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Five ways health companies can succeed in meeting today’s digital challenges

October 11, 2015

Digital is today’s reality. Now, more than ever, this is true even in health-related businesses. New technologies are being introduced, and the speed of innovation is accelerating. With the rise in digital communications, the behavior of both patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) is constantly evolving. And this phenomenon is not expected to slow down, but rather to intensify further. Think about the increasing connectivity of elderly people. It becomes significant as health-related sensor technology solutions become more and more available, leveraging digital cloud solutions in which patients will both passively and actively upload their medical and activity data.

Against this landscape, today’s health companies face significant challenges and opportunities. But as we find with even our most digitally-advanced clients, there is a hesitation in accepting the challenge. Are they really ready to understand the opportunities available to them and put themselves in a position where they can bring them to life and to fruition?

Here are five easy steps that might help you to meet your digital challenges in health:

  1. Think beyond silos.

Make sure your digital strategy is not isolated. Whether in your KPIs, target audience or strategic platform, digital needs to be linked to your overall strategy and your KPIs.

  1. Make your digital strategy part of your multi-channel approach.

Whether it is social media, an online information delivery platform or paid-for advertising, be clear about the role digital plays in your marketing strategy. Digital channels exist next to non-digital ones; touchpoint optimization research might help you to find an optimal mix of channel activity that will reinforce both impact and quality.

  1. Be specific when referring to “digital”.

Are you talking about digital products, platforms, marketing, research or all of them? Make sure everyone is aligned on this definition.

  1. Focus on the business issues you want to address or objectives you expect to meet.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but still many health companies have “digital” objectives that are not always clearly linked to the more holistic business goal.

  1. With regard to your target groups, think about a segmented approach with regard to digital.

If you are trying to reach patients or HCPs, they might be a heterogeneous group with varying levels of digital savvy. Reaching younger people requires more varied channels and tools (e.g., social platforms) beyond non-digital approaches. So think of digital differentiation when it comes to age, disease, location and so forth.

These five steps may appear elementary; however, they definitely capture the foundation for a successful digital strategy. And they apply extremely well to the current digital situation in the health industry.

Underpinning all of this is digital data – whether it is generated as digital performance analytics, social media insights, passive measurement, survey data or any other source. As new opportunities emerge, so digital data should play a key role in better understanding your market and its stakeholders, helping to provide answers to your business questions.

Some examples include: How do patients and HCPs look for information and how do they connect with your brand (whether that is a treatment, service or program)? What are the most effective touchpoints and the optimal mix for your health marketing activities that have the greatest impact on performance? How do you efficiently prioritize your investments in all digital assets?

Now we all know health products and communication need to be trusted, efficient and effective for all target groups. As a result, besides digital channels and new digital opportunities, non-digital channels will continue to be relevant. That means your digital strategy cannot exist on its own; it must be embedded in your corporate, sales and marketing plans and strategy. Your digital team needs to be closely linked to corporate affairs, your brand teams, the medical and pharmacovigilance teams and your business intelligence colleagues. It’s all about connecting the dots.

When it comes to digital data, you’ll get more out of your intelligence activities the moment you combine data with other sources. The value of digital lies in its integration with other data sources to gain a more holistic and rich picture. In this respect we think health companies can still make a difference in both thinking and organizational structure. In the health industry, where the main sales model is continues to be based on sales representatives visits, ”digital” is still perceived as something new that needs special attention and objectives.

But it is not in its infancy anymore and doesn’t need to be in a siloed structure. Rather it should be integrated into your existing marketing strategy. Only by connecting the dots will you have the full force of an uncompromising go-to-market strategy behind your brand.

This article was co-authored by Arno Hummerston of Digital Marketing Intelligence.

For further information, contact Jan Guse.

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