Sales & Marketing Australia

Oct 8, 2013 - Oct 9, 2013, Sydney

Deliver sustainable growth with a superior commercial and digital strategy

Multichannel Marketing Business Case Report 2014

Understand how to keep up your multichannel marketing strategy with the dynamic stakeholders.

Promoting the digital dialog

Pharma marketing is changing as companies recognize the need to communicate on customers’ own terms. Shaun Holmgreen of UCB explains the “4 Ps of digital marketing” to Nick de Cent.



“Promotion is no longer directly anywhere; rather it is directly everywhere.” That’s the view of Shaun Holmgreen, who is Head of Customer Insights for the Belgian headquartered company UCB in Australia, when we spoke to him in advance of his presentation at Australia Sales & Marketing.

Shaun is aiming to have a “digital dialog” with the specialist medical community in Australia as part of his campaign to promote UCB’s portfolio of ethical drugs.

UCB is probably best known for its anti-epileptic Keppra – along with the relatively newly launched Vimpat – as well as the rheumatoid arthritis drug Cimzia, and Neupro, which is used in treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Shaun himself has a background in medical research, with a PhD in oncology, as well as about 12 years in marketing, making him ideally suited to understanding the needs of both camps. He sees his function as being about building trust between the customer and UCB.

As part of this role, he also has to be sensitive to the requirements of company brand managers, with their specific product allegiances, by weaving them into the more holistic, customer-centric approach favored by today’s digital strategies.“We take a holistic approach to the corporate brand internally,” he explains.

A digital strategy is, of course, way more than just a website. “In essence it’s a cloud-based presence,” he explains. It covers all the platforms from desktop to mobile with apps that enable the medical community to interact amongst themselves and with suppliers in the way that they find most convenient, whether this is on a desktop PC or laptop, or via a tablet or smartphone.

4 Ps of digital marketing

Coming from a traditional marketing background, Shaun has grown up with the traditional “4 Ps of marketing” – product, price, promotion, place – and has translated them into his own “4 Ps of digital marketing”:

  1. Predictive modeling– tailoring your message to your customer’s level of brand engagement;
  2. Personalization– all about ensuring the imagery and messaging is right;
  3. Peer-to-peer– helping doctors and other health professionals to talk to each in a “circle” of their own choosing, for instance through a Facebook-like portal; and
  4. Participation– encouraging the involvement of health professionals in the wider issues relevant to acondition, for instance by offering health workers allied to medicine tailored access to a portal with subject matter specific to them.

Successful use of digital media depends on understanding how engaged with a brand a doctor is, Shaun suggests. A program should evolve with the customer, allowing them to move their level of engagement in the brand from “interest”, to someone prepared to try a drug (initiator)  and then on to acting as an influencer. 

In Australia, UCB’s emerging digital strategy will involve a high degree of peer-to-peer interaction and participation, and focus on the relatively small numbers of medical specialists in each specialty. For instance, there are some 350 rheumatologists, about 300-320 neurologists, and “several hundred geriatricians”, according to Shaun. These low numbers enable UCB to personalize the digital dialog and engage physicians and other medical professionals in a meaningful way.

And Shaun stresses that it really is a dialog: “It’s not a monolog.” Old-fashioned “push” marketing models to vast numbers of passive recipients have no place in today’s digital environment, he explains. Instead, the two-way interaction enables UCB to understand more about the market while doctors, in turn, are able to learn more about the relevant condition and treatments.

This close focus on small numbers also reflects the way many physicians choose to work with their peers. They prefer to interact with small numbers of trusted colleagues and advisers rather than via large-scale forums.

Digital portal

Accordingly, this approach is reflected in UCB’s soon-to-be-launched digital portal, which aims to “bring UCB closer to the customer” and goes beyond simply talking about the brand.

It will be a phased launch with “various modules being added over time”. The project has been underpinned by an extensive qualitative and quantitative research program, with heavy involvement from UCB’s specialist customer base. Inevitable there will be changes as it develops. “We will learn along the way,” Shaun acknowledges.

So, how does the digital approach differ from more traditional strategies? Shaun stresses that the “company’s online presence must complement the communication strategies of our field-based representatives”, UCB is not trying to use its digital presence to take over from the rep. “Digital complements the rep,” says Shaun.

Of course, a digital presence also offers a number of advantages to the customer in that it gives the potential for them to communicate with UCB in the way that they find most convenient. Accordingly, UCB has embraced several different ways of interacting, ranging from instant messaging to more traditional media. And this approach runs right through the different parts of the company so that doctors can get quick answers to their queries from the relevant department, whatever the nature of their question.

Measuring ROI

As with any other aspect of marketing, it’s important to measure ROI. Shaun’s team will use what they call an “engagement score” – based around the traditional NPS (net promoter score) marketing metric – as a way of measuring the success of their digital strategy a year on from its launch.


If you want to hear more about digital marketing strategies, Shaun will be speaking at eyeforpharma.com’s Australia Sales & Marketing 2014 conference in Sydney this October. He will be building a picture of what to think about when embarking on a digital marketing strategy and how to define that strategy. He will address issues such as whether digital is all about corporate branding or whether there should be a product focus. Most importantly, he will discuss how to obtain an ROI from a digital strategy.


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Sales & Marketing Australia

Oct 8, 2013 - Oct 9, 2013, Sydney

Deliver sustainable growth with a superior commercial and digital strategy