Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

Guest Post Part II: Social Media’s Impact on Purchases February 14, 2013

Filed under: Debbie,Guest Posts,Social media — Debbie Donovan @ 12:00 pm
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elephantWgirlWstickGuest Wise Dame Susan L. Brown for Brown & Associates

ROI for social media and communities is the “elephant in the room.” Everyone wants a definitive answer to how to evaluate return on investment. Also how much investment is enough? What are the resources needed? What kind of social media is effective and why?

How Does Social Impact Brands and Purchase?  Some Use Statistics

Performics is a Publicis-owned company that focuses on digital marketing optimization including assessments of how consumers talk about brands on the social web. It conducted an online survey of U.S. consumers who access at least one social network regularly and determined what kind of impact social networking has on the purchase process. 34% of social networkers had taken action on an ad they had seen on a social networking site by doing a further search on the product, while 30% had learned about a new product while on a social networking site. One quarter of respondents were making product recommendations while social networking.

Use of Social Networking in the Purchase Process:

I have discussed products/services/brands on social networking sites after seeing an ad elsewhere: 20%

I have recommended a product/service/brand to my friends via a social networking site: 25%

I have gone directly to an online retailer or ecommerce site after learning about a product/ service/brand via a social networking site: 25%

I am receptive to invitations to events, special offers or promotions from advertisers communicated to me through social networking sites 27%

I have learned about a new product, service and/ or brand from a social networking site: 30%

I have used a search engine to find information on a product/service/brand after seeing an advertisement on a social networking site: 34%

Source: Performics, 2009; The Impact of Social Media Methodology: Online survey of 3,011 who access at least one social network regularly

Another landmark study conducted by the Altimeter Group and Wet Paint has found that the most valuable brands in the world are experiencing a direct correlation between top financial performance and deep social engagement. The relationship is apparent and significant: socially engaged companies are in fact more financially successful.

Key Findings of the Study:

1) Depth of engagement can be measured.
As the number of channels increase, overall engagement increases at a faster rate. Engagement differs by industry.

2) Brands participating in the social space fall into one of four engagement profiles.

SelMavWallButterMAVENS – These brands are engaged in seven or more channels and have an above-average engagement score. Mavens not only have a robust strategy and dedicated teams focused on social media, but also make it a core part of their go-to-market strategy.

BUTTERFLIES – These brands are engaged in seven or more channels but have lower than average engagement scores. Butterflies have initiatives in many different channels, but tend to spread themselves too thin, investing in a few channels while letting others languish.

SELECTIVES – These brands are engaged in six or fewer channels and have higher than average engagement scores. Selectives have a very strong presence in just a few channels where they focus on engaging customers deeply when and where it matters most.

WALLFLOWERS – These brands are engaged in six or fewer channels and have below-average engagement scores. They are still trying to figure out social media by testing just a few channels. They are also cautious about the risks, uncertain about the benefits, and therefore engage only lightly in the channels where they are present.

3) Financial performance correlates with engagement

  • The findings revealed that there is a financial correlation showing companies that are both deeply and widely engaged in social media, or MAVENS, surpass their peers in terms of both revenue and profit performance by a significant difference.

Next–Part III: Judging Social Media Success

Don’t miss–Part I: 6 Key Steps to Determine Social Media ROI

(C) 03/2011, updated, 1/2013; all rights reserved. This article may be shared in part or whole with credit given to author and link to Brown & Associates


Guest Post Part I: 6 Key Steps to Determine Social Media ROI February 7, 2013

Filed under: Debbie,Guest Posts,Social media — Debbie Donovan @ 12:00 pm
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Guest Wise Dame Susan L. Brown for Brown & Associates

elelphantWgirlWbananasROI for social media and communities is the “elephant in the room.” Everyone wants a definitive answer to how to evaluate return on investment. Also how much investment is enough? What are the resources needed? What kind of social media is effective and why?

Addressing these questions is the first step to defining Social Media ROI.

Context is everything

The first issue to realize is that while social media and networking communities are new vehicles, however, they must be evaluated in context of each company’s business model, objectives, market and customers. Without this context there is no objective way to determine the value of social media and communities in a business situation.

What are these vehicles and why are they different? Mainly because the value of social media is interactive and immediate feedback as well as “user generated content,” a marketing-speak way of saying the content includes a dialogue with participants, instead of the advertising model where copywriters create text and readers are passive recipients.

