Companies already spend a lot of effort speaking to customers (i.e. physicians, patients, providers, payers). Mostly advertising to physicians and DTC (in USA)/Public relations to target patients and/or other key stakeholders. In the new social media landscape, something’s broken in the traditional marketing funnel where consumers are driven into the big end (prescription and purchase) through awareness activities like advertising and public relations. They proceed through stages – including consideration, preference, and action – to become prescribers/buyers. Marketers have little control over what happens in the middle stages (consideration, preference, action), but the influence of the web community is heavier there.

According to the Forrester marketing analyst Brian Haven (2007 report), the funnel has outlived its usefulness as a metaphor. Face it: marketers no longer dictate the path people take, nor do they lead the dialogue.

Once people are aware of your product/service, a new dynamic kicks in: people learning from each other. Social technologies have revved up that word-of-mouth dynamic, increasing the influence of regular people while diluting the value of traditional marketing.

A few important facts about the e-consumer are listed below:

E-consumers want knowledge – E-consumers and e-patients want to connect to the right information or service easily and quickly on the Web. They like to feel connected to their and other trusted providers. More important, e-consumers and e-patients want decision support related to their symptoms and conditions. This is really about getting answers and solutions, not just information.

E-consumers are already connected in the cyberspace – Online support groups, chat rooms, and voice over Web bulletin board services all carry useful information to hel e-consumers make decisions.

E- consumers want convenience – Anything that makes things easier and quicker with the same value will win out. That means, for example, that if people can avoid taking time off work (and waiting 25 minutes in the reception area before thay are seen) for a physician’s appointment, they will.

E-consumer want it to be all about them – People want to feel that they are being paid attention to and that things are being done just for them. Some still have a vague memory of, or at least have been told about, a time when physicians made house calls. E-patients still want this, even though the medium may be completely different.

E-consumers and e-patients want control – The more patients feel in control, the less stressed and the happier they are.

Whatever e-consumer/e-patient’s needs or expectations, the imperative is: the Internet busts secrets wide open.

Your secrets are revealed with the click of a mouse as Web sites offer information such as credit histories or the names of Web sites being registered through public sources.

More specifically, when the consumer co-creates meaning, it helps if the brand is sincere and transparent, with nothing overstated and above all with nothing to hide. Otherwise the consumer’s contribution will be irony, parody, ridicule or scorn.

See how Ms Ledlie – a cancer survivor who had permanent hair loss after taking Taxotere, a drug targeted by Sanofi-Aventis (S-A) – was attacking the S-A VOICES  Pharma Marketing News

In the New Media Landscape marketers no longer rule the market. They are invited guests. If they are provocative, pertinent, helpful, and edutaining they get to stay. If they try to dominate and control, there are ways to shut them out.

Talk with and listen to the new, empowered e-consumer with honesty and humbleness and you’ll have better chances to successfully take part to the game.

I am sure that, based on your personal experience, you can add some valuable thoughts.

Get involved in the discussion and join our  journey toward building the future of successful health & wellness digital campaigns.

By Letizia Affinito – MD Brandnew MC