Customer Engagement USA

Nov 19, 2015 - Nov 20, 2015, Philadelphia

Engage with the movers and shakers of pharma marketing and commercial operations

Why We've Got Multichannel Marketing Backwards

GSK’s Jim DeLash explains how engagement and customer experience drive behavior, and ultimately, growth.

Pharma is mostly doing multichannel marketing backwards, according to Jim DeLash, Director, Multi-Channel Marketing Execution for GSK in the United States. “We’re still too brand focused. We start with the channel and we start with a budget way before we’ve even talked about the specific customers we’re trying to reach.

“Ultimately, I think we’re going to end up being much more customer focused as an industry. We need to start with customers and end with channel. So you start with customers; then you go with the investment level; then you have brand, then you go with creative messaging and finally with which channels you use.”

Despite this, DeLash prefers the terms “engagement” and “customer experience” over “customer centricity’ because they add context – everybody wants to be customer-centric.

The art and science of determining the optimal marketing investment for each customer segment. 

“We’re really looking at the business opportunity for each customer segment and then also how we’re going to provide value to them, both content and offers, media types and channels and everything that’s going to help us feel right for everybody – customers, patients and the companies themselves.”

New initiative

This is all part of an initiative by GSK to change its approach to multichannel. Launched at the beginning of last year, it is already starting to influence the behavior of specialists, although the program eventually aims to impact primary care physicians too.

DeLash proposes his own definition of multichannel marketing for today’s pharma environment: “The art and science of determining the optimal marketing investment for each customer segment.”

He explains: “That does mean different messages and different ways of communicating a point about a brand to different segments, which is not what we do today for the most part.”

The fact that multiple brands may routinely be involved in the treatment of an individual adds complexity to the equation. Like doctors, patients may be bombarded with messaging, so pharma has to figure out how to create appropriate messaging for specific segments, DeLash argues.

However, he does not go as far as some technology companies have proposed in terms of tailoring messages to individual customers, and questions whether the “efficiencies are there yet in terms of addressing individuals”. Instead, he proposes modules of content, in different formats – print, video, text and audio – which are used in an appropriate mix for each individual segment. “You put this jigsaw puzzle together that looks very different for different segments. If you do that, I think you’re ahead of the curve.”


Discussing the question of setting objectives for each audience, DeLash declares that he has a “very simple view of objectives – it’s about business growth” in the context of the patient population and other relevant metrics. He suggests that companies look at how they can, say, double market share for a particular audience within a 12 or 18-month period in relation to how much they are willing to invest. Then look at the brand mix and subsequently the timing, creative strategy and promotional plan. “It becomes very driven by what the objectives are, which I think are pretty straightforward.”

Selecting the right mix of channels

How do you select the right mix of channels or should they all be available to everybody? “In any campaign, every channel’s in flight; we start with a clean slate. We include everything including print and wallboards in doctors’ offices – we include all of that. We do a lot of testing; we do analysis of past campaigns and then we do some market-specific models.” Then fine-tuning takes place to ensure the right cadence, interaction, frequency and duration amongst the mix of media.

Aligning with the sales force and other functions

Perhaps surprisingly, marketing currently remains distinctly separate from the field force. “We’re not really aligned with the sales force yet; that’s our ‘chapter two’ of this process that we’re going through. As you start to develop these kinds of initiatives, we’ve got to start with the basics, which is: ‘Let’s look at non-field media right now. Let’s get that together but understanding the evolution of this.

“I’m not sure when that next phase is but it has to include the sales rep,” De Lash stresses. The rep is a vital connection with the customer and it’s important to understand how a sales rep detail influences the process. He adds: “It does, clearly, and so we need to get there; we just haven’t got there quite yet, and I’m not sure anybody in the industry has either. That’s one of the opportunities in the near future and we’re working on it.”

Asked for his advice on how to get other functions within the organization onside, DeLash is clear: early involvement and understanding of what the campaign is trying to do, and thinking more in terms of campaigns and not individual tactics.

