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The State of Pharmaceutical Email Marketing Programs
Whittmanhart Interactive Pharmaceutical Industry Email Study: Pharmaceutical email marketing programs are not fulfilling their potential
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Results of a recent WHITTMANHART Interactive (WHi) study reveal that a remarkably low number of quality email marketing campaigns have been undertaken on behalf of pharmaceutical industry companies. The WHi study also reveals that pharmaceutical firms that have launched email campaigns designed to market to their current and potential clients, have done so without the support of a strong strategic plan designed to achieve optimum results. WHITTMANHART Interactive (WHi), an interactive marketing agency that serves a number of pharmaceutical clients, noted additional significant and surprising findings from the study, including:
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• Lack of quality programs
• Inconsistent frequency
• Multiple missed opportunities

Going beyond the metrics of these findings, WHi offers proven techniques for successful e-marketing programs that can add real value to the online brand experience.
WHITTMANHART Offers a Balance of Usability and Creativity
To develop an accurate snapshot of what e-consumers were experiencing, WHi studied the email programs of the top 100 selling pharmaceutical products. The goal was clear—evaluate the current state of email marketing programs within the pharmaceutical industry, and provide recommendations as to how to improve future email marketing activities.

WHi registered for email programs representing various brands, and then monitored the activity for a seven-month time period, from May 1, 2005 through May 31, 2006. During this timeframe, WHi responded to and interacted with selected programs in the following ways:
   • Signed up for over 200 DTC email programs from Top 100 best\selling drugs from 30 companies, and an additional 112 mega-brands with an online program
   • Responded to online program offers
   • Reviewed associated web sites, direct mail and HCP sites, as well as the integration of marketing efforts across channels

The data tells the tale
Even though they serve a very important function in continuing patient education, WHi found that very few pharma email programs consistently connect with their own customer base. Of the top 25 best selling Rx?s, 8 sent at least 1 email and only 3 had a loyalty program between May 1, 2005 and May 31, 2006. Only 5 percent of the websites representing the top 100 best-selling pharmaceutical products sent a mix of various types of email such as welcome emails, email newsletters, promotional emails, triggered emails and behavioral emails.

Just 15 of the top 25 in DTC spending (mega-brands) have email programs. Brands in competitive markets with broad consumer reach cultivate more email and loyalty programs. Yet some brands with broad consumer reach had no email program at all. The lack of consistency and quality integrated programs lead to many missed opportunities for the pharma brands and the consumers they serve.

Quality email and loyalty programs would boost pharma marketing success
Both marketers and top brands consider email a high-impact, low-cost method of communication, and permission-based email one of the most trusted forms of advertising. Yet top pharmaceutical brands are not maximizing the use of email as a tool to communicate with consumers.

As the study indicates, more than three-quarters of the websites representing the top 100 best-selling pharmaceutical products sent no emails to WHi?s test accounts. In the present marketplace, developing and maintaining a vigorous email program is often considered a precursor for new product launches, new indications and other major marketing initiatives, making it even more surprising that WHi did not receive any emails from 77% of the top 100 products.

Typically, all sites include product information and news, articles, FAQs and patient/consumer resources. Only 6 out of the top 15 best-selling drugs utilized online enrollment, consumer experience management (CEM), and consumer loyalty/retention strategies. Some brands utilize promotions, interactive tools, and communities, but do not collect and use the consumer data to personalize content, create ?stickiness? or reach out to customers. The sites are not actively engaging consumers in a dialog that will build relationships. Only one brand broke out of customer loyalty and retention models and began building a truly integrated cross-channel program using a lifecycle email program as the key driver. One very popular cholesterol drug is especially interesting because it applies all the components of a quality CRM program online, but does not capitalize on its momentum with an effective email program

Most brands are engaged in consumer database marketing, not Consumer Relationship Management (CRM) and Loyalty programs. An effective CRM strategy must include touchpoints to help measure how consumers interact with the brand. These touchpoints should be personalized, consistent, and demonstrate that the brand knows and values its customers. The pharmaceutical marketplace has seen a growing trend toward CRM and Loyalty campaigns, and significant opportunity exists for companies to leverage the consumer as an advocate for its brands. Many of the large pharmacos, such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca, J&J;, and GSK have already begun the process of developing a fully-integrated CRM strategy using integrated email programs.

One way to accomplish this is through the application of rich interactive tools and impactful consumer communications. Build your programs around a patient?s treatment lifecycle and personalize it by developing regularly scheduled activities. It?s also important to gather profile information as the consumer uses the interactive tools. A program that recognizes when a user hasn?t interacted with emails or visited a specific site is the ultimate goal.

Why it?s so important to stay in touch
Surprisingly, very few pharma email programs consistently email their consumer base. Approximately 50 percent of the email programs WHi monitored logged consumer contact on a regular basis. Frequencies ranged from weekly, to monthly or quarterly. Six programs emailed sporadically, where more than one email was received, but nothing was sent on a routine schedule. Programs with quality loyalty programs emailed consistently and regularly, often sending several different types of email at different times.

