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Conferences are out (for now) - Time to build a true Digital Marketing Engine.

Authored by Gaëtan Fraikin, CEO, Addictive Health

COVID-19 has obliterated the main source of leads for biotech, diagnostic and medical devices brands - Conferences. Here’s how to shift gears and end-up stronger than before the pandemic. For a broader understanding of digital readiness, read our previous article titled "Your path to digital readiness: checklist".

In this new "normal" and for the foreseeable future, face-to-face interactions must be replaced by digital alternatives. If you're not ready: it's time run.

The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe and made a huge impact in the heath and science space, especially when it comes to events that provide a crucial networking, innovation-sharing and of course, lead generation function - Conferences. Some of these events are moved online but most are simply canceled. How can you replace these events to generate the leads needed to fuel your revenue growth? Now is time to build or enhance your Digital Marketing Engine. No matter how mature yours is, the digital space evolves so fast that there are constantly new technological ways to improve and get more out of digital channels. But you're probably wondering what this all means specifically and how to do that. Let’s have a closer look at what it is, and how to build yours.

Digital Marketing Engine - Defined.

Definition: a Digital Marketing Engine is the digital arm of your marketing function. It exists to drive leads and revenue through digital channels. Those channels include digital events (surprise), email, organic search (SEO/SEM), website (landing pages), social media, digital advertising and affiliate marketing to name a few. It includes people (internal and/or external), processes, tools (digital applications) and governance. The term "engine" conveys the power it delivers to propel revenue forward.

Digital Marketing Engine - Elements needed.

To build your engine, those are the core elements needed in key stages of the building or enhancement process:

  1. Goals - SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals set for the digital marketing function. Quantification and qualification of what you're planning to generate with it.

  2. Target markets - Markets and segments that are prioritized, their order of priority and justification for those priorities.

  3. Solutions - Product, services or combinations of both, that are promoted through digital channels based on what where the revenue needs to be generated from.

  4. Channels - Channels that are used, their weight and coordination. See the list of channels above.

  5. Content - Content strategy and planning must match to goals defined above, and markets and products selected. This is a critical aspect of digital marketing that's often overlooked.

  6. Experiences - Format in which the content is delivered through digital channels: Includes web, video, webinars, text, interactive, etc.

  7. Campaigns / Activities - Campaigns and activities deployed through and across multiple channels. Campaigns must be carefully orchestrated in order to generate results. Keep cross-marketing in mind.

  8. Budgets - Budgets allocated to each market, solution, channel, experience, campaign with cross reference to goals set for each.

  9. Lead nurturing process - integrated system to go from lead generation to results analytics.

  10. Technology stack - Marketing automation, and all digital tools to plan, execute, track and optimize all marketing activities across channels.

  11. Organization & resources - structure and level of experience of the team members assigned to digital marketing alongside external agency/freelancer resources.

  12. Results generated - Results achieved across all activities, broken down by market/segment, solutions, channels and campaigns. This is also a leading area of opportunity for enhancement.

Digital Marketing Engine - Process to build yours.

1. Current digital marketing engine readiness and performance assessment

First things first. Let's start with an assessment of what we have. The assessment starts with the overlapping of the results vs. goals. Any gap must be analyzed across all dimensions of the list to provide data-driven analysis, assessment and explanation (cause and effect) for each gap. This is a critical step that will drive all downstream steps of the building process.

Focusing on your technology stack, take inventory of what systems or solutions you currently use to drive and monitor your digital activities for lead generation across channels (Digital events, Google adwords, social ads, social engagement, content marketing), lead conversion (landing pages, forms, gamification, notifications, pop-ups), lead nurturing (email, adwords and social remarketing) and analytics/optimization (content performance, web analytics, paid media analytics, organic performance, earned media analytics, social media analytics, email analytics and web listening). Next, assess the level of performance, usability and integration of those systems to define a path forward.

Now, marketing automation. How do you handle that and what do you include beyond email marketing in your automation? There are many ways to tackle automation. Example of a practical end-to-end solution: Hubspot (

2. Competitive digital marketing engine benchmarking

Hard to assess your performance without knowing what the other guys are doing. Leverage available web-based technologies to conduct an assessment of top 2-3 competitors’ digital activities and performance including web, SEO, social, brand reputation, content, and more. This is aimed at helping put your brands’ digital efforts and performance into competitive perspective. Tools available include media monitoring tools such as Mention (, social listening tools such as Hootsuite (, web traffic monitoring such as Alexa (, SEO tools such as SEM Rush (, and many more.

3. Digital marketing building or optimization

Now that you have all the data you need to understand the readiness of your digital marketing engine compared to your most direct competitors, it’s time to map out each of the elements above to empower your organization to generate future profitable revenue growth.

Depending on the complexity of your business, markets, portfolio, technologies, and competitive landscape, this phase can get heavy in time and resources. Consider your organization and resources carefully. Building such an engine from the ground up requires significant knowledge, experience but also bandwidth. We recommend conducting a careful make vs. buy analysis and if you do decide to get some help, ensure your partner agency is channel / media agnostic. Neutrality and objectivity are key in this process.

My view

Can you replace all canceled conferences leads with digital events and campaigns? Definitely, and possibly you can achieve more. What is sure is that building a Digital Marketing Engine and running it to its full capacity is the only way for your organization to start replacing your lost source of leads. For digital events, consider webinars and virtual events platforms such as CrowCast (, Vfairs (, GoToWebinar (, run the world (, ON24Platform (, Slido ( as a start. But remember that digital events are just one of the channels and just a link in a complex chain of upstream to downstream activities starting with the promotion, organization, content and experience generation, analytics and follow-up. Are you ready?

By Gaëtan Fraikin / CEO / Addictive Health / / + 1 760 580 3908 /


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