How to be seen by your target clients onlineThe pharma industry is global and so are the business opportunities; theinternet offers huge prospects for companies large and small to tap into richpockets of new potential. But knowing what to do and then doing it right isthe key to success.Do you fight with your target clients?Purchasing in the pharma industry is rarely a simple process. There are a great many; regulatory,legal, logistical and political factors to consider. Depending on the purchasing team, this could be asrelevant for stationery as it is for a highly potent ingredient. Throw into the mix issues such aslanguage, culture and ‘preferred suppliers’; and the question you need to be asking is whether youshould you expect to make sales without an effort or indeed a fight?!Unfortunately marketing is no longer a simple case of just producing a nice looking companybrochure, spending budget on a major exhibition and putting an advert in your favourite industrymagazine. Yes, all of these are effective in raising awareness of your company in the right places;but they need to be part of a more holistic programme in order to drive customers your way.Mounting a successful marketing campaign could be likened to waging a war. As Sun Tzu said in TheArt of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundredbattles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer adefeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” The same istrue in business; you really need to understand who you are ‘attacking’, where they like to fight andwhat tactics are going to penetrate the defences protecting their budgets. It is also incrediblyimportant to be realistic about your company’s current status.Are you engaged yet?One also has to remember that there are always two opportunities for getting new clients:- Gaining their interest by promoting something they want (even if they didn’t know it!)- Being found by them as they search for a new supplierMarketing should be seen as a series of activities designed to create opportunities for engagementwith potential clients. Engagement requires interaction on some level; easily done at an exhibitionand not so easily done with an advert or direct mail. Consideration needs to be made on how best tostimulate & capture interest. The internet is a rich resource; this article aims to highlight a few of theavailable and upcoming ideas.
Don’t swim with the fishesBefore suggesting some solutions, let us first use a few lines to consider some of the challenges.As Confucius said: “I know why the path is not trodden; the clever ones overstep it and the stupidones do not reach it.”For some companies the drive for sales efficiency, channels marketing teams back into familiarwaters, to clash rods over the next big fish that swims by. These companies believe they alreadyknow the best places to find clients and figure that sales levels are only affected by sales people;they just need to work harder! They step over the path.Other companies believe that marketing is just about personal relationships, working the rolodex,racking up the air miles visiting prospective clients. Business development is about who you knowand how many handshakes you can make. They do not reach the path.To win new clients and to avoid a basic shouting match with competitors; uncharted waters and newvessels should be sought. These ideas are not just relevant for the Big Pharma or Generic Giants;everyone needs differentiation, innovation and exciting ways to engage clients.Think tomorrow, today!There a number of existing opportunities and technologies that could be paths to new clients andneed to be considered. • Business networking websites • Twitter • Search engines & online databases • Content targeted advertising • Virtual partnering forumsBusiness networking websitesUnless you have been locked away in a sealed drum for the last 2-3 years, you will understand theconcept of online networking. It has been around for some time in various forms (considerfriendsreunited.com), but the massive success of Facebook & MySpace has made it a public pastime.Social networking websites are about connecting with friends; helping people keep in touch, sharephotos, news and generally feel a little more (/too!?) involved in each other’s digital lives.Business networking is based on a very similar platform; of course a lot of good businessrelationships also involve social elements; but the focus is about making commercial connections ortapping into the activity of existing contacts.I have been registered on various networking sites since 2001 (www.ecademy.com was the first Ithink), but did not really see a great value until I invested time and effort. A couple of years agowww.linkedIn.com took off in Europe and I decided to see if tangible benefits could be gained.Spending an hour a day making new connections (sometimes one has to take educated guesses at
email addresses!), creating a full profile, getting recommendations, joining relevant groups andmaking comments on discussions. I now have over 1500 connections and a group growing inmembership each week.The results? About 20% of new clients are referrals from LinkedIn, 30% of web traffic and a networkof high level contacts I could never dream of achieving offline. At each major event I attend, around1/3 of my meetings are with new contacts made via LinkedIn. A much better return than I would getfrom attending conferences or simply sending cold emails.By building a large network of contacts and using the various tools to make announcements,comments and promotions, you can ensure potential clients understand what you offer without theneed to ‘risk’ contacting you and being sold to. They are much more likely to reach out when theyare ready, a positive relationship and credibility has already been established – they are engaged!TwitterThis is another relatively recent web tool that is already firmly fixed in the public vocabulary.Twitter is a micro-blogging tool which allows you 140 characters per Tweet to communicate withyour followers (connections) and all of them receive the message simultaneously on their news feed.Twitter is used by a variety of people and companies for a variety of reasons.- Celebrities used it to maintain their celebrity status; telling fans of their every move, sharing theirlives so their followers feel engaged in their lives.- Organisations (news agencies, government, charities etc) use it to send out real time news- Big brands use it to make announcements, special promotions, competitions etcIndividual Tweeters then reTweet these little announcements, links and titbits to all of theirfollowers, spreading top Tweets around the world in seconds! (Remember the riots in Iran!)How can you use it to benefit your business?Assuming you are not already ‘famous’ and customers will want to seek you out to follow; effort isneeded to make Twitter a useful marketing tool. First of all you need to create a Company Twitteraccount and not a personal one. Then use Twitter to regularly publish news about your company, itsproducts, its people or pretty much anything that might interest potential customers. Includes linksto pages on your website or other websites that contain references to your company. [If you don’thave a way to easily publish documents on your website, use your LinkedIn account or anothertrusted website that created unique URL’s].Second, connect (follow) to anyone or any company that is either a potential client or an industrynews agency. Often if you follow someone, they will follow you back and then they will see yourTweets. Make them interesting and they will take notice. A news agency might even reTweet andyou get free promotion to their readership!Thirdly, register in the various Twitter directories (www.wefollow.com, www.twellow.com,www.tweetfind.com) so that you can be found if people search for relevant companies to follow.