Success in online marketing hinges on effective budget allocation and marketing mix decision making. Practitioners and executives must be able to identify the marketing campaigns and assets that help drive the business’ top and bottom lines, and invest in and optimize them accordingly. This of course requires access to comprehensive, granular, and accurate web analytics data with which marketers can measure campaign performance and understand the complex website and social media behaviors of prospects and customers. Performance measurements should not occur solely within the confines of individual channels and campaigns. The best online marketers measure performance and ROI in a comprehensive view that comprises all online channels, be they social media, paid and natural search, email marketing, banner or display ads as well as lead generation webinars, opt-in advertising campaigns, website content, coupons, contests, blogs, videos, etc.

Social Media Benefits and Risks



  • Distribution is cost effective with potential wide global reach
  • Reduced customer acquisition costs
  • Increased website traffic potential
  • Direct sales opportunities
  • Immediate feedback gives ability to respond to issues or complaints in a timely manner
  • Capability of viral marketing—to build a brand through building “fans”
  • Communities can create unique customer engagement and retention and selling opportunities
  • Lack of message  “control”—companies fear potential legal risk and liability for unauthorized statements
  • Social media requires ongoing updates and responses to participants’ issues; resources need to be assigned and costs more than originally estimated
  • Monitored vs. Open Forums; decisions regarding the type of communities need to be addressed; and what guidelines to be developed

6 Key Steps to Determine Social Media ROI

  1. What are your purposes and objectives?
    • To introduce new products and services?
    • To provide customer support and/or reduce call center expenses?
    • To generate leads?
    • To create customer, partner, patient communities as a vehicle for engagement and retention?
    • To create internal communities or collaboration portals for employee retention, engagement and to add to innovation?
    • To use communities to increase revenue through coupons, contests, direct sales?
    • Can you use social media to sell directly?
  1. What elements of social media would be most important and yield greatest benefits and ROI for your business?
    • Blogs
    • Customer, Partner, Patient, Internal Communities
    • Facebook page(s)
    • Twitter campaigns
    • Online ads
    • YouTube Channel
  1. Budgeting and Resources?
    • Determine % of Budget for Social Media (Consider 2-5 % of marketing budget to start)
    • Content creation; at least one dedicated FTE per blog, or vehicle; or outsource?
    • Participant response: at least one dedicated FTE per blog or vehicle; or outsource?
  1. Creating On-Going Content; What Content aggregation, lead management or listening tools to use?
    • Hootsuite
    • Social Mention
    • Marketo
    • Meltwater
    • Radian6
    • TweetDeck
    • Eloqua
    • Silverpop
    • Others?
  1. What to measure?
    • Website click through, Page views, downloads, etc.
    • Community/Fan page followers; membership, referrals, etc.
    • Social media activity; Community, Facebook, Twitter retweets/ activity/responses, engagement
    • Online ad follow through (leads, conversion to sales, etc.)
    • Lead results (qualified leads, scoring, contacts, registrations, etc.)
    • Customer or user conversion
  2. What analytic/measurement tools to use?

Next–Part II: Social Media’s Impact on Purchases

Don’t Miss–Part III: Judging Social Media Success

(C) 03/2011, updated, 1/2013; all rights reserved. This article may be shared in part or whole with credit given to author and link to Brown & Associates


3WD Interview–Susan Brown February 1, 2013

Filed under: 3WD Interviews,Debbie,DTC,Social media — Debbie Donovan @ 12:00 pm
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Susan Brown

I connected with Susan Brown at an industry luncheon. We quickly bonded over the topic: how medical device companies could metric their marketing efforts real-time to determine which ones were the most efficient revenue drivers. She was working at Conceptus at the time and I was an alumni so we decided to meet again and learn more about each other’s experiences. I admired what Susan was doing then and now and I couldn’t resist asking her our interview questions.

  • How did you arrive in your current role?

Basically I’ve been able to take my technology marketing background (Intel, Cisco, Apple, etc.) and apply it to healthcare/med devices/pharma products and services. I’ve been involved in technology and healthcare since the 1990’s; first with a medical imaging company that evolved into a company with a software platform for automating clinical trial patient identification ( I’m still an advisor to them. Then I had the opportunity to work on revolutionary changes in healthcare for Kaiser Permanente’s HealthConnect launch—we had no idea it would be the most disruptive model for change in US healthcare. Most recently, as eMarketing consultant for Genentech, I got to lead the new Tamiflu launch for the 2012-2013 season—been a fun progression!