“What we’re working really hard on right now with our med-legal review teams is to have all of the material for a campaign reviewed at the same time or within a two-week period so that, as the campaign is launching, all of the materials have been approved, and we don’t have to get into the situation where a third of the way through, the piece that is supposed to go out next week is still in legal review, and now what do we do? Do we delay it?” The aim is to avoid compromised campaigns and the solution often comes from just building relationships with those teams. “If people understand what it is you are trying to do, they generally buy in. That’s been my experience here.”

He adds: “The digital environment shouldn’t be the issue; it comes down to just the content, which is a much more straightforward review. To me it comes down to getting legal and medical to understand things in the context of the overall campaign. Then they feel much more involved, much more part of the project.” 

Responding to customers

But how can a campaign respond to the current needs of the customer and bring with it a sense of immediacy by feeding back customers’ responses in something closer to real time? “That is a huge challenge and we don’t have that right now,” DeLash admits. “That’s why the planning is so important so you can plan all these different pieces of content, because if there’s an immediate need we’re not nimble enough to do that very quickly. So we have to plan ahead.”

His organization is getting involved with so-called “social listening” but he points out that this can be “tricky”, adding: “A lot of times there’s not a lot of activity and can you really infer things from that? You can but it’s something we’ve made a lower priority because we’re rather looking at their behavior and their responsiveness to the messages that we’re putting out there.”

Driving innovation

He also offers advice for others seeking to introduce innovative models into their organization. Inevitably, enthusiasm for implementing the new model has been facilitated by gaining senior management support, “which is obviously a big deal”, DeLash stresses. “You do this by painting the landscape of what’s going on. It wasn’t that hard in itself.

If you say, ‘Wait a minute! How can multichannel drive a third of our business?’ then you look at it through a different lens and you start to develop programs that’ll do that, and that’s the path that we’re going on.

“It’s also then understanding and communicating the scale of the business impact. A lot of people not familiar with the multichannel approach might think it’s a lot of work; it’s a lot of legal review time, and it has little impact – even if it has a great ROI, in relation to the business it’s not that big a deal. You have to communicate that it depends on what you do with it; if you look at it this way, that’s what it’s going to be. If you say, ‘Wait a minute! How can multichannel drive a third of our business?’ then you look at it through a different lens and you start to develop programs that’ll do that, and that’s the path that we’re going on.”

Small changes can have a big impact

A key aspect is to put greater emphasis on the script and dollar impact of the business rather than just engagement rates. Furthermore, DeLash is getting more and more data to support his approach and he emphasizes that even small changes have a very significant impact on revenues when you’re talking about big brands. “If you’re talking about a billion-dollar brand, then 10% of that is a £100 million. That’s huge.”

The key to buy-in is to formulate the right campaigns. “How do we start to create these enormous campaigns that are relatively low risk but can have high impact, because it’s possible to do that? It doesn’t happen automatically but you can get there.” Not all the teams have bought in yet and it will take some time, but generally the direction is very positive, according to DeLash.

Synergy with the reps

“And we’ve also seen very positive impact when we do multichannel in addition to rep behavior. We do see, when the reps are involved, multichannel has more effect than when the reps aren’t involved, in general. That’s a positive too, and if a rep’s visit can be enhanced by what we’re doing with multichannel, that’s a win all the way round.”

So how do you measure success? For a start, measuring engagement can be achieved by seeing how active people are in consuming content, DeLash explains, but the ultimate measures are commercial.

“The easy part is measuring digital,” he notes. “The not-so-easy-part is measuring the non-digital and we’re working on that trying to build some models.” The eventual aim is to understand how many engagements need to happen before you drive changes in script-writing behavior, he concludes.

Jim DeLash will be speaking at Customer Engagement USA 2015, November 19-20 Philadelphia.

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Customer Engagement USA

Nov 19, 2015 - Nov 20, 2015, Philadelphia

Engage with the movers and shakers of pharma marketing and commercial operations