The Holy Grail of Digital Marketing


Often we overcomplicate things, in marketing generally and specifically in our approach to all things digital.

A recent survey uncovered the top 10 barriers to ‘digital’ within Pharma.

The list below may look daunting however, when you put your energy and focus into solving just one of these barriers, you make it a lot easier to alleviate the other 9.

The most common barriers to digital are:-

1) Regulatory and Legal issues

2) No clear (e)business strategy

3) Return on investment questions

4) Not enough internal knowledge

5) Healthcare compliance issues

6) No headcount to support digital

7) Pharmacovigilance concerns

8) No budget

9) No senior management support

10) Customers are not ready


So which barrier is the master key to unlock the others?

Surely the answer is #1 regulation, we first get clarity on what we can or can’t do under the ABPI code / FDA guidelines? We can then focus on what is clearly permissible and build our approach around that?

Actually the answer has to be #2 – No clear business strategy.  (Forget the ‘e’ prefix)


  • Understand where your customers are online and offline
  • Refine your business objectives in terms of what you specifically want to achieve with your stakeholders.
  • Define how you plan to achieve this and what a good result will look like.


You may have the skills in house or require external support.  Either way this step will take time, commitment and effort, I do not promise this one barrier is easy but do it and see for yourself, how the rest of the barriers will tumble like dominoes.

Twitter challenge

There are 9 barriers to cover, so I will have to save the detail for future postings. In the meantime, I have set myself a challenge to demonstrate, how a clear strategy overcomes these obstacles, in no more than a 140 character tweet (with in most cases some room for hash tags and a short link)


#1 Regulatory and Legal issues

Clear strategy = embracing word and spirit of external regulations + crushing false internal arguments


#2  No clear (e)business strategy

Clear strategy = the pharma digital silver bullet…well almost


#3  Return on investment questions

Clear strategy = clear metrics = clear ROI


#4   Not enough internal knowledge

Clear strategy = prioritised areas of focus = identified internal training needs


#5   Healthcare compliance issues

Clear strategy + senior management support = breakdown of false internal barriers


#6   No headcount to support digital

Clear strategy = understanding resource gaps  = hiring + internal restructure


#7  Pharmacovigilance concerns

Clear strategy + a little research = an understanding pharmacovigilance is NOT an issue


#8  No budget

Clear strategy = a clear understanding where to invest the cash (digital or not)


#9  No senior management support

Clear strategy + early involvement of key stakeholders = the right senior management support


#10 Customers are not ready

Clear strategy = objective understanding of customers needs + NOT subjective decisions based on fear


Focusing on the strategy will prove invaluable, in overcoming all of these potential blocks.  Where I have personally used it and seen it employed to best effect, is overcoming the #1 challenge ‘perceived’ regulatory and legal issues.  I have added in ‘perceived’ here as often these barriers are all the mind of the medical & compliance guys.  That has to be the subject of another blog post, however if you are faced with these spurious arguments, there is no better way to crush them, than with a solid well articulated business strategy.

The corollary of this, if you don’t focus massively on defining a clear strategy, regardless of the above barriers, you are set to fail.  This means, you ultimately deserve all the slings and arrows thrown your way.   Regarding ill thought out projects, digital or otherwise, the best result for all concerned is a rapid demise to the cutting room floor.


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