Pharma shouldn't look at mobile as an 'add-on'

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It's no surprise that digital communications channels are an increasing investment and focus of the pharma sector's marketing strategies. As communications move online, there is likely to be a permanent shift in how we prioritize spending and how we communicate with healthcare professionals and patients.
Take smartphones for example. Research suggests that smartphone growth represents some of the fastest technology adoption we've ever seen. Consumers have relied heavily on the internet for health-related searches for some time and this shift to mobile search is just the beginning—the explosion in mobile capabilities really opens a whole new consumer engagement possibility.
This new paradigm represents a fundamental shift in customer media preferences and a fragmentation of media itself. Pharmaceutical marketers who approach these new realities as a brand plan “add-ons” or the latest shiny object in the tactical plan run the risk of being disappointed with results.
It's our responsibility as marketers to explore these emerging opportunities and understand them in the context of our customer experience—instead of an isolated tactic. It isn't the “sales cycle,” it's our customers and stakeholders that drive the relationship, and ultimately the purchase decision cycle. Although strategy and insight must always remain the driver of our communication plans, what this new environment demands is that pharmas adopt a “test and learn” mentality to our marketing strategies. Similar to an R&D approach, a “test and learn” offers opportunity to continuously adapt our marketing efforts to changes in the commercial environment.
The big challenge is how we move traditional organizations that are not at the bleeding edge of change, such as pharmaceutical companies, to this new reality while remaining compliant with industry laws and regulations. At DSI, we focus on four key areas of competency: integrated digital planning, digital education, activating best practices and establishing an innovation orientation. These competencies are developed among individuals throughout the organization to drive strategic thinking and cross functional collaboration.
Companies willing to change their mindsets will succeed. If we aren't prepared to engage in the new ways that our audiences communicate, then we risk becoming increasingly irrelevant. The more things change, some things remain the same- knowing your customer will always be paramount.

John Vieira is senior director, marketing operations and strategic services,
Daiichi Sankyo
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