Will the iPad kickstart a pharma sales and marketing revolution?

Andrew Tolve explores how firms are using the iPad to enhance the effectiveness of sales and marketing presentations

Andrew Tolve explores how firms are using the iPad to enhance the effectiveness of sales and marketing presentations

So far, the iPad is the most successful launch of a computer product of all time, leaving the iPhone and Nintendo Wii in the LED-backlit glow of its taillights.

The device has found popularity with tech geeks and housewives, kids and teachers, doctors and sales directors, engineers and editors. Apple is projecting 25 million sales next year.

And a healthy slice of those devices will end up in the laps of the pharmaceutical industry.

For an industry that has always struggled to change quickly, pharmas reception of the iPad is unprecedented.

Marketers are using the device for healthcare professional communication and consumer marketing, while sales directors want to incorporate it into their selling method.

Its a tsunami, says Morten Hjelms, CEO of the closed-loop marketing firm, Agnitio.

We have all the marketers and the sales people pressing us now, saying, What about this iPad? I really believe the iPad is going to be a true game changer. (For more on closed-loop marketing, see Closed-loop marketing in a multi-channel environment.)

Derek Pollock, president of life sciences at Proscape, reports that all 35 of Proscapes clients in the pharma and med device space have purchased iPads and have initiatives under way to deploy them with Proscape software.

The most aggressive already have iPads in the field.

Ive never seen anything like thisever, Pollock says.

When different cool devices come out, a couple people may take a look at them. The iPad is different. [Theres] universal excitement.


The pharma appeal

A number of factors make the iPad especially attractive to sales reps, no matter their industry.

First, the iPad is light1.5 pounds to be precisewhich means its easy to tote around.

Second, it has excellent battery life.

All apps developed for the iPad must conform to Apples rigorous standards, which developers arent wild about but batteries are.

(The iPads H.264 code for video compression, for instance, cuts down on battery consumption by 70 percent when watching movies).

Third, the screen is beautiful to look at and intuitive to navigate.

Hence, theres little learning curve for reps and their customers, many of whom already have iPhones or iPads themselves.

And fourth, the iPad is relatively cheap. The basic model goes for $499.

When you put it all together, its exciting, its easy to use, it really represents the next generation in mobile computing, says Pollock.

The iPad has arrived at an ideal time for pharma.

These days reps are under pressure to represent more products against more competition while physicians give them less time to do so.

Reps in the med device industry used to represent two to three products; now its often seven to eight.

Meanwhile, reps used to enjoy seven to 10 minutes with physicians; now they average two to four.

As a result, reps must have more information at the ready and more compelling solutions to quickly pique physician interest.

The iPad is the perfect middle ground between smartphone technology and laptops, says Jeff Wessinger, president of Skura Corporation, which specializes in optimizing rep effectiveness through digital solutions.
Smartphones are great at being light and useful for immediate information, Wessinger says, but theyre too small for presentations.

On the other hand, PC tablet computers are great for presentations but are heavy to lug around, take a long time to start up, and have a tendency to run out of battery life.

Reps, therefore, have proven more resistant to digital detailing than some expected.

The number one rep complaint in the Asia Pacific region, for instance, is the weight of the tablet device.

Many reps there are petite females, says Pollock, carrying around a heavy tablet is untenable.

Closed-loop marketing was becoming a very heavy enterprise IT solution, agrees Hjelms.

It had more focus on the integration into the CRM and all the data you had to capture than it had to do with communication with the customer.

And since reps were the ones expected to carry this burden, they became the bottleneck to ubiquitous digital detailing adoption.

The whole idea of a pad suddenly makes it so much easier for the sales rep, Hjelms says.

The pharmaceutical industry has so much experience with tablet PCs running Windows, for them to see this device and understand what it represents and what they can do at this price point, theyre jumping to it, Pollock concludes.


The physician appeal

Another force working in the iPads favor is physician approval.

Early statistics show that doctors dont just like watching presentations on the iPad; they like owning the device themselves.

Healthcare professionals are the fastest area of iPad uptake in the US.

A recent survey conducted by Epocrates found that one in five physicians plans to purchase the device.

For the first time, we will actually have a common device for the industry, for their customers, and for their customers customers, Hjelms says.

The implications of a common platform are threefold.

First, reps can shorten initial presentations and follow up with apps.

Companies can easily track if those apps are downloaded.

Once they have been, whenever an update is sent out through the App Store, the doctor automatically gets it.

Second, a presentation from the pharma company to the doctor can be easily accompanied by an app that the doctor can give to the patient to explain more about a particular brand.

And third, the initial presentation can transform from a lecture to a dialogue with physicians touching and interacting with slides and graphics.

All studies show that if you can get hands-on, the remembrance and the recall rate will be much higher, Hjelms says.



The iPad has a number of shortcomings, though.

