Meeting the Multi-Channel Marketing Challenge

March 24, 2016

Pharma is no stranger to multi-channel marketing, but, according to Novartis's Panos Papakonstantinou, the industry still isn't getting it right.Pharma is no stranger to multi-channel marketing (MCM), but, according to Panos Papakonstantinou, Novartis's Head, Digital Commercial, Europe, the industry still needs to perfect its approach to MCM. Pharm Exec met up with Panos at last week's eyeforpharma Barcelona event to find out what needs to be done. 

Pharma is no stranger to multi-channel marketing (MCM), but, according to Panos Papakonstantinou, Novartis's Head, Digital Commercial, Europe, the industry still needs to perfect its approach to MCM. Pharm Exec met up with Panos at last week's eyeforpharma Barcelona event to find out what needs to be done.

 

PE: Why is pharma still trying to get multi-channel marketing right after talking about it for so long?

Panos Papakonstantinou: It may raise some eyebrows and surprise people but the fact is that when we bring multi-channel marketing into a discussion with a view to actually changing the business model, we see that people are conservative in terms of moving ahead as the old model has been working. So I don’t feel there is a burning platform within the pharma industry that is forcing it to re-inventing itself and change its approach.

Other industries such as banking, finance, media, etc, have already gone through this process of change; they had their margins hit and have been pressured by advancing technology and competition. Pharma is not yet feeling that pressure - that’s one of the reasons we’re not seeing the business model changing and why we have pretty much had the same one for the last twenty years, even if the customer is shifting. Change is still is not an absolute priority. We need to ramp things up in the next five years to get ready for it.

But has technology enabled companies to make this marketing shift more convincingly?

The technology is ready, but it has never really been a technology issue. It’s always a cultural issue, and I don’t see how we can really change the model without first understanding what kind of companies we have, what we’re shooting for, and where the technology can help.

Can a sales rep get away in 2016 with saying he or she is not trained in multi-channel marketing?

The answer is clearly no. The rep cannot afford not to be educated about where Twitter is, about where Facebook is, about what is the latest online social resource for physicians and so on. But in big companies you can see sales reps that are all over the spectrum. Some of them make it their business to be up to date with the technology and some of the most interesting ideas do come from sales reps, but many are not there yet.

You talk about empathizing with HCPs. How can companies do this better?

The way that pharma companies interact with customers is specific but it has yet to change convincingly. It is essential to know customers’ needs but also to understand how we can provide tangible value for them as we move toward an outcomes-based reality. This is at the heart of empathizing with customers.

What makes a great multi-channel marketing change management program?

It starts with having someone, a brand manager or someone from the field force, taking the lead and owning multi-channel. They know and operate in the existing business model; they can prioritize and interact with customers. It’s not just about bringing in someone, for example, from the digital commercial space. It’s about engaging people on the ground who will make change management their own project.

So companies need to appoint an “orchestrator” to manage the process?

A company that is more customer-focused needs to have an internal structure with teams that are ready to work with the customer. What we have seen so far is companies with internal structures built around brand-specific areas. In other industries, internal structures are built around not just the size of the customer but also the customer’s interests.

Orchestration of the process is something that I definitely agree with; you need someone to own the customer and be aware of all the ongoing initiatives across the board. That person should be someone who knows a bit of Medical, does a bit of Commercial, understands patients, etc. It can be difficult to find someone who fits this single profile. Having sub-units or small teams owning a specific customer segment is more possible at this stage, at least for bigger pharma companies, rather than having an individual leading across the board. Some of these individual roles are popping up in the digital space, such as customer experience managers, but they need to be further embedded within the business and within the actual structure of a company.

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