First impressions are critical
Of the many types of email that can be sent to consumers, the ?Welcome? email is the most important that consumers receive.

However, like other industries, it appears the pharmaceutical industry is also neglecting this valuable opportunity to get in front of desired consumers. Only 23% of the websites representing the top 100 pharmaceutical products sent email to WHi test accounts. Of these twenty-three brands, only eight sent an email within the first five days of registration. Of these eight brands, four sent text-based auto-reply emails that simply acknowledged interaction between the consumer and the website. The other four sent what would be considered ?Welcome? emails that contained brand messaging and some indication or promise of future contact.

Without sending a strong and targeted ?Welcome? email to new subscribers, top brands are missing an outstanding opportunity to set the stage for future and ongoing relationship-building events.

Imagine this scenario: Consumer ?A? is facing a certain illness and searches the Internet for specific information about treatment options. She finds a brand of particular interest and signs up to receive email communication. In response to her inquiry, she does not receive anything either immediately or in the near future from the brand. By the time she finally does receive an email, Consumer ?A? has lost interest in the product and moved on to other options. Her choice is made for her, due to a lack of response from the original product website.

On the other end of the spectrum, Consumer ?A? receives ? within a short period of time - a high-quality, HTML email that contains relevant content and engages her immediately. Receiving the right message at the right time, this consumer will become much more likely to further engage with the brand. This opens the door for future emails and relationship-building communications. Because of the brand?s initial responsiveness to Consumer ?A?, the information provided via email may encourage the patient to discuss the product as a treatment option with her healthcare provider.

Recieving the right message at the right time ...
 
 
To implement or enhance ?Welcome? emails, WHi recommends brands try the following:
Send welcome emails immediately upon registration.
If you do not send an immediate response, be sure to send one within five days of receiving a registration.
Use HTML emails ? not text.
More aesthetically pleasing emails better communicate your brand?s equity and create a more engaging email.
Thank the consumer for registering.
Personalization is a nice touch. It is a way to form a direct relationship and start a dialogue. With personalization, consumers feel that the brand recognizes them as an individual rather than just a member of a demographic segment.
Engage the consumer right from the very start.
Provide relevant information about your brand and provide links to initiate further site interaction. ?Welcome? emails are often designed and implemented with a ?general? message that rarely changes. Consider updating the content of ?Welcome? emails every few months in order to add greater topical relevancy and more ?punch? to the message.
Set the consumer expectation about future emails.
Give the consumer knowledge about what to expect from your brand in the future with regard to email communication, including the type of information that will be sent, and the frequency. Instead of setting the expectation in the ?Welcome? email, brands should be restating the expectation. The expectation should have originally been set during the registration process.
Provide the ?From? address and ask consumers to add it to their address book.
Just because consumers receive your ?Welcome? email does not mean they will receive or accept all future emails. Spam filtering can sometimes be erratic and can also change frequently. By asking the consumer to add the brand?s address in their address book, you ensure access and proper delivery to their mailbox.
Comply with all legislation.
?Welcome? emails are still considered commercial email under the CAN-SPAM Act and should be treated accordingly. This includes the presence of both a working ?unsubscribe? mechanism and a physical mailing address that should appear within the email. Marketers must also be acutely aware of federal, state, local and international privacy and data protection laws that may govern commercial email, with pharma brands especially cognizant of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Diverse strategies increase e-marketing success
Different types of emails have different purposes. A diversity of emails is necessary to deliver an effective, well-rounded email program. To ensure success with any email marketing campaign, especially within the health care sector, marketers must give serious consideration to matters concerning privacy, security and confidentiality before launching any informational or promotional email campaign.

Within the pharmaceutical industry, only 5% of the websites representing the top 100 best-selling pharmaceutical products sent varying types of email as part of an overall email marketing program. The other 18% that sent email simply sent one type of email ? with email newsletters being the most popular.

To determine the best mix of email types to incorporate into an overall email campaign, brands should analyze the nature of their products, their budgets, and, of course, consumers? information needs. As email programs continue to mature and become more sophisticated, brands will be able to add various types of emails to their inventory, which will in turn provide greater relevancy and value to consumers.

Brands should also focus their efforts on developing and implementing a strong ?Welcome? email as a critical first step in developing a well-rounded email program. For most brands ?including pharmaceuticals?the next most popular and useful type of email to consider is the email newsletter.

Leveraging the Relationship
The ?Welcome? email sets the stage and provides an opening for future, ongoing communication between the consumer and the brand.

