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Written by Fredrik Holmboe | Stockholm
on June 06, 2019

In a previous article in this series about multichannel marketing in life science, we discussed email— the channel that drives communication, interaction and traffic flow.  This article focuses on websites, an essential watering hole where your customers go to find relevant information in their fields of interest. 

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Multichannel marketing hinges on your website

For thousands of years humans have been using various forms of communication to create offers and engage in some form of commerce. For centuries, mouth to ear was the main communications channel, but other methods were also used. In fact, some of the oldest artifacts ever uncovered were sales messages written on 5,000-year-old papyrus rolls unearthed in Egypt.

Since then, the means and methods have evolved dramatically, with some clear breakthroughs. The Gutenberg press launched the mass production of printed text in 1450. Its use grew during the industrialization of the 1800s, when strong commercial forces had a great need to promote their products and services on a broad front. In 1836, a French newspaper, La Presse, chose to sell advertising space for the first time in world history.   The entry of radio during the first decades of the 20th century changed everything – followed relatively closely by telephone, television, and finally the Internet.

For most of the 20th century, the key success factor has been to be seen and heard as much as possible. With enough money invested in radio and television advertising, companies were likely, almost granted, to have sufficient exposure to reach or exceed their sales targets.

Modern marketing styles: from inbound to content

But now we see the disadvantages of this kind of mass marketing strategy. We are getting tired of all the "noise" and shut out irrelevant sales messages. This is amplified by an explosion in marketing channels created by the Internet. We do not want to be sold to any longer. This is true in life science, medical device and pharma marketing as well. 

Today we want to be informed on terms we have chosen ourselves. We want to experience a greater autonomy, where the information presented to us is personalized. We do not want to feel that marketing is interrupting our  lives, and we expect to find value before we open our wallets or finally choose to make a deal.

This is a primary premise of Inbound Marketing, a method of creating a content-focused approach to drive traffic to your website organically and in a customer-friendly way.

The above history and the resulting aversion are extremely important to take into account when creating, operating, and maintaining a website in order for it to be an attractive destination for your customers.

Create content for your target audience

Within the pharmaceutical and medical device world, websites generally have two target groups: the general public and healthcare professionals (HCP).

In life science, you find websites targeting researchers, scientists or engineers. These websites are typically corporate or product websites, but sometimes also include campaign websites.

The articles, films etc. on these websites often have a common name: content. I will use that word throughout this article when referring to different kinds of content.

It is important to remember that a website, with all its sub-pages and different resources, should not become a digital library – a place full of everything from A-Z that has been placed there for unclear reasons. Or even worse, is there just because it happened to be available when the website was built.

“The goal for all types of websites is to take the visitor from his or her question to the correct answer with as few clicks as possible.”

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The goal for all types of websites should be to take the visitor from his or her question to the correct answer with as few clicks as possible and, in the long run, help to create more and more direct communication channels with the visitor, for example through email or personal contact.

The most effective websites are designed to create a customer journey, moving the visitor from the idea of researching a problem, to giving it a name, to comparing possible solutions, to selecting the best option for their needs.

Create content for every step of the customer journey

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Find out more: About Inbound and Content Marketing

Common types of websites in pharma and life science

Within the pharmaceutical and medical device world, there are mainly five types of websites: corporate websites, campaign websites, patient websites, product websites, and portals.

A company website often has a URL  based on the company name or an abbreviation of the same. This type of website usually focuses on the company as a legal entity with general information such as vision, current events, stock information, information for the public about marketed products, contributions to research and development, or presentations of the company’s own research activities. Recently, information to healthcare professionals has also started to appear. This type of website often links to one more of the other types of websites.

A campaign website is developed for a specific campaign, such as a promotional or educational campaign. The campaign website acts as a hub where information, the opportunity to report one’s interest, follow the campaign’s development, and get information of results are available. The website often functions as a focal point for the multichannel marketing that should be initiated and pushed hard to maximize the probability of a successful campaign.

A patient website is created for individuals interested in a particular therapeutic area where the company is active. The target group is often patients who visit the website, but it can also be family and friends or people with a general interest who are represented in the visitor statistics. This type of website often presents disease, therapy, research, trends in the field, lifestyle advice, and stories from people living with the disease.

• A product website is aimed at healthcare professionals who are interested in the drug or device being marketed. In Sweden and many other countries, the content is based on what is claimed in the drug’s Summary of Product Characteristics (or for medical devices, what is approved for marketing by FDA or other regulatory agencies). For prescription drugs, the website may be “locked” behind a safety question where the visitor must specify that he or she works in the healthcare sector (this is typical in Sweden, for example).

Text, image, and film may be used to describe the drug’s mechanism of action, effect, and side effects as well as practical advice. The remaining features are often limited to ordering product-related material, but as the need for a higher value for the visitor increases, other possibilities for maximizing the visitor experience may be included, such as in-service education opportunities or indications for use.

A portal website may gather several of the site types above under a common umbrella. Hence, most of the company’s information is represented in the menu bar as pharmaceuticals, ordering of materials, filmed material, listing of services “beyond the pill” such as apps, educational and treatment programs, as well as various tests. A portal is often specifically aimed at either healthcare professionals or the public, but is sometimes merged into a website. More and more companies are implementing portals for a couple of reasons: 

  1. Firstly, as has already been mentioned, the goal is to take a visitor from question to answer as quickly as possible, which becomes easier if everything is gathered in a homogeneous environment. 
  2. Secondly, a single portal is, in many cases, more cost-efficient to operate and maintain than several different websites. The message also becomes more uniform and the marketing more effective when all channels are directed to a target site.

