Archive for November, 2014

Big Pharma Turns To CEM For Cure

Friday, November 28th, 2014

The pharma industry employs medical representatives to detail doctors and canvass drugstores to drive sales of its prescription drugs. Generally, it ignores patients in its sales efforts.

CEMP01This makes sense because patients don’t play an active role in deciding what to buy in this industry. The physician writes the prescription for a specific brand of a general formulation and the patient gets it filled by a pharmacy. Substitutes, if applicable, are agreed directly between the doctor and the pharmacy.

As a result, the prescription drug industry doesn’t interact with its customers directly.

Allergan, the global pharmaceutical company, has broken out of this mold by introducing a program to engage directly with customers. Patients learn about the company’s ProVision Program from their eye surgeons and, if they’re interested, enroll in it by completing a form and handing it back to the receptionist at the clinic. A welcome kit follows. Among other things, it contains a booklet that describes the disease, cause and risk factor.

There’s no mention of the company’s product apart from a small reference on the back cover of the booklet:

Disclaimer in actual size.

Disclaimer (in actual size)

Given that the product in question is an eye drop, it’s obviously not targeted at people with perfect eyesight. Of those who lack 20/20 vision and use the product, I don’t know how many that sign up for ProVision will be able to read the above fineprint. Going by my experience on other occasions, the regulator will eventually wake up to its primary responsibility of protecting the interest of the consumer and push the company to print the disclaimer on the first page in bold typeface. Until that happens, I’ve squinted at the disclaimer and figured out what it says:

1) The communication address shared will be used only for dispatching PROVISION material

2) Decision to initiate LUMIGAN 0.01% therapy lies with your physician after evaluation.

But I digress.

Print, TV and other forms of mass media advertising are du jour for OTC drugs. But ProVision is the first example I’ve come across of a prescription drug brand communicating directly with individual consumers.

The pharmaceutical industry has traditionally invested in e-detailing, mobile secondary sales and other doctor- and chemist-facing technologies to aid its sales force. Lately, these tools are losing their edge on the back of a slew of new regulations that curtail pharma companies from incenting doctors and compel drugstores to maintain onerous documentation while selling prescription drugs. Big pharma CMOs are caught between the doctor and the drugstore.

But they need not despair. The new generation of Customer Engagement Management (CEM) solutions gives them a way to engage directly with customers. With ProVision, Allergan has shown the way. I expect the rest of the Pharma Industrial Complex to become “rapid followers” very soon.

When Should Mobile Apps Ask Their Users To Register?

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Just like some people will never pay for a mobile app – or any digital content for that matter – I’ll never use a mobile app that forces me to register before I’ve had a chance to try it out.

Of course, this rule doesn’t apply to Twitter, HootSuite, mobile banking and other mobile apps that show stuff belonging to me.

My aversion towards registration is targeted at apps of malls (e.g. DLF Promenade), coffee shops (Café Coffee Day), cab services (Ola Cabs) and other businesses. Since they don’t design their store layout, menu, fleet location or whatever just for me, I don’t see why they need to force registration as the price of entry. When any such app tries that, I bail out immediately.

Now, these companies can – and do – claim that they’d like to tailor their content to be of greater relevance to me (e.g. “my usual brew”) and justify their demand for upfront registration on this basis. I’m not against targeted offers but I’d like to use the app first and figure out if I like it before sharing my profile and agreeing to being sold to. So, asking me to register before letting me have a glimpse of the app is a strict no-no.

I use at least three apps that get this: InOrbit (mall), LinkedIn Pulse (newsreader) and RealCalc (calculator). You can use them immediately after installation without completing any form or logging in with your social network credentials. Assuming correctly that you’ll open them again if you like them, these apps present the registration screens during your repeat visits to the app. Called “progressive profiling”, this is a fair approach.


Gaana App Splash Screen

Now, that’s me talking from the user’s point of view.

Things get a little tricky from the perspective of a business. Brands have invested a lot of time and money in developing their apps. They’re forever under pressure to prove ROI. Progressive profiling may or may not always work – as my own example shows: Despite using Pulse and RealCalc regularly for over a year, I’m guilty of not registering for them.

Therefore, app owners are not completely unjustified if they believe that the only time to grab the identity of their users is at the very first touchpoint with them.

The inherent difference between the priorities of users and app owners causes the following dilemma:

When Should Mobile Apps Ask Their Users To Register?

Even two decades after the emergence of ecommerce, this debate still rages on in web apps.

On the face of it, we shouldn’t be having a quandary with mobile apps: After all, the first step after taking out a smartphone from its packing is to register it with Apple, Google or the respective mobile OS provider, who immediately get some Personally Identifiable Information of the user such as IMEI or mobile number of activation email address. (Such a step is absent with desktops or laptops). Catch is, as of now, the Apples and Googles of the world don’t share the PII with app owners. If this changes, we can expect a quicker resolution of this dilemma with mobile apps.