  • What do you love most about the work you do?

Best of all to me is to work with creative, smart people and use new techniques and technology to connect and inform health care professionals and consumers/patients, through such methods as affinity communities. For example, as Digital Marketing Director for Conceptus, I produced the “GYN Summit” Community, a moderated on-line forum and destination site for OB/GYN docs to share best practices and communicate easily and securely with each other about procedures, best practices and techniques. Was great to “meet” new folks, help them learn from each other and learn a lot myself as well!

Also I especially enjoy the challenge of transitioning healthcare marketing to involve more social media—there’s still a lot of hand-holding to do to help companies engage consumers, patients and healthcare professionals in new ways of communication.

  • Where is the most exotic place in the world that you’ve eaten?

In November 2011 I went to Vietnam and Cambodia— so far the trip of my lifetime. One evening in Cambodia, our guide took us to a local nighttime street market with food stalls of all kinds. There were food stands with grilled frog legs, tiny birds (not sure what they were) and “snacks” of sautéed crickets spiced with soy sauce and Sriracha (a type of hot sauce). The crickets are crunchy like popcorn with kernels that get in your teeth! Actually I tried everything and liked it all.

(C) 2013 eGold Solutions; all rights reserved.


Do’s and Don’ts in Communicating about FDA-Regulated Products January 29, 2013

ImageIn response to a special request, this post provides some general guidelines on communicating about FDA-regulated products.  However, let me start by emphasizing that I am not a regulatory expert.  I have a lot of experience with FDA-regulated products, and I’m offering this from a communications perspective. So here are my product communications Do’s and Don’ts:


1. Work closely with regulatory counsel.  I’ve always valued a close and collaborative relationship with the folks in regulatory and I try to involve them in the planning process as well as the document review process.  Sitting across the table from them helps because when I understand why they say “No, you can’t do or say that,” I brainstorm with them to get to the “Yes, you can do or say that.”  I’ve also learned that, just like with doctors, lawyers and even marketing communications people, recommendations vary from expert to expert and client to client.  Often regulatory guidance comes down to a judgment call on the level of risk the client is or is not willing to bear.

2. Include risk information in appropriate materials.  The challenge surrounds what the appropriate materials are. Some are straightforward, such as advertisements and collateral and of course these must include fair balance.  I won’t tread into social media and the guidance (or lack thereof) as it’s a subject that’s been beaten to death. But how about press materials?

  • Press Releases:  One client’s regulatory counsel has advised that press releases remain one exception, and we still don’t include fair balance in our releases for that client.  A colleague who works for a large agency shared the opposite – that they include fair balance in all press releases they develop for pharma and med device clients.
  • Pitch letters:  This short, simple medium was never intended for the public.  Pitch letters are one-on-one communication directed at the media from a company or agency to interest them in your latest news and information. But a pitch letter recently received a red flag from the FDA, and now we’re all waiting with bated breath to see if we need to start including risk information in them.  Guess what?  So far it depends on which regulatory person you ask! (Read more about it here:

3. Present risk information in a balanced way. Including the fair balance information at the end isn’t enough.  You need to be sure that you (or your spokespeople, such as patients) tell your story in a evenhanded way.

  • Don’t let your spokespeople minimize the risk information. (One celebrity spokesperson declared during a national TV interview: “Oh, drug companies just have to say that…”  The drug company and agency had to work with the outlet to have it corrected immediately.)
  • Testimonials can’t overstate the product’s benefits. (For example, “Because of this product I improved my golf game” needs to be something more along the lines of: “Because I use this product, I feel better and because I feel better, I play golf better.”)

4. Ensure adverse event reporting processes are in place. As you all know, adverse event reporting has been a big reason some pharma or device companies have stayed away from product-oriented social media initiatives.  One client worked with her regulatory team to develop a weekly reporting process, and also relies on frequent check-ins with regulatory both at her business unit and at the corporate level. As we’re all learning, it can be done.

5. Understand the difference between the FDA and SEC. Regulations from each guide your communications recommendations for publicly traded companies and their products.  It’s important to understand whether your information is material and the level of flexibility you have in what to convey, timing your announcements or launches, etc.


1. Don’t provide information on off-label uses.  Controlling off-label statements presents a challenge in two-way social media channels, but now we have FDA draft guidance on this issue.  You can find a great at-a-glance diagram of this guidance here:

2. Don’t overstate claims or claim superiority if you don’t have data to support it.

3. Don’t give medical advice. Instead we include a call-to-action that directs potential patients to speak to their doctors.

