Guy. The Most Interesting Man In The World. I, myself, once was @BuckyBadger for the University of Wisconsin. I could interact as a person pretending to be the brand, but its was very limiting.

Once, before the advent of good Twitter tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck, I accidentally porn-spammed a thousand people (porn owns every typo version of Facebook, fyi) and fixed it five minutes later. I made a joke about how hard it was to type with big fuzzy fingers. The joke was funny and no big deal, but should the brand be making jokes? Can Coke make a joke? No, the people behind it make jokes. So marketers have realized that the key to successful social media is to make it a person in charge of the brand presence. Give them the brand a persona and let it interact (FYI: Colonel Tribune is a great example of this).

Here’s where thinks get super difficult. Pharma brands can’t interact. They can’t talk about what’s off the label, they can’t put themselves in a position where someone might report an adverse effect and they don’t see it immediately. Pharma rules are very strict in this regard. They have to be, because we all know that without regulations, pharma would be involved in the process, tainting it with… something.

Here’s where I suggest a different approach. I suggest we all embrace the idea that we’re all in this together, that pharma has all the data on its product (or at least 95% of it) and it should share. In return, they get a seat at the table in talking about their product. Of course, they can’t claim it solves problems it doesn’t, but to treat them like they aren’t a player is ludicrous. We need pharma to be involved as much as pharma needs a regulatory agency to keep everyone honest. This means that pharma can brand and talk about their brand like Coke or Disney does. They can be on Facebook and be given the benefit of the doubt that they can interact with people on it without breaking rules. That a big link that says “please send adverse effects here and not on our Facebook wall” is enough. That they can misspeak so long as they fix accidents with all due diligence just like Honda or Home Depot. 

Making pharma transperant solves the social media problem, but it has other effects: it removes barriers between company and regulatory and customer. It fosters innovation. It builds smarter companies. If Google can, why can’t Pfizer (who have very similar market capitalization)? 

Lets focus less on building more walls and build more transparency in pharma.

So, if you’re paying attention, it looks like our friend Sermo is having a bad couple of weeks. Sermo is a “publisher” or purveyor of a web site, somewhat like Facebook, specifically designed around HCPs. The idea is that HCPs can get together, talk about what HCPs are interested in, maybe get a few marketing messages from people like me trying to make them more aware of some medication or treatment option, and generally do what people (maybe I should be more clear and say “adults” to keep Sermo from sounding like some sort of frathouse) on Facebook do.

I will say, in an effort to be upfront and open, that my company has done business with Sermo before, though I have not.

So things are going pretty well for Sermo. That is, until @TomRines at Sermo started a Twitter conversation (Medical Marcon has the whole conversation archived on their site, which you can read here) to kinda introduce themselves to people who hadn’t heard of them yet.

Perfect. Yeah. Well, one of the things Tom said Sermo did was to “listen to the physicians conversations to mine business and competitive intel” which started the first round panic. Twittering HCPs were surprised to discover that Sermo, a service they get for free, might actually be trying to get something out of the relationship.

In fact, a quick read of Sermo’s terms and conditions pretty much spells out that they are listening and going to turn the discussion into information about what HCPs are looking for, how they see a given product, attitudes and beliefs, etc.

I want to reserve judgement on the HCPs and how they could think that Sermo was providing this service for free, especially after they partnered up with Pfizer in 07.

But I also want to introduce everyone to a little company called Facebook, which looks like a fun way to keep in touch with friends and make new ones, but is really the best collector in personal information available today. How else are you going to have a significant number of people (700 million at current count, which is pretty freakin’ significant) tell you what they do, who they like, what they do with their free time, what school they went to, who their family is, what websites they like, what products they use on a regular basis, and really what they are thinking about right now. They collect so much information that there are numerous conspiracy theories that makes Facebook the greatest CIA intel collection operation ever.

Every time Facebook changes privacy settings or posts your information to a news feed without giving anyone a head’s up, or just does whatever Facebook feels like doing, everyone goes nuts for two days, groups form to protest the change and demand it be reversed and nothing happens. Well, that’s not true. One thing happens: Facebook keeps growing.