An obvious example is that the device doesnt allow more than one application to run at the same time, as most of us are used to on laptops.

More problematic, the iPad doesnt support Adobe Flash, which most pharma companies used to create their current presentations.

Apples reasons for nixing Flash may be validin recent years, Flash has replaced MS Windows as the number one source of viruses and malwarebut still, redoing all your eDetailing programs on HTML5 is an undertaking.

Another concern is that many CRM systems dont yet sync up with the iPad.

If youre doing things like advanced sample management or territory management analytics or you name it, its not going to run on the iPad, says Wessinger.

So sales forces may need secondary devices to support administrative tasks.

Finally, theres the challenge of distribution.

How can you smoothly implement the iPad across a sales force that, in many cases, is spread around the globe?

Will half your sales force be on tablet PCs and the other on iPads?

Still, these downsides are not deterring advocates.

So much is the desire to use the iPad, theyre overlooking a lot of its limitations, says Wessinger.

Theyre not only willing to reinvest in the platform for their entire sales force, but theyre wiling to redo all of their creative effort in order to get to this device.


Enter the apps

As pharma companies scramble to test iPads, digital media and software firms like Proscape, Agnitio, and Skura have stepped up to the plate with new solutions.

Each solution differs in aim and execution.

Proscapes iShow Player allows companies to transfer their presentations to the iPad with as little bother as possible.

Proscape generates code that can be sent to, and played on, various browsers and devicesWindows, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Silverlight, Blackberry.

iShow Player ensures that Proscape software runs on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch as well.

It also ensures a seamless transition as sales forces deploy the iPad.

In September, Proscapes most aggressive client began distributing its first iPads in the field.

Because Proscape is channel- and device-independent, this sales force can roll out the iPad in Italy and the UK on different timeframes, while keeping the rest of its global sales force on Tablet PCs.

When youre a big pharmaceutical company, its not like you can convert all your sales force to iPads overnight, says Pollock.

But you can do it over the course of a year.

Pollock believes all 35 of his customers will have deployed the iPad by June 2011.

Agnitio has approached the iPad as a radically new way to tell stories.

This is not just a small tablet PC, this is a new media, says Hjelms.

The biggest mistake you can make when you have new media is to take the old media solution and push it into the new.

Tablet PCs tell stories frame by frame, with somewhat clunky navigation leading from one to the next.

The iPad allows for a much more fluid narrative style, Hjelms says, one in which the presenter can scroll through a presentation like a flipbook, from diagnostic to compliance to safety and so on.

Agnitios solution, iPad Native, harnesses this fluidity with a new style of content creation that depends more on images than text.

Text is dead, Hjelms says. This really becomes about visual stuff.

iPad Native also divides content into smaller presentations, which are synonymous with apps.

So reps have an app for efficacy, an app for safety, for burden, etc.

On a tablet, it would take you forever to go from one presentation and start another; here, it literally takes you one second, Hjelms says.

Agnitios first major big pharma client is rolling out iPad Native in Europe this month.

The SFX Suite from Skura allows reps to optimize content on their iPads with physicians.

Wessinger likens the SFX Suite to John Maddens football video game, in which gamers can pick from hundreds of plays for their quarterbacks to run on any given down.

With the press of a button, though, they can access Maddens Pick, a short catalogue of the best plays to run on this particular yard line, against this particular defense, in this particular stage of the game.

SFX Suite does the same thing for reps going into a meeting with a physician.

It uses predictive analytics and a channel-mix optimizer to make sure reps are equipped with the most dynamic, customer-specific presentations on their iPads.

This industry knows an awful lot about what their customers are doing in terms of prescribing, but they know almost nothing about the individuals in terms of why theyre doing it, Wessinger says.

Tablet detailing is a great way to capture information about why theyre doing things.

SFX Suite is currently in alpha version and being deployed in pilots.

Skura has three customers in the med device and pharma space who have already purchased the product. The first will deploy into the field this month or next.


Tablet frenzy

The coming year promises to be heavily iPad influenced.

A number of pharmaceutical companies, privately agog over the device now, will publicly deploy it.

Meanwhile, Google plans to release an Android Tablet to compete with the iPad by the end of the year.

Depending on which rumors you believe, the Google Tablet will be made by HTC or Motorola and available on Verizon.

Microsoft plans to release a Microsoft Tablet in early 2011, once Intel comes out with its low-power Oak Trail processor.

Apple plans to release the iPad 2 around the same time.

All of which suggests consumer and sales rep culture is likely to become more and more tablet-oriented, with computers morphing into something closer to smartphones than laptops.

Were going to see in the next 24 months a whole shift from traditional IT-provided laptop and desktop computers to this world thats more like getting a phone, says Pollock.

Theyre going to be so fast and inexpensive, you may get a new one every 18 to 24 months.