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MUSINGS

Beware the "Overstocked Digital Warehouse"

Kate Lumpkin

"Simplicity is the Ultimate Form of Sophistication."  Leonardo da Vinci

If the commercial team wants to evaluate marketing material effectiveness, they need look no further than the inventory warehouse. Sales representatives quickly determine which materials support their sales success and which do not. They order additional copies of those materials that support success. Yet the warehouse sits full of those that do not.

Fast forward to our digital emphasis of today. Beware the digital ‘materials’ warehouse.

I recently provided training for a deeply influential healthcare advertising agency. In preparation for the program, I reviewed some of the excellent videos residing on product sites they had prepared for several clients. In assessing the metrics, I was shocked to find that the two patient videos I randomly chose to review had less than 70 views each, though both had been live on the sites for over 6 months. Imagine the time, money, and other resources that went into the creation of these videos – especially the internal cost of review and legal/regulatory discussion time. Was the lack of commercial impact of these videos predictable? 

The digital world brings endless marketing possibilities. Agencies approach our commercial teams daily with new technology applications. They tout patient involvement and sharing, investigator communities, bloggers, interactivity, connectivity, embedded videos, information gathering, connection with medical apps, measurable metrics, etc. Truly, these tactics are exciting – and endless! Used appropriately and in a targeted fashion, the returns on time and money investment are potentially huge. Alternatively, indiscriminately grabbing at options, is doomed to fail. How might we sift through all of this and determine the maximum return on digital investment, while minimizing time, resource waste, and compliance challenges?

The old fashioned way – beginning with the optimal strategy. 

At the risk of repetition, it is imperative to create the ideal strategy early in drug development so that claims can be clinically tested and incorporated into the labeling. This approach amplifies patient outcomes, maximizes commercialization, and mitigates corporate risk.

The established strategy will inform the most effective, and regulatory appropriate, digital tactics selection. 

Why is it important to consider smart, targeted digital use?

It is essential to maximize commercialization with the smartest use of the overall marketing budget. The digital budget is one component, but not the only component, of the strategy. The “kid in the candy shop” syndrome could be a costly reality if not thoughtfully executed.

An astute, targeted digital strategy, developed consistently with the labeling and with input from all relevant disciplines, will mitigate corporate risk.

It is vital to minimize costs, both direct and indirect, while maximizing return on investment. Costs include those such as the development of too many non-impactful materials and the cost of internal review and agency times. It is simply too expensive to create and execute tactics that will not generate return on investment, no matter how new or exciting they seem, if they are destined to collect dust in the digital warehouse.

Strategic Considerations 

  • Create an optimal targeted strategy early – including appropriate patient selection/identification, narrow vs broad indication, subgroups, quality of life, patient preference claims, differentiating claims, etc. Make sure to include all of the relevant disciplines.
  • Use market research to boldly and honestly measure impact potential and tailor the digital program to utilize the most impactful tactics for your product that are also clearly consistent with regulatory, legal, and compliance standards. Market research participants should include all groups who impact, and are impacted by, the Rx drug/biologic system and utilization/reimbursement of your product.
  • To ensure that the commercial focus is on quality, not quantity, consider overturning the paradigm by compensating commercial on profit, not sales.
  • Insist on measurable return on investment, understanding that the measurements may be nontraditional.
  • Often, less is better – don’t get swayed by the tactic du jour just because it is new. Be smart. Be selective. Be targeted. Use resources wisely.
  • Consider regulatory, legal, and compliance requirements. The FDA is oneinterested agency, not the only interested agency or stakeholder. Also essential to consider organizations such as: DOJ, OIG, SEC, the states, payers, etc. Ensure to include all relevant internal disciplines in all planning and decision-making.
  • Have concept meetings early – have all relevant disciplines in attendance. Remember to aggressively apply the independence standard/question in evaluating digital tactics, such as with our participation in chat rooms, relationships with external bloggers, etc. Successful, honest, concept meetings will lead to more effective, efficient review meetings and support more effective, compliant programs. 

Clearly, thoughtfully targeted digital tactics are essential to a complete and successful marketing strategy.  However, it is imperative to select the most appropriate ones to maximize success, mitigate risk, and contain resources – both direct and indirect. Sometimes less is more. No one can afford to have warehouses sitting full of unused materials. The same is clearly true for our digital footprints in this highly saturated world.