Oscar nominated movie that makes the CEO/Owner look like the devil? More people sign up. Data mining? More people sign up. Virtually impossible to delete personal data? More people sign up.

I mean, if you’ve ever used the Facebook Ads system, you see exactly how well Facebook knows it’s users. If I wanted to, I could place an ad that would only be seen by men ages 22-23, who live in Peoria, who are not in college, who like motor cycles and knitting, and don’t work for Walmart. No, really. 

This is the internet and the world. Yes, it’s weird putting more info out there, but when everyone does it, maybe we really do get better messaging. (I mean, I have zero interest in buying a hearing aid, so why should I see ads for them?)

What does it all mean? @pharma411 reports that Sermo numbers are up 200 in the last couple of days despite all the chatter.

Not surprising. People (and HCPs) want a place to congregate. It looks like Sermo is it for the time being.

Comments open. Twitter me @digital_pharma

Otherwise, have a great weekend!

Last week, some of our staff did a download from their trip to SXSW. We sent four people, looking at four different areas of tech and marketing, both inside and outside of pharma. Don’t worry, I’m already starting to lay the groundwork to go to next years conference.

Anyway, one of the themes they caught was that pharma isn’t going to solve the next wave of health problems, technology was. Pharma is chasing smaller problems affecting smaller populations (I mean, do you think if there was another penicillin around the corner? No. At this point, pharma is attacking people with a stiff case of the “Mondays”). What’s really going to turn around diabetes and heart failure is pretty much going to be food and exercise, right?  Pharma’s spent a long time trying to put something together that is as beneficial as vegetables and walking and can’t come close.

Pharma is really good at fixing diseases. Attacked by a germ or a virus or other living organism? Pharma is gonna fix that. They’re also good at squeezing the last 10% of value out of what your body used to do well: type-2 diabetes drugs are about getting more life out of your insulin and liver functions when they are on the ropes. But making your body better (unless you count steroids and HGH and the like, which I’d rather not)? That’s not something pharma is good at.

So the new focus will be technology, because technology can actually encourage you to fix yourself (or do the things that keep you from getting sick). For example, Wii Fit and the Kinnect? Tech that gets people off the couch. Wifi scale helps you track and monitor your weight and fat (you won’t try to fix what you can’t measure).

And that’s a good thing for us as people, because it reminds us that we have the power to keep ourselves from getting sick (to a greater extent than we used to), but what it also means is that we need to shift our focus.

Tech works because it does something neat: it only works because you can break good activities into something that is small, local and easy to measure. Weight? Yep. BMI? Yep. Exercise? Pretty much (though more and more studies are looking at the benefit of focusing on spurts of higher activity exercise instead of long strolls as being more beneficial to your heart and waist line, so until we crack that nut, its hard to measure). Take your meds? Yes! Check your blood sugars? Easy! All these things that make us healthier technology can make more interesting/fun/useful because they are small, local and easy to measure.

What does this mean for pharma? Big picture: Pharma thinks its in the chemistry game. It’s not. Pharma is in the health game. Tie drugs that keep you healthier longer with technology that does the same and you get a big win. Partner up and.or buy a small tech company that’s good at this (there are only a hundred of them, and most of them need the kind of help passing regulatory hurdles that you’ve mastered decades ago).

Yes, comments. Yes, @digital_pharma. Yes, yes, yes.

*Insight: stealing and versioning Errol Morris’ movie titles is always a good idea. Always.

If you don’t follow @jowyang, you probably should. He’s not pharma, but he’s been a guy I’ve followed in the web strategy world for years now. He’s got the goods.

Why do I bring this up? Not because he’s a stand-up guy and passed along advice now and then, but because this morning he tweeted this:

Consumers often want the brands they buy from to stand for something, because consumers want to stand for something.

