June 23, 2014 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Digital and Inbound Marketing Campaigns for Biotechnology, Pharmaceutical, Medical Device, Health Insurance and Healthcare Product Companies
Our vision is to be the leader of Social Health Intelligence by providing the most advanced and predictive intelligence about healthcare consumers available. To provide groundbreaking, disruptive marketing strategies that change the way the industry interacts with the online health communities.
Our mission is to
enable the Healthcare industry to engage with consumers online, motivate
them to adopt healthier lifestyles and more effectively manage chronic
illnesses, resulting in better health outcomes and significant cost savings
to the system.
President & Chief Executive Officer
Malcolm Bohm is a
recognized expert in Life Sciences. In the industry since 1993, Malcolm
served in increasingly senior positions at major pharmaceutical companies
including Astra, Pfizer, and Novartis. In 2005 Malcolm established a
successful US affiliate for biotech firm, Aspreva Pharmaceuticals. In 2006
he created Trialytics, an industry leading software solution leveraging
electronic healthcare data to redefine clinical R&D strategies eventually
selling the company to SDI Health Inc. Malcolm was educated in Great Britain
and achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and a Master of
Medical Sciences degree in Renal Physiology and Pharmacology along with
advanced training in analytical data modeling.
5080 Shoreham Place
San Diego, CA 92122
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor,
CEOCFO Magazine, Published – June 23, 2014
CEOCFO: Mr. Bohm, what is the vision or concept at Liquid Grids?
Mr. Bohm: A couple of years ago, what I recognized was that there is a significant reduction in the sales forces of the pharmaceutical companies. You cannot get reps in to doctor’s offices anymore. The second thing that was happening was this massive explosion of data online and the social networks. People are empowering themselves much more today than they ever have done before and they are talking about it on the social networks. Health is a huge topic. What we are facilitating is making the patient more aware of the opportunities that the healthcare industry has. We are making the patient the best detail aids for the industry. If you can empower patients with good credible information they can then act on that by taking that to their healthcare practitioner.
CEOCFO: How do you actually make this happen? For whom do you provide the services?
Mr. Bohm: It is primarily the pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostics and biotech industries. We have built the pipework and the analytics that allows us to get through all the noise and identify the dialog about health that is happening on the social networks, meaning Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube, as our four primary sources. We have brought back the information that is human health related in the English language; not spam, not noise, not jokes, not Canadian pharmacies, not overseas herbal companies, but truly people who are discussing their health or the health of others that they are connected to. We bring that information in. We have a very, very high precision rate for that, >80%. This is a huge pain point that we are relieving for the industry. The biggest problem in the industry is identifying who are these people, where they are and what they saying. We answer those questions very specifically. Once we bring that information in we break up the different components of every post to identify the diagnosis, the symptom, the treatment, the procedure, the emotion and the severity to understand exactly the context of the dialog that is happening.
CEOCFO: Regarding the blog; how do you filter the junk from the useful info?
Mr. Bohm: I will give you an example. I have two posts. One says a chocolate bar is not good for my diabetes and the second post says if I eat another chocolate bar I think I am going to get diabetes. Which one is truly health related? It is the first one. As humans we can work that out in a heartbeat. What we have done is built a natural language processing parser that can do that automatically. Every level of the analytics that we do are trained by humans first, before the algorithms get to a certain precision level. When they reach 80% they auto score and they self learn. The algorithms are pretty sophisticated. That is our intellectual property right there. The precision and the recall that we get from this is actually better than a human and we have measured that. Of course, we also use fairly sophisticated spam filtering as well. Therefore, there is a combination of factors that help us get to the very real information that we want to provide to our clients.
CEOCFO: How would a typical engagement work with a client?
Mr. Bohm: We actually offer two types of service. The first one is a managed service, where we do soup to nuts for our clients. That is because the healthcare industry is actually in an adoption phase of trying to leverage the social networks and what is going on there. The healthcare industry is way behind. Coke, Starbucks and all of these consumer brands have been in there for a long time, leveraging it. However, in a heavily regulated industry like healthcare it is taking time. The resourcing in the industry is not quite there.
A pharmaceutical company has a brand and they want to do direct to patient marketing. They come to us because we are very, very targeted and very, very efficient with their dollars. When we build a disease grid for the brand or disease we expose the personas that we then target advertising campaigns with. The advertising campaigns are very, very contextual to the disease communities and the dialog that we are finding. One of the advantages that we have is that we are able to scale our audiences. We do what are called “look alike” audiences. We can find a certain group of people that are in a certain specific discussion, let us say, “I think I have torn my cruciate ligament” or “I have a meniscal tear” or “ I am getting terrible knee pain and my arthritis is really flaring up today”; all of these different types of discussions. We create a persona around that. Then we actually scale that persona through the out platforms to millions more people that are in similar discussions.
The second service is when our clients take our software and they use it for themselves. We have actually developed a “software as a service” version of our platform where clients can actually run the campaigns by themselves. Uptake is happening more at the marketing agency level.
Our vision going forward is that Liquid Grids platform is going to be the de facto one that you use for direct to patient social targeting.
CEOCFO: Where were the biggest challenges in putting this all together? It sounds to me that at every turn there was substantial challenges?