This is my general guide on communicating about FDA-regulated products. But please keep in mind:

This information reflects my experience in working with FDA-regulated products and teams on the client side.  It is based on a snapshot in time because policies at the FDA can (and do) change.  Please only use this is a guide, and if you need the final word on matters, talk to your regulatory expert!

Now let’s hear about your experience!


2012 in review December 31, 2012

Filed under: Debbie,Social media — Debbie Donovan @ 4:49 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been reviewing a variety of free services that analyze your social data.

Here’s what Vizify did with my Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.

Here’s how the Three Wise Dames blog did according to WordPress:

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year!

(C) 2012 eGold Solutions all rights reserved.


10 Questions to Build Your Strategic Communications Approach December 4, 2012

Filed under: Betsy,Business,Decision making,strategy — betsymerryman @ 2:58 pm
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education_ins1I just returned from a college reunion in New Orleans.  One of the things that I loved about going to school in New Orleans was that the education occurred both in and out of the classroom.  As I reflect on that now, I realize that the same still holds….  My education has continued throughout my career, not only from graduate school, seminars and reading books or periodicals.  I have learned on the job and in the trenches, in the frying pan and sometimes in the fire, from people who were mentors and from people who were – well, let’s just say not mentors – and from other team members, clients and employees.

Marketing and communications is a discipline where you need to constantly learn both tactically and strategically.

  • Tactically, we’ve had a revolution over the last several years with the growth of new technologies and evolving and maturing ways to reach and engage with our target audiences.  We had to learn how and when to integrate them into our efforts.
  • Strategically, we always have to quickly get our arms around a new situation, challenge / opportunity, product, audience, etc.   We always have to learn and figure it out fast.

I learned how to zero in strategically from tools I got in a classroom, refined by years of real-world hits and misses (fortunately more of the former than the latter).  I now find myself going back to the same fundamental questions to help me figure out the best approach.  You see, I have a list of 10 questions I always start out with, the answers to which I must learn, research and often intuit.   I’m not saying that this is all I need to learn, but it’s a great head start.  For what it’s worth, here are my 10 questions:

  1. What are the business objectives?
  2. What are your main challenges/opportunities?
  3. Confirm target audiences and what they’re looking for
  4. Confirm marketing and communications objectives
  5. What are the key benefits of product/service and why should anyone care?
  6. Who are the competitors and what have they been up to?
  7. What have you been doing already and what’s worked/not – and why?
  8. What does success look like?
  9. What is the budget range?
  10. And you need it done by when?

Now I want to see yours!  (And let the education outside the classroom continue….)


The Scariest Thing About Blogging October 31, 2012

Filed under: Betsy,Leadership,Public Relations,Reputation Management,Social media — betsymerryman @ 11:14 am

Blogging can be scary.  Maybe not scary in the same way as the haunted house my neighbors are building down the street.  But scary in that….  What if I’m left in blog hell where no one reads what I blog?  Or what if I get negative comments to what I blog?  What’s worse: no comments or negative comments?

The scariest thing about blogging is figuring out what to say that adds value and not noise.  Let me know which of the following topics you want me to cover in future posts, or anything else you’d like me to blog about:

  • Interviewing others about their successful healthcare communications case studies
  • FDA device approval process (because a description of it doesn’t exist anywhere else)
  • General summary of do’s and don’ts in communications for FDA-regulated products
  • Ongoing examples of “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”
  • My reactions to campaigns, news, events or trends

Maybe it would be helpful if I revisited why I blog:

  • As a healthcare marketing and communications consultant, I have recommended blogs to many, many clients, and some have even taken my advice.  So, I want to learn more about blogging and the credibility and communications results it generates since I feel like I should walk my talk.
  • As a consultant and as a professor, I have a responsibility to my clients, my teams, the universities where I teach, my students, and my network to stay current and share information and knowledge about healthcare, communications and marketing.
  • HubSpot, a pioneer in inbound marketing, says I should because “blogging is a critical piece of a company’s inbound marketing strategy.”  Blogging greatly increases my chances of being found online, reinforces my position as an expert and thought leader, and helps me stay top of mind – and that’s what I’ve been telling clients.

So, now that I’ve blogged today, I’m going to go visit the haunted house down the street.  I’m up for another good scare….  Happy Halloween, everybody!


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