Which is funny, because on the train I was struck with a thought so simple, I can’t believe no one’s ever said it. In fact, a quick Googling of the idea yields nothing of value, but I won’t take credit for it, it just lacks proper citation. The idea is what the fundamental/bedrock/underlying rule in all of marketing is and it kinda popped in my head in the train today (p.s. it’s raining in Chicago this morning. The kind of rain my mom would call “a Frog Strangler” because… well, she’s like that. Yes, I am delaying telling you the secret of marketing because it builds tension and gives me a chance to use the term “frog strangler” which can’t be bad for this blog’s Google-mojo. Funny how that works, huh? Anyway…) and it was this:

Marketing isn’t making people feel something, its about making people feel somethig about themselves.

When I think of marketing, I don’t think of Coke or Cheerios or Mad Men, I think about girls. In my head, you can get to the root of any big marketing questions by framing like this: Could I use this to talk a girl up? (Unrelated: is “talk a girl up” a Britishism or am I making that up? Just wondering.)

Can I use price, position, promotion and product to get a phone number? Yes. Can I use Novelty? Yes. Frequency? Yep. Consistency of message? Sure. I could go down the list and make it work. And that’s why I know this works. A girl doesn’t talk to me because I make her feel good (I mean, I could just be a loser and she could feel good that she’s not me), but because I make her feel good about herself (he’s talking to me because he seems something interesting in me and that makes me feel good).

I can do it with Coke and Cheerios (I’d Like To Buy the World A Coke is translated to I’d like to do something nice people people I don’t know and that would make me feel good) just like I can do it with pharma (If that new Viagra “A guy at your age can handle stuff when it doesn’t work right” marketing campaign isn’t the best campaign in pharma right now, I will eat my blog. It doesn’t make you feel good about sex, which should be the obvious way to go based on previous marketing campaigns, but this one makes a guy feel good about himself even if that one thing isn’t working right just yet).

So I just thought I’d pass that along. Feel free to use it. 

And since we’re all done re-building the earth post-rapture, if you have questions or comments, jump in the pool and comment or hit me up at @digital_pharma.

Everyone’s got their lab coats in a twist because Facebook has finally stopped flirting with the idea of enabling comments and likes for all Pages and just kisses it on the lips and asked for its hand in marriage.

See the scoop? Here’s ePharma Rx’s version.

So I, like so many others, took the tack that Facebook was flipping off pharma marketing and its marketing budgets in a “We don’t need you”/”Take my ball and go home” snit. I mean, Maybe it’s my bias that Facebook is the kid in high school who got picked on for years and suddenly has some power and wants to rub it in everyone’s faces (The Social Network was a great movie and deserved the Oscar). Maybe it’s the reckless way it treats anyone who isn’t Facebook (erosion of privacy for users, bait and switch use terms, privacy controls that don’t even make sense to them, the recent Google smear campaign, untested public News Feeds, etc, etc, etc), so I just assumed this move was a way to tick off someone it didn’t need to appease.

But I’m wrong. Pharma is (if you can believe it) an innocent bystander in a war between Facebook and the feds. In this case, the FDA. Facebook always acts as if anything we ask of it is a horrible burden and is the worst idea (remember when we tried to tell Detroit to make a hybrid a decade ago? Yeah, like that). Every move sounds like, “Facebook is a free service and if you don’t like it, go away, but by the way, all your friends are on it, so good luck living without us.”

The move to treat pharma like every industry is either ignorant of the fact that pharma lives in a regulated house (haha! Like Pharma hasn’t lobbied Facebook for years: no one’s ignorant here) or Facebook has decided to start jousting at a very big windmill: the fed.

Why bother? Who is the only group who can tell Facebook what to do? Not the courts, not public opinion, not the media, not users, not stock holders (hahaha! Goldman Sachs has only one thing to tell Facebook: Thank you!). The answer is the fed. The fed is the only group who have any chance of laying down some laws for Facebook, and clearly Facebook (the willful 16 year old that it is) doesn’t like it when someone else tells it what to do.

Let’s see how this plays out. I only wonder what other aspect of the fed Facebook will lob grenades at next…