Integrating digital into your marketing strategy

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Consumer interaction hasn’t changed. The consumer journey is the same as it always has been; people browse, buy and use. What is different in today’s digital environment is people start their research online and to influence this, offline and online marketing needs to work together.

Through blogs and social media channels your marketing content needs to facilitate two way dialogue. Previously, customer relationships worked via a one-way conversation – the company speaking to the consumer. Now discussions are collaborative and work both ways via channels such as Facebook, blogs and forums. To work with this, there has been a shift to ‘inbound’ marketing – marketing that focuses on getting found by customers.

Inbound marketing uses digital channels including:

Content: Blogs, videos, white papers, e-books

SEO: Search engine optimisation and keyword analysis

Social media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr

The more materials and content you post online, the more chance people have of finding your content.

Here are some key components to consider when thinking about your digital marketing strategy if you haven’t already:

1)      Create a keyword strategy using Google AdWords

2)      Search engine optimise your website

3)      Develop a business blog

4)      Promote content and participate in social media

5)      Nurture engagement with email marketing, e.g. eDMs

6)      Consider online advertising

7)      Be mobile friendly

8)      Analyse and refine strategies

marketing strategy

You may have heard it before, but the power of digital is growing rapidly and it is important you capitalise on the opportunity as part of your marketing strategy. Now the average time spent online (13.7 hours/week) tips television viewing time (13.3 hours/week). In just 20 minutes on Facebook over one million links are shared, two million friend requests are accepted and almost three million messages are sent. Every day 300,000 new users sign up to Twitter and 48 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute! It is therefore necessary to promote content and participate in social media to open up the discussion and to encourage engagement for your business.

Ultimately when integrating digital into your marketing plans, you need to define your strategy and vision and understand how digital media interrelates with traditional media. With the evolving nature of digital, you also need to be flexible and engage your audience, which may mean reinventing your content to accommodate varying trends and discussions.

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How can we help consumers of online health information discern truth from twaddle?

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Our complex e-health infrastructure is revolutionising healthcare across the globe. Bupa Health Pulse conducted a survey in 2010 that comprised of over 12,000 people from 12 countries including the UK, Australia and Germany. The internet is increasingly being used as a tool for health-related purposes with people drawn in by highly sophisticated audio and visual content now offered through computers, mobile phones and tablets, as well as opportunities for interaction via social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

In Australia, 4 in 5 people have access to the internet and nearly 45% use Facebook – the largest social networking site in the world. Australians spend more time than any other country using Facebook, averaging at 7.5 hours per month. At least 4 in 5 Australian respondents in the Bupa survey were making some use of the internet to search for advice on health, medicines or medical conditions, including searching for information to make a self-diagnosis and seeking other patients’ experiences.

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The internet has the potential to empower Australians to make better, more informed choices about their health and healthcare. It may facilitate economic efficiency for our healthcare system by reducing inappropriate consultations and decreasing the costs of communication between the patient and their healthcare professional.

Unfortunately, there are a huge number of websites that provide bogus information, lacking in evidence-base. This can have serious consequences, leading to needless worry, unnecessary consultations, delay in appropriate diagnosis and use of unproven, ineffective tests and treatments. How can we expect people to decipher through the thousands of results that come up within their Google or Yahoo searches? Also, most of the top 20 healthcare websites are geared towards scientific and academic communities in the US – certainly not the average Aussie.

Of the Bupa Health Pulse survey respondents, 18% are using social networking sites to find out about healthcare issues. Twitter is used by 5% for this purpose. The extent to which individuals who post comments or write blogs are representative of the broader health population is questionable, but of course this may not always be borne in mind by the individuals who take their advice.

The full potential of the internet will only be realised if there is sufficient investment in providing the tools and skills to help people discern high quality, credible content that is jargon-free and tailored to their current knowledge and skills level. Accreditation procedures might be used to ‘badge’ trustworthy websites, but support and advice on how to search for information in the first place is also a must.

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How to develop a successful medical/health application

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The functionalities and variations of medical applications (apps) are developing at a rapid pace. An iPod can now convert to a heart monitor or an Android phone can act as an electronic stethoscope by connecting to an external sensor. In relation to this, we saw a fundamental development on July 21, 2011 with the draft guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The guidelines suggest three types of apps should require the FDA’s approval: a mobile app that acts as an accessory to a regulated medical device, turns a mobile gadget into such a device or makes suggestions regarding a patient’s diagnosis or treatment. Previously, there has been very little guidance for digital health tools and this could be indicative of digital codes of practice set to emerge in Australia. This is definitely something to bear in mind when considering developing a medical/health app.

medical app

Why your app must be useful to others

It is important to know the users you are serving and/or targeting. When thinking about building an app, you need to validate your assumptions of the perceived value that the app will bring and also do your research! An app can give your business/brand(s) a competitive advantage, but importantly, you must determine its core purposes.