I believe Twitter has untapped potential and will grow to become the defacto ‘news’ publishingservice for many industries. Building a following will add credibility to your online presence andcreates a simple method to send messages to potential clients; it is important to provide opportunityand stimulus for potential clients to engage with your company; e.g. special offers, exclusive news,new launches etc.Search engines & online databasesDespite the massive power of online search and its ability to reach into each tiny corner of the web,its rarely enough to just have a website and be confident that potential customers will find you.There is of course Search Engine Optimisation (SEO); you have likely received emails or phone callsoffering a service to guarantee you number one slot in the Google natural ranking. There are manyexcellent companies who will indeed find ways to manipulate the mechanism of search engines andthere fees are often quite reasonable too. You will need to retain their services of course, otherwiseyour competitor’s SEO might trump you the very next day!Search engines base their rankings based on your websites popularity and connectivity; that is tosay, the more visitors you get and more links you have from other websites to yours, the better youwill perform. The former you can increase through advertising and the ideas highlighted in thisarticle; the latter is a little more tricky.A good way to increase your search visibility is to sign up with relevant online databases anddirectories. The ones that receive a lot of traffic and give your company a public profile will helppotential clients find you and if you can include a link to your website, you should see a benefit inyour rankings. Some will charge for a profile; so make sure you select the best service and they areattracting the kind of clients you want.Content targeted advertisingIt is impossible to ignore content/context/search advertising when considering effective onlinemarketing tactics. You will have all seen the adverts at the top and right of search results or those satwithin a website. Google is of course the global leader by a long stretch; although not the dominantprovider in all countries (Baidu in China for example). Bing (Microsoft) is also beginning to make animpact.Search adverts (Google Adwords) are a very effective way to target motivated potential clients. Theyare looking for you! You only pay when someone clicks on your advert. Setting up an advert isstraightforward, although some time is needed to research which key words clients might use to findyou.Daily budgets, countries, languages, time of day and multiple advert versions can all be set withinthe online interface and you receive a detailed statistics report. If you link with an analytics package,you can even see the traffic that reached your website and what pages they looked at.
I’ve used Google Adwords for some time and it is definitely the best way to rapidly increase webtraffic. The critical factor is turning visitors into leads; this requires a good website and one whichcan capture visitor interest (newsletter, registration, document download, live chat etc).The best way to capture potential client interest is when they are looking to buy!Virtual partnering forumsReduced budgets, increased focus on carbon footprints and greater time pressures, are all factorswhich count against the traditional big shows and live partnering events. This pressure is increasedwhen considering emerging markets with excellent IT infrastructure and executives that are a littleless inclined to travel or blow budgets on only few trips a year.Improving broadband connections, streaming media and browser based applications are all makingvirtual reality a much richer and more stimulating environment. Although there are only a fewevents already in the calendar, this is tipped to be an area of massive growth in coming years.Modelled on real-world conference centres, each has exhibition booths with multimedia displaysand live chat (with video and voice if desired), key note speaker presentations and networkinglounges.A few example events:bioconferencelive.com, pharmapartneringlive2010.com, cardiocarelive.com, informex.com/virtualSome of the larger pharma companies now have their own partnering web presence; although notwell promoted, they provide a 24/7 opportunity for engagement and information sharing withpotential partners. Expect to see many more of these virtual meeting spaces as a cost effective wayto attract interest from every corner of the industry and engage with clients worldwide!Are you ready for tomorrow?The internet is making the world and every industry smaller; companies from every corner of theglobe should be seeking ways to do business with each other before someone else does. If, asforecast, the BRIC countries are going to dominate the future economy; are you already connectedin those markets? If not, why not? If, as forecast, technology is going to change the face of allindustries, including Pharma; are you investigating how you can get ahead of the game? If not, whynot? Tomorrow’s buyers are not going to wait for you. To connect with the currently unknownclients of tomorrow is going to require a more high-tech and more digitally integrated approach.Summary Tips1) Agree that online marketing is important and invest time in establishing a presence. A little moneycan go a relatively long way on the web.2) Publish your online profiles in email footers, websites and business cards. You still have to tellpeople where to find you! Make yourself digitally available so clients have options to engage withyou.
3) Save time and effort by integrating online tools e.g. LinkedIn & Twitter, Twitter & Website news.4) Keep active. Your next big client could require one last little push before engaging with you.