Mr. Bohm: I think the biggest issue that we had to overcome and what took us was the longest was actually data relevancy. You have to be sure that when you are going to put an impression of an ad in front of a target that the target is appropriate and you are not wasting dollars on just spraying and praying. Therefore, getting that relevancy and the algorithms fully working so that they are enterprise worthy; that was the biggest challenge.
I think the second challenge that we had was the very slow moving regulatory environment that we have been in with the FDA. This year the FDA actually came out with its first draft guidance, which was very useful to us, because it actually aligns very nicely to the business model that we had created. This is enabling the industry to now step up and say, “We are going to do this,” rather than running away and saying, “It is the wild-wild west in social media and we do not want to be there.” We’ve seen a convergence of our technology maturing to a place where it truly is enterprise worthy and the regulatory environment of online direct to consumer advertising maturing as well.
CEOCFO: How do you reach the pharmaceutical companies? How do you get them to pay attention? Is there a typical aha moment when they understand?
Mr. Bohm: Let me try and answer that in two stages. The first one is that we are a healthcare focused company. We went a mile deep and an inch wide. It is our background; from the CEO all the way down to our social media analysts and digital strategists. Everyone in the company comes from a healthcare background. That is very, very important. We understand the challenges that the industry faces, because we sat in those seats.
We also have extensive networks in the industry. We have a sales team and we are calling on brands and we are calling on marketing agencies.
The Aha moment when you get in there is when you show them people are talking about a specific disease. When we show them the dashboard and the ability to go right down and look at posts that are highly relevant, that is the Aha moment ‘Wow, that is who I want to get my message in front of. This is highly targeted. That is what we want.’
If you think about traditional direct to consumer advertising, what is it? It is TV ads, it is print ads and it is radio ads. And what have we as consumers done? We have tuned out. The budgets that are going into those traditional channels are coming down every year. There was a report just last week by Medical Media and Marketing, again showing that TV, radio and print are coming down. There is a significant shift to patient centric marketing. There are more, larger budgets now being applied to patient marketing than ever before.
CEOCFO: I realize that TV ads have to mention the potential side effects, even if it is one in five million. How do you keep that out of your targeted advertising or how do you put it in such a way that it does not put people off?
Mr. Bohm: That is a really good question! I am going to step back to the TV ads for a second. Imagine yourself at six o’clock in front of a TV, CBS, on Sunday. You are about to watch Sixty Minutes and you get through the first twenty minutes of it. Then the adverts come on and there is an advert for Serevent®, which treats chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. You look at that and you say, “How many people in my household is that actually relevant for?” That is brand advertising.
What we do is disease awareness advertising. That is because people are not talking about the brand. They are talking about their disease. “I have terrible knee pain. Do you suffer terrible knee pain?” That advert is designed to bring them to a place where there is compliant, fair balanced information that the regulatory, medical and legal reviews have permitted. The adverts are appearing at a disease level, but not making any claims. All advertising copy is approved by our client including imagery and text.
CEOCFO: How is business these days?
Mr. Bohm: Business is booming! We were venture capitalized at the beginning of this year and that has allowed us to scale the business. We have started to get very large engagements through Tier I clients. Global pharmaceutical companies are handing the keys to their brands over to us to run their campaigns. Marketing agencies are picking up on the SaaS platform and starting to use it instead of other products. It is going to be a very good year for Liquid Grids. I believe that the trajectory of this business is better than it ever has been.
CEOCFO: Do you need to add talent as you increase clients and how does ramping up affect the company?
Mr. Bohm: If we were to do managed service all of the time, yes, I would need to scale quite a number of fulfillment positions; people who are actually running the campaigns and interfacing with these brands. That is why we went ahead and developed, with the capital that we were provided, the software as a service version. Rather than becoming an agency, we want to be a software company. At this point in time we have got a small team that is doing fulfillment for a number of opportunities that we are working on. However, over time those clients will actually adopt the SaaS platform themselves. Therefore, the software as a service is really the revenue driver for us and it is significantly more profitable for us.
CEOCFO: What have you learned from previous experiences? Particularly, what do you take from your time at big pharma that has been most helpful in getting Liquid Grids off the ground and continuing to run so profitably?
Mr. Bohm: I have been on the branded side and on the clinical research side of business for many, many years. That experience through has been very, very important for me. It spurred me to make sure that everybody in the company is coming from a healthcare background. When you have worked at big pharma you understand the challenges. These are very, very large organizations that have got a lot to loose if they get it wrong. Understanding those challenges, the hurdles and navigating our clients through them is critical.
CEOCFO: What surprised you as the company and concept has grown and developed?
Mr. Bohm: I will tell you that three years ago, when I started out on this journey, a lot of people would look at me and say, “Malcolm, you are out of your mind. People are not going to talk about their health online. The other thing that has really surprised me is just how much privacy does not matter when there is something of value at the other end. This is what we call differential privacy. I think the thing that has surprised me the most is just how much those privacy concerns of the general public has started to come down.
CEOCFO: Do you think that is age related, just that people are so comfortable with the concept, or do you see it over the full age range?
Mr. Bohm: We just completed and published a survey of how healthcare consumers use social networks. Over 60% of the people who responded to our survey were over 25 years old. The single largest group were the 18-24 year olds. The second largest group were the >55 year olds. It is amazing how the concept of being in the social networks and being active in the social networks has percolated up through those generations.
CEOCFO: Why should people pay attention to Liquid Grids today? What sets Liquid Grids apart?
is only company that enables direct to patient social targeting; activating
the disease communities.
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