HealthTalker head Andy Levitt returned a bit bleary eyed from San Francisco on Friday morning to attend eyeforpharmaâ€™s 3rd Annual eCommunication and Online Marketing Summit.
Day Two of this event focused first on how physicians are using the web. CEO Daniel Palestrant from Sermo gave a compelling overview of how his company is becoming the dominant player in the physician online space. In contrast to the consumer-focused search and portal sites that I commented about in my previous post who are still competing to earn the trust of Internet health seekers, Sermo appears to have won the trust game with US physicians.
Sermo announced a new partnership with Bloomberg the day before at Health 2.0, and that they expect to break the 100,000 mark of physician registrations by the time the rest of us eat our holiday turkey dinner next month. Whatâ€™s exciting to see about Sermo, among other things, is the deep level of engagement from their physician user base. Physicians are finding value in connecting with other colleagues around the country, engaging in the community, providing second opinions and collaborating on various issues.
Palestrant continues to challenge the status quo, announcing a new pricing model that will go into effect in the weeks ahead for Sermoâ€™s CME offering that should threaten traditional approaches by other companies in that arena. The smart money from pharma should continue to flow in their direction.
RJ Lewis of e-Healthcare Solutions did a nice job moderating the discussion in the afternoon, addressing online spending and leveraging social networks for consumers. His comments about pharmaâ€™s uncertain â€“ and perhaps underwhelming – approach to online marketing raised the prickly issue of proving ROI. Several pharma managers expressed frustration about this issue, noting the perceived lack of a clear ROI remains the key reason that limits their spend from senior management.
RJ noted an AdAge study that revealed how pharma over-indexes in both TV and print (as compared to the CPG industry), with more than 90 percent of media dollars going to those two channels. However, pharma spends less than half of what other industries do in the online space. The irony here is that the web is arguably more measurable.
The topic of how to measure ROI is certainly not new. Itâ€™s a reasonable question, of course, and one that must be asked. But is it also safe to say that this question may often be a diversion based on an underlying issue of risk avoidance in our highly-conservative industry?
What if the year-end bonus for the brand manager â€“ or even for the entire senior leadership team, for that matter â€“ was tied to â€œtesting new ideasâ€ and sharing what was learned as a result inside the organization? Should it be? What affect might that have on innovation in pharma? Iâ€™d love to see that model embraced, and Iâ€™ll bet that many brand managers would welcome it, too.
Weâ€™ll probably hear more about this issue next week at the DTC Perspectives annual fall meeting in New Jersey.
Photo by bensheldon