As Life Sciences commercial teams turn their attention to 2019, it’s a good time to review some “back to basics” tactics that consistently deliver value, but are frequently overlooked. What follows are four “quick wins”—what they are, why they matter, and what to do about it.

1. Correct Information on Third-party Sites

Marketers are understandably focused on their “owned” and “paid” content (think: brand.coms, digital visual aids, sponsored pages, etc.). After all, this is where their budgets go. Far less attention is paid to how brand messages appear in content on third-party sites, such as medical portals, society sites, general health sites, patient advocacy sites, and blogs. This is regrettable because no matter how good a brand’s content may be, traffic to this content will typically be far less than traffic to third-party pages.

Our work with multiple clients revealed that critical information about branded products and disease or support messages aligned to brand strategy is missing, incomplete, and sometimes outright inaccurate. Given the visibility of these pages, brands are missing a huge opportunity to influence patients and providers where they congregate.

The good news is this content can be fixed through coordinated outreach facilitated by Medical, Patient Advocacy, Public Affairs, or Corporate Communications depending on the nature of the message.

Recommended 2019 Action Plan:

Audit how your brand and its key messages appear on  third-party sites. Take steps to correct the information that appears.

2. Engage “Digital Opinion Leaders”

Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) are patients and providers active on social media, with large followings. While commercial teams regularly engage “KOLs,” identified through traditional influence metrics such as journal publication activity, they overlook “DOLs” who often have significant influence.

Our analysis has shown that traditional KOLs are frequently not the same as DOLs. We have also seen that DOLs are interested in partnering with Life Sciences companies on projects that are mutually beneficial. Beyond the one-time “blogger summit,” DOLs want to partner on a sustained basis to share their insights and support disease awareness and education, disease management, medical education, news sharing, among others.

Recommended 2019 Action Plan:

Map the DOL community within your disease area. Identify DOLs with high reach, message resonance, and relevance to your brand. Engage a select group of DOLs and partner on a mutually beneficial initiative.

3. Analyze “Owned” Content & Channels to Optimize Impact

Commercial teams dedicate precious time, energy, and budget to creating “owned” content and channel tactics. But with few exceptions, once the heavy lifting is done, little time is spent evaluating and optimizing these tactics. There are several reasons for this. First, marketers are often recognized for launching tactics versus optimizing them. This leads to a “launch, then forget” mentality, which isn’t helped by high brand team turnover. Second, agencies often aren’t skilled in evaluating their own work and improving it. The money and glory is in “design and build” versus improve. Third, brands simply don’t set aside funds for optimization.

What’s needed is a simple, systematic process of evaluating work against best practice; identifying, making, and testing changes; and measuring and driving improvement over time. We’ve found that budgeting for one to two rounds of optimization per year (given lengthy medical/legal/regulatory review cycles) is quite adequate to drive results and begin to establish a culture of continuous improvement.

Recommended 2019 Action Plan:

Budget for and execute a basic optimization process. Review tactical performance against benchmarks. Identify improvement opportunities based on codified best practice. Test and measure the impact of changes.

4. Upgrade Approach to Measurement

Most commercial teams we talk to are awash in reports and data from various suppliers, but starved of context and meaning. They want to know how their investments contribute to business impact, and what they can do to improve customer engagement. Instead, the data they receive focuses on “activity-based” measures such as clicks, likes, or users for tactics, which tell very little about impact and even less about how to improve it.

2019 can be the year you start to fix this problem. Start by defining meaningful metrics that link brand communication objectives to content consumption behavior to business impact. For example, choose metrics connected to consumption or sharing of key message content and rep-reported attitude shifts. Then, design actionable reports that enable marketers and reps to quickly make decisions to improve performance. For instance, reps should see what high-value content their customers consume and where they are in an adoption ladder. And, marketers should be able to understand which content and channels are performing best for each segment.

Recommended 2019 Action Plan:

Define a KPI framework that links content consumption to business impact measures. Design and pilot actionable reports that support decision-making.

While different companies and brands are at different stages of multichannel maturity, most are still at a relatively low-level of maturity. If this describes you, the four quick-wins just outlined are reliable ways to up your multichannel marketing game in 2019.

  • Gregg Fisher

    Gregg Fisher is Managing Partner at The Stem, a global management consulting firm specializing in customer engagement strategy and operations in Health & Life Sciences. The Stem’s unique networked consulting model draws on the industry’s most seasoned independent talent offering clients a nimble, cost-effective and refreshing alternative to traditional consultancies.

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