Why 87% of Life Sciences Marketers are Dissatisfied with Digital and What to do About It

Here’s a sobering number. A recent survey measuring pharma multichannel maturity finds that only 13% of life sciences marketers globally are satisfied with their digital activities, rating their satisfaction a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale. Yes, only 13%! Which means 87% were “dissatisfied” or “neutral.”

Sources of Satisfaction

The same study finds that “satisfied” marketers were much more likely than their “neutral” or “dissatisfied” counterparts to say they:

1. Have a clear multichannel strategy
2. Invest in multichannel programs
3. Understand the impact/ROI of their investments
4. Receive effective support from their digital teams

Conversely, the majority of marketers who didn’t agree with these statements are more likely to be dissatisfied with their digital efforts.

Seeds of Dissatisfaction

To understand why marketers don’t agree with these statements, we need to dig a little deeper.

Consider these findings on barriers from the same study.


This data, which is echoed elsewhere, suggests that life sciences companies must address four primary barriers to digital dissatisfaction: (1) digital knowledge gaps, (2) inadequate digital strategy foundations (3) immature multichannel measurement and (4) under-investment or misguided investment in digital/mcm programs.

Taking Action

With 2016 planning underway, now is a great time to take action to improve digital satisfaction. Here are suggested actions that brands, department leaders and senior management can take to improve the situation.

1. Take steps to overcome the digital knowledge gap.

  • Assess the digital understanding of your staff involved in digital activities, including brand, market research, sales and medical staff. Several digital maturity assessment tools are available which can be customized to your needs.
  • Invest in targeted education to overcome knowledge gaps. Do not underestimate the value of high-quality targeted education to raise digital marketing competence.

2. Take a methodical approach to channel planning.

  • Resist the urge to plan tactics without adequate customer or competitive insight. Say “no” to shiny, new tactics without a clear customer insight and business rationale.
  • Partner with the brand team or market research to research customer channel references and benchmark competitor activity and spend per channel.
  • Develop a multichannel plan based on a combination of reach and impact; and match the right channels to each particular objective.

3. Deepen digital measurement competence.

  • Assess your digital measurement maturity. This is a quick process that can provide a roadmap for strengthening measurement as a capability.
  • Ensure your brand (or brands) have digital measurement plans, including KPIs and cross-channel performance objectives.
  • Engage stakeholders to ensure reports convey brand performance and surface improvement opportunities.
  • Reserve budget for data analysis and for testing and tactical optimization.

4. Invest in added strategic support.

  • If you have a Digital Center of Excellence (COE), assess whether your brands receive adequate support. Many brands like the help when they get it but complain about support levels. If this is you or if you don’t have a COE, supplement with qualified outside consulting support.
  • When you retain outside support, find a firm possessing broad specialty expertise in customer engagement research, strategy, analytics and tactical performance improvement. The ideal partner is someone who can partner fluidly with brand marketing, market research, business intelligence, IT and agency partners to drive alignment and to help ensure the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


Thirteen percent is a low rate of digital satisfaction. As an industry, we can do better. If you are among the dissatisfied, start by focusing on foundational elements—knowledge, strategy, measurement and skills support. This course of action will quickly increase confidence, leading to smarter investments and ultimately better returns.

  • Gregg Fisher

    Gregg Fisher is the Founder at The Stem, a global customer engagement consultancy. The Stem has advised global pharmaceutical brands in conceiving an actionable patient support strategy. The Stem’s project management expertise covers supplier selection and management, facilitating the approval process, and supporting a smooth roll-out to markets around the globe.


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