All brands have marketing strategies. Every brand team can produce a document that summarizes their plan to succeed in their market. But not all brands have true digital strategies, or can even agree on what that term means.
So let’s take a crack at a definition. The academic literature broadly defines strategy as a plan to create sustainable competitive advantage. And “digital” means “using technology.”
Sounds reasonable, right? But what does that really mean for healthcare marketers?
For pharma brands, we believe that digital strategy is your technology-enabled plan to:
- Stand out from your competition for awareness and acquisition
- Learn more about your customers once you acquire them, and then
- Use that knowledge to serve your customers in ways that build loyalty
This is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Imagine asking a grandmaster, “What is the best move in chess?” The answer, of course, will be “It depends.” It depends on your competition, it depends on the situation, and it depends on knowing your own strengths and weaknesses.
Digital Strategy at Launch
So, for example, if your brand is a high-profile launch with a high-science Mechanism of Action, your overall strategy might include the idea of building awareness and belief in a new disease state paradigm.
You might want HCP customers to take a fresh look at the burden of disease, and so in support of this, you may bring to bear digital tools that are focused on stopping power, and on breaking through complacency about a particular disease state.
At JUICE, we recently helped a client launch a product like this. We deployed new technologies at a medical conference to show doctors what their lives would be like with this disease. Now, this kind of thing had been done in other areas before, notably in dermatology.
But in this case, we used facial mapping, motion capture, and real-time generation of computer animation to show them not just how they would look with the debilitating disease, but how they would move as the disease progressed. The HCPs had never seen anything like it because there had never been anything like it. We succeeded in executing our digital strategy of using technology to get customers to stop and rethink what they thought they knew.
Mid-Lifecycle Digital Strategy
But maybe this isn’t your brand. Maybe you’re an established product, with new competition coming out, and you need to build loyalty to your brand so that patients don’t switch. In this case, you want to find ways to use technology to reinforce the behavior that already exists.
When we had a client in this situation, we spent considerable time and energy diving into the patient experience and uncovering unmet needs around the management of their complex and chronic condition. We found that tracking their symptoms and infusions was a hassle that lost information about what was really going on in their lives. So we developed a mobile app that helped these patients move away from paper-based treatment diaries to an electronic data capture solution where the outputs could be easily shared with their physician.
The point is that different digital strategies are appropriate for different situations. Your brand needs a plan to win that is tailored to its strengths and weaknesses; beware of partners who claim to have silver bullets.
Also, every strategy has trade-offs. We live in a world of limited resources. So if you’re investing dollars in breakthrough convention experiences that cause HCPs to stop and think, you’re probably not also investing in complex patient support apps that relieve the burden of disease management.
Finally, everyone on your team should be able to understand and articulate your digital strategy. In their book “Made to Stick,” Chip Heath and Dan Heath define strategy as a “guide to behavior.” They point out that a strategy that employees can’t understand and act on is a strategy that is neither good nor bad, but simply inert.
If you truly understand what is unique about your brand, and if you take the time to develop your digital strategy upfront to align with your overall strategy, you should have the confidence to guide your team through the ups and downs that come along with any competitive situation.
Want to find out how digital strategy can improve your business? Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.