Ubiquitous access to the internet presents both opportunities and challenges for manufacturers of consumer-facing pharmaceutical products. On the one hand, the web offers manufacturers an exciting way to stay in touch with users across the globe — by offering ongoing product support, which if done right, helps build and maintain positive brand awareness. On the other, users have gained a virtual megaphone through which they can broadcast product critiques, and even spread potentially dangerous misinformation to other customers, patients or prospective customers/patients the world over. In both ways, effective product marketing no longer begins and ends with the sale.
The value of a strong web presence
A pharmaceutical company’s website must first and foremost be useful to customers worldwide. A well-designed, carefully and thoroughly translated online help system for each locale — including a localized searchable knowledgebase — can be the backbone of a successful post-sale pharmaceutical marketing strategy. By working with a professional life science translation service to localize online content, pharma companies gain an unprecedented chance to optimally support multiple markets and build brand loyalty in a way that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with live phone operators.
A website also offers a place to build a sense of community that supports the user experience. Pfizer’s Get Old site is an excellent example of courting customers before and after a sale. With great sensitivity to the audience’s interest and feelings — where again, a medical translator’s awareness of local attitudes is critical — the company acquires an opportunity to strategically and discreetly present customers with additional products that may address their needs.
It’s not just the pharma company-pharma user relationship that’s served by a website. These days, it’s quite common for a doctor or medical professional to make a quick visit to a pharma website before or during an appointment with a patient. There, they can pull up the most current product information and email or print it for the patient with the hit of a button. It’s a process that is much simpler than digging through product pamphlets or calling a manufacturer or sales rep to have questions answered.
A recent Forrester survey of U.S. online adults underscores the importance of quick access to information for users and prospective customers, in addition to medical professionals. 73% of respondents say that “valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do.” No one wants to waste time navigating through phone menus if they don’t have to.
Live chat support
While there’s likely to be a need for some level of phone support for the foreseeable future to handle a small number of unusual questions, those calls are fairly rare. For most products, localized chat support can provide a welcome alternative to phone representatives. It’s available 24/7, which removes the complication of time zones and specified support hours – and that is huge for pharmaceutical marketing strategy since, according to Forrester, 53% of potential customers will abandon a possible purchase if they can’t get the information they want immediately.
The popularity of chat as a means of communication is inarguable in any event, and the utilization of chat services for product support is growing at an estimated rate of 24% each year, says the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI). In fact, as Econsultancy has found, chat interaction results in a 73% customer satisfaction rating, as opposed to 44% for phone interaction and 61% for email response systems.
A website can also serve as a portal for local-language user forums. These are essentially multi-user chats where questions users can ask questions and the company provides answers. Near-instantaneous responses aren’t required, which makes it relatively simple to keep the conversations going while utilizing the help of the right translation company. This gives pharma companies the opportunity to address and manage any issues before they escalate – and create a sense of a personal relationship with each forum member.
Equally important in a long-term pharmaceutical marketing plan is the need to establish and maintain an active presence on social media in each market. Facebook and Twitter are good places to start, but there are many other country-specific platforms you can use to target regionally specific customers in their own language. In China, for example, the most popular messaging app is called WeChat and it’s used by half a billion people.
A strong social media marketing presence also requires you to keep an eye on hashtags across platforms that may signify an ongoing conversation involving a company product. Partnering with a knowledgeable language services provider can be invaluable here, since nuance is everything in online discussions, and these exchanges are often based on shared cultural understandings.
Being social is ultimately a great chance to proactively engage customers and to resolve product issues before they harden into fixed “common knowledge” that damages the prospects for a product or the reputation of a company.
The longer, better endgame
Before the advent of the internet, once a product was sold, its marketing cycle was over. That’s no longer true, and while this does require a more extended strategy and prolonged attention to a product throughout its markets — and yes, more work — it also provides endless possibilities for ensuring a positive experience for customers and for establishing long-term loyalty from them. And this isn’t just a nice thing to do, either: It’s predicted that by 2020, user experience will overtake product features and price as the single most important brand differentiator. Maintaining the health of a pharmaceutical brand may depend on embracing the internet’s potential to patiently, strategically, grow your customer family.