There are many things to consider – for example button size. Will the users predominately be male or female? If the users are men, then they will have bigger hands and the app buttons will need to reflect this in size. Will the users have good eye sight? You may need to incorporate a functionality that enlarges text.

The app development stages

Below are the key stages to consider when developing an app:

1)      The initial concept. Start with the idea and what features the app will include. This is when you map out the timeline and scope out the budget. You need to define your purpose and it is important to be clear about the ultimate use, benefit and functionality. The app functionality needs to be user friendly – it is important to ensure that features are discoverable and not hidden and it helps if the app has the ‘wow’ factor in order to engage the user.

2)      Design. Investing time in the visual design is crucial. Design is a key element to help the app stand out from others on the market and it also impacts on usability and sense of value. High quality visuals influence users’ perceptions that the app is worthwhile and going to provide a benefit. Excellent design also reinforces the business/brand(s).

3)      Development.  Key elements include building a framework, expanding the features, designing the user interface, coding the functionality of the features, and all other creative and technical components of the app. 

4)      Testing. You should look to solicit feedback from a pilot to ensure the launch of the app runs smoothly. Feedback is necessary in the development cycle and usability is critical to the success of an app. You need to think about the processes and factor in suitability testing. There is the expectation amongst users that apps will be immediately intuitive, therefore in-field testing amongst the target demographic will provide valuable insights into the appropriate build for the app. If things go wrong with the functionality, then naturally users will question the usability and rationale of the app.

5)       Release and maintenance. It is important to be mindful of marketplace guidelines to aid market acceptance for your app. Apple, for example, reviews every app featured on the App Store based on a set of technical, content, and design criteria. The Apple review criteria are available in the App Store Review Guidelines.

Other considerations

Be aware of hidden costs. Costs to consider in addition to the app build may, for example, include user experience, testing and online marketing.

Organisational engagement. You need to take the business and/or brand teams on the journey when developing an app. Get all departments on board, so they can take ownership of the app when it launches.  Everyone in the organisation should know who you’re creating the app for, what you are creating and why.

The ultimate measure of success for your app will be determined by downloads, feedback and the user response, which may translate via testimonials.

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Digital Healthcare Today

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Mobile phones are no longer just about making calls, they are about finding information and images, sharing insights and managing lifestyles. Mobile phone applications (apps) – whether for iPhone or Android are the latest tool to help the public access, aggregate and consolidate lifestyle related information.

Over a thousand people in Australia were interviewed in 2010 by The Mobile Industry Group and 41% said they had downloaded an application.[1] More than a third of those had downloaded at least one from the category of ‘health and fitness’.

Healthcare Apps

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example Health and Fitness Apps

Smartphone Apps and Pharmaceutical

The majority of medical apps worldwide are aimed at a broad market (such as lifestyle and health tools) but there is a growing number of apps that deliver direct support to those suffering from a particular condition and many of these are created by pharmaceutical companies for specific countries.

With apps, pharmaceutical companies in particular are creating a portfolio of services and support around their products that they can offer to patients and non-patients alike. The benefits for patients are clear – they can receive immediate information, which is personalized and shareable in order to better manage their condition. Patient apps can be broadly classified as:-

1) Dosage Calculators & Medicine Management: Includes personal medical record storage applications, tracking medicine history, appropriate compliance and encouraging patients to take medication correctly

2) Discovery Tools: Applications on symptom management: support group, healthcare professional and resource locators

3) Education Aggregators: General information on weight loss, specific diseases, or broad grouping of information about symptoms and conditions

Examples of benchmark applications to support patients include:-

1) iManage Migraine by Merck & Co. enables patients to learn about migraines, potential triggers and understand the treatment options. The patient can track information in an interactive migraine journal, which can be used to aid discussions between the patient and healthcare provider to help reach an effective action plan for managing migraines.

2) Novartis’ VaxTrack provides parents with one convenient place to store information about their family’s vaccination records. The built-in locater can source local pharmacies for flu jabs and record insurance information.

What Are The Benefits?

Much of the discussion around apps is around potential – they are not currently heavily downloaded and reviewed, but with the growth of tablets and more smartphones this is likely to change. Companies wishing to build deeper relationships with patients and healthcare professionals can add value to their product offering and deliver real support in disease and lifestyle management:-

1) Support specific outreach and healthcare campaigns – For instance to patients suffering from a specific clinical condition, those wanting to improve their health or increase their activity levels

2) Provide a practical support for patients and healthcare professionals – In gauging dose levels and tracking dose history (patient compliance)

3) Deliver insight and education for the broader community – Offering deep and relevant information or access to specialists

Applications – whether free or paid for will become a lasting engagement tool. They are useful, not heavily branded and empower the patient.


[1] http://tinyurl.com/3tk5oyc

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