Insights & Analytics

The Top 3 Digital Marketing Challenges for 2017

Ready to tackle your 2017 Digital Challenges? It’s that time of year once again! Thoughts turn from the 2016 campaigning, launching, extending and supporting of your product and service, and turn to the NEW YEAR. I even spotted my first Christmas tree in London just up from the office this week! Here at Cadient London we have already been involved for several months with clients on shaping, challenging and improving what their 2017 initiatives will look like.

So, to focus the mind ahead of the intense planning, I thought it useful to share comments on insights on challenges we’ve heard from client teams throughout Europe. Interestingly, these challenges are aligned with those of our global partners but if nothing else, this will reassure you that you are not alone in overcoming your commercial tribulations!


These specific insights come from a series of Cadient webinars and responses following online sessions which ran over the past two months.* Feedback allowed anonymity so individuals could identify and speak about their worries for the year ahead. The feedback is from a global perspective and is formed from the most junior team members to those with regional and divisional responsibility. This scope has allowed us to garner great insight into what is keeping today’s digital marketer awake at night. Most interestingly, all colleagues identified significant shifts and trends in their own markets that they felt needed overcoming, quickly. The response to Cadient insights delivered during the webinar series was fantastic with response rates in double digits! A fabulous response to the various programs of support, self-learning and upskilling that we support.

So enough of the preamble, what are the top 3 digital marketing challenges for 2017? Broadly speaking, we are seeing three areas of focus moving into 2017:

1). To whom are we speaking?
2). What are we saying?
3). How are we assessing our effectiveness?

1). To whom are we speaking?

  • No clear audience (healthcare) journey
  • Knowing who our customers are and attracting them to us online

Given the complexities of the healthcare market, identifying the appropriate audience is a constant and critical challenge. Every marketing and communications specialist needs to have their customer in mind, whatever they are doing. From designing layouts of web pages, through to developing content, selecting how we speak to them (tone, content) via channels and developing sales plans.

Often in health, it’s our “customer’s customer” whom we need to think about – either the patient of the doctor of the clinic or practice, or the consumer of the pharmacy around the corner from their home. Often, how each of these individuals uses our website and brand tools is very different. For your brand to be successful online you need to establish your audience needs, why they need it and how they want to use your information.

Let’s be clear; if you do not know who you are talking to, how can you be clear with what you want to say?

A useful tip for brand guardians is not to look to have just one person in mind for your messaging. There are many types of patient (customer) and many different types of HCP. Your digital ecosystem should accommodate all of these. For example, a patient is not just a patient; they can include the willing participant, the rebel, the unknowing patient … each will need a different contact and touchpoint, and they will expect a different experience from you.

2). What are we saying?

  • Selecting the correct content format
  • Selecting the right format

More than ever, everyone you speak to today has time restrictions. We are all busy!

Whether your brand touchpoint is on the morning commute, catching a doctor in a hospital hallway or looking to optimize time at a congress, meeting or online hangout, or attending a webinar, people want quick information and references. They demand formats that are easy to understand that they can bookmark and perhaps return to later.

A piece of research from last year, “The New Rules of HCP Engagement: 5 Strategies to Consider in an Evolving Pharma Landscape”** found that for self-learning, users across the board preferred video, graphics and animations as well as digitally enhanced case studies and detail tablet aids. Note that this research was before the true advent of Virtual Reality (VR), 360 degree photography and video and AI. The implications for creating immersive content – which seems to be populating digital channels on a daily basis – are truly incredible!


The time of pushing out thoughtless, rapid messaging to fill a void is long gone. Successful marketers build content plans with identified release dates, and smart pharma marketers get their approval teams (Medical, Legal or Regulatory) onside early. Early review and input into content, whatever the format, ensure shortened approval time. In a recent experience, working with legal and regulatory affairs teams ensured that the brand was able to pass six months of content in one go; that was content for websites, blogs, social media, TV advertising and online journal publication.

On the other hand, I have heard of brand teams passing one piece of content per channel and having three social media posts in eight months as their content plan … not good. Pick your key messages and content, and look at how you can repurpose and use that content across multiple platforms and channels. Think of that audience and how they look at your content – morning commute, office, gym session, with a patient, at a group training session or as part of self-learning. Each offers opportunity to repurpose and model messaging to each channel.

3). How are we assessing our effectiveness?

  • Setting measures and meaningful insight
  • Developing a dashboard for tracking and measurement

So the old adage of “if you can’t measure, you don’t know” still rings true.

Today’s marketer has so many recording and analysis tools at their fingertips. Real-time reporting tools are two-a-penny, and can measure your brand (or product) sentiment, social media post interaction and engagement with hashtag measurement, event popularity and a multitude of other measures.

Showing my age here, but when I started with direct mail in the health industry, all we had to measure was to post a campaign via snail mail and see who walked in through the door in response. Not an exact science to say the least! Today there are click rates, impressions, actions, next page visited, split testing, subject testing and the list goes on. Today’s marketer almost has too many measures to choose from and what is being said, I think, is “tell us which measures are meaningful and I can use to assess how successful I am.”

The key to using these tools is to identify measures that matter early and stick to them. Don’t try to measure everything; keep it simple (stupid); KISS. Then apply these measures and results to look at your message positioning, template layouts, positioning and channel selection. Measures of past performance can be used to help shape and refine your future plans. Indeed, these can supercharge your brand into the New Year and beyond.

What’s next?

Having identified the issues, what are the next steps? Between now and the end of the year, I will be devoting one post per “Challenge” topic, three in total, with hints and tips for today’s digital pharma marketer to overcome some of the issues, concerns and challenges, so stay tuned! This is the first in a series of four being written before the end of the year.


*Responses taken from client webinar series that ran from May to July 2016 with a response rate of 10.6% of the total attendees from that period. Responses made via SurveyMonkey and subject to client confidentiality.

**“The New Rules of HCP Engagement: 5 Strategies to Consider in an Evolving Pharma Landscape” whitepaper can be found here.

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Richard Long is an account director for Cadient’s London office, covering clients throughout the European Union. With more than 15 years’ experience in digital marketing, he has recently been awarded national recognition for health campaigning in social media and work with pharma clients throughout the world.

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