Pharma Marketing Europe Virtual

Oct 13, 2020 - Oct 14, 2020, Digital Conference, Networking & Exhibition

This is the benchmarking event in Europe for trailblazers in commercial strategy. Compare your own efforts against the best in the industry and discover how you can reach new levels of customer engagement.

Webinars: Engaging at scale now and tomorrow

As face-to-face gatherings became impossible, webinars have emerged as a key way to engage for those who can master the format



Almost overnight, webinars have become a key resource for pharma during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
In May for example, Reuters Events Pharma witnessed the biggest virtual audience of any of its online events, when 3000 attendees joined the webinar on “The new normal of HCP engagement.”  
 
It was just one demonstration of the powerful reach webinars can have. In March webinar use soared across multiple industries – a huge increase in frequency from the same time last year when audiences typically avoided Mondays and Fridays for online events. 
 
The benefits of webinars
A chief advantage of webinars is that they are not location dependent and so can reach a geographically broad audience, a vital quality for maintaining engagement during the pandemic. 
 
A further benefit is that pharma is able to engage more customers at a lower cost than in-person conferences. Attendees also gain the benefit of being able to participate in virtual healthcare events without leaving their home or office and without having to set aside time for traveling, booking hotels, and other logistical requirements.
 
While webinars don’t offer the chance for after-event chitchat or dinners, pharma marketers can nevertheless harness them to build customer relationships, according to Frank Armenante, Director of Commercial Execution at Novo Nordisk. 
 
“Webinars are one-to-many, but in many ways they are also one-on-one,” he says. 
“As an audience member, I am watching you and listening to you. I have no other distractions, provided I am in a quiet place.” 
 
This is contrary to what happens with customers during face-to-face meetings in a public place or in a huge live event where they can be confronted with many distractions. This “one-on-one” aspect of webinars enables pharma to open a line of digital communication that can extend beyond the webinar, says Haider Alleg, Global Head of Digital Excellence for Ferring Pharmaceuticals.
 
“Post-webinar becomes all about where you take the customer experience and how you extend it. Are you organizing a collateral event with a few people who are happy to dive into a topic with a key opinion leader? Are you sharing a white paper or a reprint on a topic where a landing page will collect data?” 
 
In other words, a webinar paves the way for pharma to take customers to the next level of engagement. In this respect, webinars are just as much about the follow-up engagement as they are about the event itself.
 
Optimizing the webinar experience
To ensure successful webinars, there are six essential factors marketers might consider:
 
1. Pre-webinar, have customer conversion in sight
Thinking about webinar content does not only relate to what happens during the webinar but also prior to it. “By looking at data on customer behaviors in relation to content dissemination, a company can improve their webinar offerings,” says Alleg. Before conducting a webinar, Alleg highlights two essentials — having a clear idea on the type of experience that needs to be designed and being able to apply the classical marketing funnel from customer acquisition to customer conversion. Content is a key ingredient in achieving these two preliminary steps, ensuring that a potential viewer becomes a customer or stays a customer.
 
2. Engage in the first five minutes with meaningful content
The webinar content must be engaging and about a subject that answers specific questions the audience might have. This means taking advantage of visual and conversation cues. “You are using a visual medium with an auditory voice,” says Armenente. “If you are not doing a good job using these to engage attendees, you are going to lose them quickly, probably in the first five minutes.” 
 
3. Hit the content ‘sweet spot’
Content must be presented in such a way that the audience can consume it within a short time frame. The “sweet spot” of effective webinars is 20-30 minutes, says Armenante; beyond this, attendees may shift their attention to other priorities. 
 
Reuters Events Pharma’s survey on the impact of the pandemic on pharma supports this: 81.7% of respondents said they attend virtual events that are short like webinars.  
 
4. Find a digital speaker that shines
“You have to make sure that whoever is giving the webinar is familiar with, and practiced in, giving digital presentations,” says Armenante. He adds that public speakers who shine when giving a presentation in front of a live audience do not automatically perform well in a virtual set-up. Considering the diminishing attention span of virtual audience members, a webinar speaker must be familiar with the webinar medium to be able to establish a good pace without losing touch of the visual presentation. “Having moderators to spark discussions in the chat is also welcome,” adds Alleg.
 
5. Anticipate the technological limitations of the audience
Pharma marketers must temper their expectations when it comes to the digital devices and connection methods of audience members. According to Armenante, “You might put together a visually amazing presentation, but issues come up when the viewers are in a rural setting.” The stability of Internet connections and possible limitations to bandwidth are essential considerations. 
 
Equally, the devices that viewers use to log into the webinar must be considered. Depending on the device they use, whether it’s a desktop or a mobile phone, login steps should be adequately explained to attendees – and these steps should be easy, otherwise attendees will get frustrated and give up trying to connect.
 
According to Alleg, “Having teams that are able to provide customer support or handle technical issues with panelists is vital.” Companies must also make sure the technologies of internal team members work. “You could have a key member who can’t connect, so whatever value they were going to bring, you’ve already lost,” says Armenante.
 
6. Make sure your people know their role 
The increased use of webinars has implications on training internal teams on how to use these tools effectively. According to Armenante, a webinar is like orchestrating any other event; everybody should know their place so the event runs smoothly. Putting capable people in place has a direct effect on the customer experience. 
 
The future of webinars
The signs are that webinar adoption is expected to continue post-pandemic. Webinar service providers have already noted that many of their users have shifted from monthly to annual subscriptions.  
 
But there’s a danger here for those conducting webinars, who will need to stand out from the white noise of other invitations. There are signs that healthcare professionals are already suffering ‘webinar fatigue,’ says Alleg. 
 
To stand out, companies must give customers a better webinar experience. For Alleg, webinar content must aspire beyond the ‘me-too’. Strong storytelling skills are vital. “What should be avoided is simply wanting to check a box to say ‘we have done webinars’,” Alleg urges.
 
According to Armenante, interactive features may characterize the future of effective webinars and the digital experience of children is a source of inspiration worth exploring. “Kids are usually ahead of the curve when it comes to knowing the latest trends in digital activities,” he says. 
 
For example, when sending out invites to an upcoming webinar, Armenante suggests showing a 30-second blurb of a previous webinar to help whet the appetite of potential viewers. “Or if you are going to talk about a new molecule, allow attendees to virtually manipulate a visual model of the molecule,” he adds. 
 
A new customer engagement model
As the competition in customer engagement heats up, marketers need to think about the bigger role webinars could play in pharma’s commercial strategy. Indeed, Alleg anticipates that a new model of customer experience will emerge as a result of webinars, one where events become hybrid. 
 
“These are events that are not just concentrated into a day or two but create an experience that could start online, climax into a physical meeting with healthcare professionals, and continue online afterwards,” he says. 
 
As more people grow accustomed to virtual meetings, webinars will continue to be a crucial piece of the customer engagement puzzle in a post-pandemic world – therefore, pharma must consider them a key marketing resource that is included in long-term strategies for success. 

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Pharma Marketing Europe Virtual

Oct 13, 2020 - Oct 14, 2020, Digital Conference, Networking & Exhibition

This is the benchmarking event in Europe for trailblazers in commercial strategy. Compare your own efforts against the best in the industry and discover how you can reach new levels of customer engagement.