Email newsletters and promotional emails serve different purposes but both help build relationships and brand loyalty. Because these two forms of email complement each other so well, using the two-pronged approach of email newsletters and promotional emails is a formula for success

Recieving the right message at the right time ...
Brands should use the following guidelines to distinguish email newsletters from other types of emails:
Email newsletters should be sent on a regular basis.
Establish the frequency as part of your editorial calendar. Newsletters may be sent weekly, monthly or quarterly. The frequency of email newsletters should be clearly communicated to consumers at the time of registration, and the frequency should be maintained.
Email newsletters should focus on several key points or pieces of information.
For example, email newsletters should contain several articles for each issue.
Email newsletters should be informational and educational in nature.
Email newsletters should seek to inform consumers about timely, relevant information and should embrace more of a ?soft sell? approach.
Email newsletters should use a standard template
in order to deliver the same, consistent look and feel with each issue. It is even desirable to have standard articles and features with each issue.
Once contact is established and consumers are informed about your brand, the next step is promotional emails. Based on the very nature of the products being offered, pharmaceutical brands should strongly consider sending promotional emails to consumers.

Important guidelines for promotional emails:
Promotional emails should be sent on an as-needed basis, that is, whenever there is important, relevant information to communicate.
Promotional emails should focus on a single key point or piece of information. For example, promotional emails could be used to announce a new product, new indication, or a new treatment option.
Promotional emails should have a strong, clear call-to-action. Promotional emails should drive consumers to take a particular action, whether it is to download an online product brochure, asks their doctor for more information, or sign up for additional information or offers.
Promotional emails should not always follow a standard template. Promotional emails give the brand freedom and flexibility to design according the nature of the promotion and they may deviate slightly from mega branding, again, depending on the type of promotion. Promotional emails, however, must always be based on equity of the brand.


How the two can work together:

A promotional email may be used to announce a new treatment option success story contest. A subsequent email newsletter would build on the promotional email by providing an article that includes resources, as well as a greater depth of information about the contest. Finally, the ?wrap? or follow-up email newsletter would announce and provide inspirational, fact-based details about the winning success story.

After successfully implementing email newsletters and promotional emails, pharmaceutical brands should consider adding even more sophisticated emails such as triggered event, patient life-cycle and behavioral emails.

Three simple and effective devices:
Triggered event emails? A gentle email reminder is sent when a consumer is nearing the time for a prescription refill..
Patient life-cycle emails? With so many treatment options, there is a standard progression of events, circumstances and needs that a patient will encounter. Patient life-cycle emails can provide valuable information to patients at the time they are experiencing a particular event, circumstance or need. This form of communication adds relevancy by providing the right message at the right time.
Behavioral emails? If a consumer hasn?t logged into a brand?s site for a certain length of time, an email inviting them back to visit the site should be sent. This email might promise new features, improvements or updates to the site that the consumer has not yet seen.
It is crucial to remember that as the sophistication level of an email program increases, so does the risk. Since triggered emails, patient life-cycle emails, and behavioral emails are all based on specific data points (refill time, progression within a particular treatment program, past actions taken), the underlying data must be highly accurate.
The use of inaccurate data will only serve to increase the risk of harm to consumer relationships and perceptions. As in the refill reminder example above, if the refill date is correct and a reminder is sent with an incorrect date, then rather than building stronger relationships with consumers, brands could actually (either due to bad data or delays in deployment) look foolish, as opposed to offering a valuable service. While email marketing is an extremely powerful way to build relationships, it is also a potent way to harm relationships if not well-executed. Brands should always use extreme caution and care when developing and executing triggered, patient life-cycle and behavioral emails.

Pharmaceutical email programs enrich overall marketing strategies and provide quantifiable results
Email marketing is a tremendously under-utilized tool within the pharmaceutical industry. While a few brands do have highly developed, robust email marketing programs, the majority of brands do not. Opportunities are missed because of the lack of sophistication in the deployment of email programs within this industry. Consequently, the brand fails to serve the consumer and itself properly.

Currently, most emails are delivered as ?push? emails. They are not the ?pull? tools designed to engage the individual and gather data that will ultimately help brands better know and segment their target audiences. Email is not being used to move individuals up the commitment ladder from awareness to purchase, or stimulate viral communications. In many cases, email is not even being included as part of a holistic marketing mix that surrounds the consumer with consistent messages.

Brands are under-utilizing an important tool that can improve their marketing ROI while helping them establish brand-building relationships with their target audiences. Alternatively, the door is wide open for brands to take steps toward improving their email programs, and, ultimately, capitalize on the many opportunities ahead.

 
About WHITTMANHART
Headquartered in Chicago, WHITTMANHART is a premier consulting agency providing integrated solutions in digital communications, process improvement and enabling technologies. They draw on over 20 years of quality work, strong client relationships and value-driven solutions for focused industries to deliver best-in-class solutions to all of its clients. For more information, please visit www.whittmanhart.com or contact Rich Britton, WHITTMANHART Business Development, at 215.636.9500 or email [email protected]
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