Until then, mobile app owners can get inspired by the “best of both worlds” approach followed by Gaana in figuring out when they should seek registration: The splash screen of the mobile app from the “Indian Pandora / Spotify” is full of different ways to register and incentives for doing so. But, it also includes  a “Skip to Gaana” hyperlink at the bottom in fineprint. Diehard “registrationphobes” like me can take the trouble to spot this link and enter the app without registering. Others can register to proceed. Just for this feature, I gave a 3* rating to this app.

Did Google Acquire FeedBurner Minus The CAPTCHA?

Friday, November 14th, 2014

gf07When we separated our company blog from my personal blog Talk of Many Things, I had to migrate our business email subscribers to the former.

Since I couldn’t find a way to automate this, I resigned myself to doing it manually. Because I’d chosen Feedburner to manage the feed and subscriptions of both blogs, this process was simple.

I first logged onto my Feedburner admin account and downloaded my personal blog’s subscriber list as a CSV file. I then picked up each email address from this list and entered it into the SUBSCRIBE box provided by Feedburner on GTM360 Blog. When I’d first signed up for Feedburner for Talk of Many Things several years ago, clicking the Subscribe button at this stage would have completed the process.

However, with the heightened concern for spam in the intervening years, Feedburner had decided to use CAPTCHAs at this step to prevent automated bots from creating spam mailing lists. Since Feedburner was acquired by Google by this time, I was bracing myself to see Google’s reCAPTCHAs at this juncture.

I say “bracing” because, as I’d highlighted in If You Must Use A Long Form, At Least Pre-Fill As Much Of It As You Can, reCAPTCHAs are becoming more and more difficult to crack. Of late, I average barely 50% success rate in cracking them on the first attempt in other websites where I encounter them regularly. If you think I’m exaggerating, try your hand at deciphering some of these recent gems:


Google reCAPTCHAs: Crack me if you can

Luckily for me, Feedburner continued to use its earlier CAPTCHAs. As you can see from the below sample, they’re much easier to crack.


Feedburner’s CAPTCHAs are a piece of cake

Referencing its acquisition by Google, Feedburner says on its website:

“Hello, our name is still FeedBurner. Welcome! It took us a while but we moved the whole neighborhood, down to every last tree, beagle, and mailbox, to Google. We hope you like it.”

Well, I don’t know about the tree, beagle and the mailbox but I definitely liked it that Feedburner’s CAPTCHAs have moved to Google.

Otherwise, I’d still be pulling my hair trying to crack Google’s reCAPTCHAs and wouldn’t have had the time or energy to write this post.

How To Make Co-Creation Work?

Friday, November 7th, 2014

ExperienceCo-CreationBookCoIt’s over a decade since the late C K Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy wrote their seminal book The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value With Customers.

During this period, users have written millions of articles on Wikipedia and posted zillions of updates and photographs on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks. Since these platforms wouldn’t even exist if not for the contribution of their users, it’d appear that co-creation with customers has come of age.

That’d be far from the truth.

Because, as they say, when the product is free, users are the product – and not customers. Going by the conventional definition of a customer as one who pays a business, donors and advertisers – not users – are the customers of Wikipedia and Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest respectively. Ergo, while these companies have accomplished a lot of co-creation, it isn’t with customers.

And these are examples of B2C services that’re given away free. Customer co-creation is even rarer in B2B where the user – via his or her employer – is a paying customer.


For all its advantages, co-creation poses one major risk to vendors: Even otherwise paying customers start expecting the product for free when they contribute to its development. In ERP, CBS and many other software categories, I’ve seen customers push back a lot when the vendor tries to charge for any product upgrade resulting from specifications gathered via user groups.

It might to tempting to argue that, since co-creation carries high risk, it must deliver high returns. From my experience of working in more than one software product company, that’s absolutely not the case – it’s difficult to sell co-created functionality even after giving 50% discount. 


Triggers for Customer Co-Creation

This is not to say that customer co-creation is impossible. Just that vendors should recognize that it requires a lot of technocommercial tightrope walking.

Marketers might want to pilot their co-creation initiatives with resellers and other channel partners before extending them to their prospects and customers. When they get there, they’d be better off targeting the innovator and early adopter market segments.

With this audience, marketers could use the PEEK-STEER-BOAST as the key drivers of co-creation. This framework is derived from the following behavior of the target audience so well explained by Marc Köhlbrugge, founder of BetaList and OpenMargin, in his MEDIUM article titled “How I tricked TechCrunch into writing about my startup”:

I have always been interested in beta testing startups. You get to try out tomorrow’s products before anyone else and often get to influence what the end result will look like too… There’s also some vanity involved of course. Being an early adopter is worn as a badge of honor. Often concretely expressed in having your first name as the username on the new service. (italics mine)

This tactic will work even better if customers perceive that the product they’re co-creating is headed for glory in the future.