Alternative Media: The Site That Could

How VaccineShoppe integrated sales, marketing, and technology.
May 01, 2005

Benjamin White
In the spring of 1999, John Alexander, vice president of North American information solutions at Sanofi Pasteur, surveyed the operating model of his vaccine company. He knew there were opportunities to expand the company's relationship with its physician customers. After all, unlike traditional pharma, doctors are far more than prescribers in the vaccine industry. They are the actual customers who do all of the purchasing, storing, and administering of vaccine biologicals.

Back then, all orders at Sanofi Pasteur were processed through one of five channels—sales force, fax, electronic data interchange, inbound call center or outbound call center. Yet Alexander saw how consumer companies were able to enhance relationships with consumers using e-solutions, and wanted to apply the concept within a pharma environment. He envisioned an e-solution targeted to healthcare professionals that would not only transform the company's order-fulfillment process, but evolve the very nature of the company's relationship with its customers.

Six years later, has become the number-one customer channel for all Sanofi Pasteur sales, processing more than 60 percent of all orders. The Web site offers full ordering capability for all company vaccines, historical account reporting, invoice payment, and order tracking. Its comprehensive resource library, with webinars and useful links, has also helped establish the site as a portal for vaccine-conscious professionals and a one-stop shop for doctors' vaccine-related needs.

Whose Tool Are You?

With more than $1 billion in historical sales and 30,000 registered users, has proven more successful than all other Sanofi Pasteur channels at achieving promotional and sales goals. And yet, the Web site's evolution was marked by several significant challenges.

Continuing Education
Fluidity From the start, the portal's promise was jeopardized by confusion over its core objective. The site traversed the traditional functional boundaries of marketing, sales, and information solutions (IS). From both ownership and accountability perspectives, the traditional pharma organizational structure seemed too rigid to foster the site's ambition.

Sales and marketing buy-in In its first year, was led and owned by the IS division. Although technically sound, sales and marketing functions paid little attention to the site—causing customer penetration and revenue generation to fall below initial expectations.

Leadership In its second year, the initiative was moved to the customer services unit, which was part of the sales function. It was led by Grace D'Amico, executive director of customer services, who had a record of championing technology to transform business. Guided by senior management commitment and a reaffirmation to the entire sales and marketing organization, D'Amico forged a vision of the site.

Cross-functional support D'Amico divided site leadership between a customer services project leader who focused on channel optimization, and a product manager with a product marketing skill set focused on site promotion and message delivery. These two team members share daily responsibility and personal objectives for the site's operation, and a collaborative cross-functional team of marketing, sales, and IS now bypasses the wires and boxes of the company's organization chart.

"People talk of matrixes," D'Amico notes, "but it's really a web of connections throughout the organization."

The site's cross-functional support reflects the hybrid objective of the initiative as both sales and marketing tool.

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