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Key performance indicators for websites

 Measure the key metrics to determine what your audience wants from your website.

Website KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

A website can be considered successful when it meets business-driven objectives not only if it has a high number of visitors.

Some time ago, I heard about a product manager who had an annual goal of getting 500 visitors to her part of a portal – a rather arbitrary goal that will not determine if the website is successful. Not even if the goal is met. However, what comes out of these 500 visits in the next step, and the step after that, could very well be decisive.

What can be considered as driving the business forward varies from website to website and business area to business area. You will find data that supports an analysis of the effectiveness mainly in the following three areas:

1. Exposure

  • Number of visitors to the website
  • Number of unique visitors
  • Number of pages visited
  • Number of “bounces”

Number of visitors to the website shows the total number of visitors to the website during a selected time period, that is, the total visits of a person are counted regardless of whether it is one or more visits. The device could be either computers, tablets, or smartphones.

Number of unique visitors seeks to capture unique visitors during a selected time period, with the goal of counting each person only once. This has become a bit more difficult in recent years with the advance of the above-mentioned mobile devices, as people can visit the website to read an article on their work laptop, continue reading on their smartphone in the bus on the way home, and finally finish reading on their PC at home. Although the goal is to count a person only once during the time period, this person is counted as three different (unique) visitors. The most common situation is, however, that the first and second points differ and that conclusions can be drawn based on the statistics.

Number of pages visited shows the number of pages visited per session and shows generally how appealing a visitor finds your content and how easy the website is to navigate. Good content, good linking between different pages, and a clear navigation structure usually lead to good statistics.

The number of “bounces” is a measure of how many visitors that come to your website only to leave it without having clicked on any link or page within the same domain. It generally measures how well the website has answered the visitor’s question and made him or her interested in reading more. A “bounce” is something that can happen if the visitor clicks to another domain, clicks “back” in his or her browser, shuts down the entire browser (or current tab), enters a new web address, or lets the window be open so that the session on your website expires.

“A website can be considered successful when it meets business-driven objectives, not only if it has a high number of visitors.”

2. Interaction

  • Number of content units that have been consumed
  • Number of specific activities that have been carried out

The first point mainly refers to other types of content than text. Examples can be filmed material such as interviews or lectures, animated films showing the mechanism of action or handling of the drug, and course material, self tests, and more. This type of content is often preferred since it can lead to an increased experience of value, longer visits, and more return visits.

The second point refers to the activities listed as advantageous if performed by the visitor. Examples could be that the visitor registers for a course, a newsletter, or answers a questionnaire. Every single page on your website should have one of two things: a clear “Call to Action” (CTA) or a well thought-out reason for why there is no CTA. Either one or the other. All traffic on your website should be taken care of consciously and with a business-minded approach.

“When your website reaches a level that the company can be proud of, it should be the hub for all marketing activities, whether conducted online, in print, or in physical meetings."

3. Engagement

Measuring engagement is difficult if only one form of data is analyzed. By analyzing a combination of several different data sources, including some of the above, you can find the engagement of the visitors. Some of the KPIs that you can analyze are:

  • Number of likes / comments / shares
  • Time spent watching a video
  • Time spent scrolling a page
  • Number of clicks on internal links
  • Total time spent on the website
  • Number of visits per user

Number of likes / comments / shares is a kind of value barometer for your content. If the visitors are satisfied and have experienced value, the chances are higher that the content that has been consumed will be liked, commented, or shared. 

Each individual type of engagement generally provides too little data for an analysis but taken together the picture usually becomes clearer. The value of these three types of engagement are based on the level of investment required by the visitor. 

A comment takes longer to write than a “like” and sharing means that the visitors feel that your content is so valuable that they want to put their names on it when sharing it with their own networks. Your content is then, to borrow a quote from the thought leader Seth Godin from 2007, remarkable. 

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Measuring time spent watching a video and time spent scrolling a page show how interesting the visitor thinks your content is. Time spent watching a video is often a natural parameter to look at, but time spent scrolling can sometimes be forgotten. Pages where the statistics show that the readers leave “prematurely” should be reviewed.

Number of clicks on internal links also shows the experience of your content. If the first article was good enough to live up to the visitors’ expectations, then chances are higher that they will consume something more that your website has to offer. This point also shows the clarity of the internal links and how easy the website is to navigate.

The next point is a bit special: time spent on the website. Similar to time spent watching a video and time spent scrolling, time spent on the website can give an indication of engagement. But with a big CATCH. Your content is competing with many other stimuli from other parts of the Internet, such as social media, and the “real” world (such as phone calls).

Your website could be open, time could be ticking and affect the statistics, without measuring real engagement. Time spent on the website is good as an engagement barometer but should be analyzed with some caution and in combination with more aspects.

Finally, number of visits per user shows that a visitor appreciated your website enough to return more times. If this figure is high, you have probably succeeded in creating the watering hole where your customers go to find relevant information in their field of interest.

To reach that goal, there are some crucial factors to consider.

In our next article in this series, we’ll focus on Key Success Factors in building websites that convert well in pharma and life science.

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More about the author

Fredrik Holmboe is Senior Digital Strategist and Head of Inbound and Content Marketing at UP. Contact Fredrik if you want to develop your digital marketing strategy or if you just need someone to discuss your digital strategy with.

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