Encourage a Culture of Experimentation to Perfect Your Multichannel Strategy

“Examples are scarce of pharma companies that have developed an optimal multichannel strategy with associated proven channel effectiveness.”

Pharma need to get into a mind-set of developing campaigns based on initial research and understanding, execute on these, measure results, tailor or completely redevelop the approach – and continue execution. And this needs to happen on an on-going basis, on-going experimentation driving towards a ‘continuous plan of action’,” said Jan van den Burg VP, Commercial Strategy at Veeva Europe.

If done well, multichannel marketing can increase the company’s revenue, and drive down the costs of sales and marketing. It promises better access to customers, a greater opportunity to be customer-centric, improved engagement with customers and stakeholders, lower average costs of interactions, and of course increase effectiveness of the interactions. Despite all this however, not everyone is on board.

“I would ask [the skeptics] to have a long look at the sustainability of the current model in terms of the costs, the effectiveness, the needs of the customer, the expectations in terms of speed and information availability, and emerging channel preference, just to name a few aspects,” van den Burg said. “And then to consider what multichannel has done for other industries. In retail, 15 years ago it would be unimaginable that one would interact with companies at a significant level through non-personal channels, he added.

Getting serious

Pharma are slow to adopt multichannel marketing partly because the existing model has worked for a very long time. Although the industry started to reduce sales force size over the past decade, only now with the arrival of the digital era combined with the pressures from within the field, are life sciences companies starting to become serious about multichannel. And serious they better be.

According to our own multichannel marketing report, since 2008 the number of doctors willing to see a sales rep had declined by 20%, while in 2011, 11% severely restricted or barred sales rep access, while a further 34% imposed some level of access restrictions.

At the same time, 86% of physicians use the web for clinical information, with 65% performing on average one search a day. Moreover, 92% of physicians accessed health information from their consultation office, with 21% performing a search with a patient in the room. But challenges with access, increase of digital-savviness of physicians, and decreasing number of representatives don’t make the traditional rep obsolete. Rather, it’s changing its role, as reps have the potential to be central to successful execution of multichannel campaigns.

“[The sales reps] are ideally positioned to orchestrate many of the interactions happening across channels. Take for example, a physician who has had an online interaction with a particular company. Assuming the rep has insight into this interaction, he/she can continue this dialogue in the subsequent face-to-face visit. The same applies to use of email. Assuming reps have the ability to send compliant, non-risk emails to their customers, they have the opportunity to capitalize on insight from previous interactions to send personalized emails that deliver relevant and timely information based on customer interest. This coordination across channels gives companies the opportunity to increase customer engagement and drive additional interactions that are based on a dialogue rather than a push,” van den Burg observed.

Pillars of success

There are three building blocks companies need to have in place to execute multichannel strategies successfully – and they need to be integrated and working together seamlessly. First, companies need a single global system to manage all the content, including the creation, marketing, medical, legal and regulatory approval processes, and other third-party collaboration, as well as publication within a channel. That system also manages rapid withdrawal and update of content for compliance reasons, as well as for marketing effectiveness.

Second, they have a single solution to manage compliant interactions across all channels. “What we see now is a huge separation of visibility and management of interactions. Whilst sales forces record calls and face-to-face interactions, brand teams dealing with online initiatives often manage these independently and without visibility to the sales organisation, e.g. a sales rep doesn’t see what a doctor has done online,” van den Burg cautioned.

Finally, successful companies know their customer well, and understand potential differences between customers interacting with a company via different channels.

Moving forward

A great opportunity lies ahead for multichannel in life sciences. However, success does not mean a shift away from face to face interactions. Rather, with the mix of communication channels available to companies, customer engagement levels and customer centricity performance indicators need to be defined and measured, and efforts aligned with overall commercial objectives to ensure best possible outcomes for all stakeholders. Getting this right first time is unlikely, but a culture of results focused experimentation will get you there.

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