Sales & Multichannel Canada

Jun 17, 2015 - Jun 18, 2015, Toronto

Think multichannel: Be a part of Canada's new business model for pharma marketing

The Art of Multichannel

Digital currently accounts for around 15% of marketing activity in pharma but is set to grow dramatically.

Carlien Viljoen Senior Product Manager, Thrombosis (Critical Care) LEO Pharma.



Multichannel marketing has captured the attention of the pharma world, giving companies the opportunity to secure a 360-degree view of what their customers are doing both online and in more traditional channels. Carlien Viljoen, Senior Product Manager, Thrombosis (Critical Care) at LEO Pharma in Canada, will be speaking at eyeforpharma’s Sales and Multichannel Canada 2015, and we caught up with her to get some thoughts on multichannel’s place in pharma and the challenges ahead.

“Ultimately it’s about reaching the people at the end of the channel and then optimizing that channel, rather than just about the channel itself, ” she begins. “People gain access to information in so many different ways now.” Up until the late 1990s, newspapers and TV were the chief means by which the vast majority of customers would have got their news on any number of subjects: the internet and mobile technology have changed all that.

Providing greater insight

“The business has also become much more customer-centric,” she goes on. “That is a good thing: Pharma now recognizes that the patient is our key customer, and we want to work with HCPs in order to reach patients and improve health outcomes.” The opportunity to leverage more information to provide greater insight about these key groups is highly attractive – but pharma is still learning how to utilize this better as implementation is not always straightforward. Availability of channels and how pharma can use them has expanded to the point where it would simply be impossible to keep track of everything: always getting the right message, via the right channel, to the right customer at the right time remains the Holy Grail.“Digital tracking is offering marketers an opportunity now, for the first time, to get real data to measure our outcomes,” she goes on. “We are just beginning to learn how to use this in Canada, where limited resources are sometimes slowing down access to opportunities.”

Viljoen has been in the pharma industry for 15 years, but enjoys a wider perspective on healthcare than most marketers since she began her career in nursing in South Africa. She moved into pharma as a medical representative with Boehringer Ingelheim and then Yamanouchi in Johannesburg before moving to the UK with Yamanouchi’s successor, Astellas Pharma. In 2005 she joined LEO, in a key account role across London’s teaching hospitals before becoming Product Manager Critical Care two years later. From there she moved across the Atlantic to her current position in Toronto in 2010, a role she now combines with being lead and member of several global project teams and initiatives.

Scaling the corporate ladder throughout this globetrotting, Viljoen has witnessed a number of changes in the sector. “When I was repping in my twenties, everything was paper-based,” she laughs. “When I think of where we are now with digital, it’s a huge shift.”

Understanding your customers

However, the basics of marketing remain just as important as they ever were, and the advice she would give to product managers for successfully implementing multichannel campaigns reflects this no-nonsense approach. “First of all, understand who your customers are and where they themselves tend to look for information,” she says. “Understanding the platform they want to receive their information in, as well as what motivates them to act on it, is critical. For example, how can you use digital in combination with other media channels to ensure you bring the right education to the right customer group, when they are looking for it.”

If they were honest, most pharma marketers might admit they lean heavily on their agencies’ resources and expertise when it comes to navigating their way through today’s Big Data landscape. “If you are not selective in gathering specific data,you could easily be overwhelmed,” says Viljoen. “So it is about understanding what you need and using it wisely.”

This wealth of data and channels means there is also the potential for finding out more about what you could be doing to optimize campaigns – which is why it makes so much sense to measure the feedback from multichannel exercises via closed-loop marketing or click-through rates.“One of the biggest advantages it provides is that we are not working blindly anymore,” Viljoen explains. “That is the biggest change: before, you would have had to wait to see what a campaign’s impact on sales had been. Now, you can track the information, drill down into it and make sense of it as you are going along.” 

Defining your plans

When including digital in multichannel, remember to build it into your planning. “You have to choose the right channel, be very specific about what you’re missing and what you need to establish – and you must know what success means for you,” she reflects. “Define your plans: what do you want to achieve? Where do you want to move your audience? ”

As an example, she muses that it would be helpful to see which parts of an eDetail produce the best response from doctors: getting both the rep and HCP to rate the pages which they think are most useful may provide important insight. “We can see whether the sales force is on track,” Viljoen says. “We can find out what the HCP thinks and where we get traction in sales.” If the sales force has been diligently focusing on specific pages and messages in the eDetail, it is a useful learning. “This gives us an opportunity to move those pages up in the overall eDetail, making it easier for the representative to use,” she explains.“And it is really beneficial to marketing, too, as this illustrates to us what is working in the field. It can make what we do a lot more focused.”

Pharma can also use market analysis to improve multichannel techniques. “These things all tie together,” Viljoen says. “You don’t look at anything in isolation. You use the digital data and market data and then look for trends.”

However, you need an expert resource capable of putting it together well, she says. “The big discussion at the moment is: where is the line between tech, information and marketing, because the line is certainly blurring. Marketing is becoming increasingly involved in data, in terms of understanding it and tweaking what we do, based on it.”

Learning from the Trendsetters

Despite the excitement around multichannel strategies, Viljoen is realistic about the work that needs to be done on this in Canada. “We’re very proud of the work we do, but we have a lot to learn,” she says candidly. “There’s a big desire to move to digital but there is massive pressure on pharma in Canada to cut costs. Everybody dabbles in multichannel but few of us, including myself, are experts in this yet. The downward pressure on budgets slows things down, as well.”

Looking across the border to the US – where budgets for digital on a brand might be anything up to five times larger than the entire marketing budget for the same brand in Canada – points her towards how things could look. “It’s a very different market, of course,” she acknowledges. “But nonetheless it is fascinating and exciting. The US market is an inspiration, it is setting the trend in digital.”

Going to US pharma conferences exposes you to what can be done in digital, she goes on. “I’d urge any marketer in Canada to speak to their US counterparts,” she says. “We’ve all just started with digital, so pharma is behind when compared to, say, the FMCG market, and there’s massive potential.”

Digital currently account for around 15% of marketing activity in pharma but with the rise of channels – and the growth of wearables – this is set to increase to 30% in the next three to four years, Viljoen goes on. “I’d be surprised if it didn’t happen more quickly,” she concludes. “Digital is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. If you’re in marketing, you have to get on board with it.”


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Sales & Multichannel Canada

Jun 17, 2015 - Jun 18, 2015, Toronto

Think multichannel: Be a part of Canada's new business model for pharma marketing