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Towards a Multichannel Marketing Culture


The biggest challenge to becoming a multi-channel marketing organization is not a company's technology, it’s the culture, write Melissa Dimitri, Larry Smith, Laurel Fitts, and Mark Trybulski.

  People are still getting sick the way they always have – what has changed is the expectation of nearly every patient consumer out there. Consumers in today’s world have gotten used to seamless customer experiences – from mobile-first business models for banking, to instant comparison shopping on Amazon, to augmented reality apps for processing auto insurance claims. Consumer expectations have shifted in line with the digital evolution around them – and they have developed an intrinsic need for their experiences to be meaningful, customized, and relevant. From targeted ads in social media channels to optimized suggestions on search engines, there is an expectation that brands and companies will cater to their individualized needs, understanding intrinsically their deepest needs and desires, and will be quick to mute those marketing messages that don’t resonate with their personal preferences.   When the consumer becomes the patient, the expectation that targeted information is available at their fingertips doesn’t change. And patients are wielding more discretion than ever before due to the proliferation of high-deductible health plans, expanded access to drug alternatives, and an unprecedented amount of information available to them. This environment can make it difficult to find trusted sources, which creates a unique opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to step in and provide guidance. Even so, 81% of patients are unaware that pharmaceutical companies have services that could help them with their health decisions.    The call to action is for pharmaceutical companies to become a more trusted partner to the patient. By pairing anonymized patient records and data with segment-based touchpoint analysis, pharma companies can walk alongside the patient on their journey, providing tailored support and guidance. Further, by taking a patient-centric viewpoint and digging into the patient experience journey, pharmas can seek out those precious “moments of truth” when a positive touchpoint can make all the difference. Understanding this journey can also generate opportunities to create relevant messages and help marketers better leverage multi-channel pathways along the patient’s journey, making the marketing content feel “organic” and unobtrusive.    As part of becoming that trusted partner, pharma companies will need to make the oftentimes challenging shift from traditional to multichannel marketing. Many organizations attempt this shift unsuccessfully because they underestimate the amount of adjustment required.  It’s not enough to simply make a declaration to “go digital.” Legacy technology systems and digital infrastructure require updates to adapt to higher volumes of complex data. Marketing teams need to change how they approach campaign planning, revisit staffing models, and evolve vendor partnerships. Internal teams tasked with standing up digital capabilities need to execute in lockstep with the marketing teams to ensure that strategic plans and tactics align. This means thinking differently in not only how to reach audiences, but requires a fundamental shift in how the marketing team thinks and operates.    So, what can your organization do to shift effectively and apply a multichannel marketing strategy?   

Start with mindset and behaviors

Harnessing the power of multichannel marketing to create a differentiated patient experience requires improving key marketing value streams and navigating operational challenges. This starts with people – the patient, and employees – because successful strategies are executed by people, for people.                                               

1.   Build a marketing strategy through a lens of patient-centricity

It’s not “all about the brand.” Starting with brand features and benefits prior to gathering true learnings about the customer creates a lack of cohesion between the brand and the patient experience and limits a company’s ability to create memorable patient touchpoints and decisive moments. Leveraging patient insights requires an outside-in approach to patient engagement, adopting a “pull” vs. “push” strategy when crafting brand messaging and leveraging specific channels. This approach can help marketers pivot to truly impactful multichannel marketing, tailored to patients’ specific needs and preferences.  

When implementing customer-centric marketing strategies in the health care product industry, we frequently use “Voice of the Customer” feedback mechanisms to ensure marketing is responsive to the customer’s unique needs, incorporates feedback on their experience, and responds to late-breaking industry trends. This analysis also provides helpful data points used to segment and target messaging toward specific patient personas. And yet this patient-centric data is of limited use unless the marketing department has the willingness and capabilities to adapt to evolving patient preferences and points of feedback. True agility is both a mindset and a discipline.  

2.   Optimize organizational structure and design processes to enable agility

To ensure there is consistency and relevance across the patient journey from awareness to advocacy, campaigns must be planned holistically and structured to iterate. But many marketing teams have not been structured or trained to work in this way. Hierarchical reporting structures and rigid, waterfall processes tend to lead to fixed content objectives and sluggish speed-to-market. To realize the benefit of live optimized content, marketers and extended teams must be equipped with tools and processes for collaboration, hypothesis-based testing, and empowered to execute with agility.  Many companies within the technology and banking sectors in particular have applied organizational structures and processes based on agile and scrum principles to enable the marketing organization to maintain a relentless focus on customer value while operating dynamically in a rapid, iterative fashion.

One global insurance company implemented agile marketing by building “resource pods” that included marketing channel experts, business and product leaders, customer service representatives, and outside agencies to ensure marketing could generate rapid response to customer feedback and improvement opportunities. We see this as a leading practice in introducing agile ways of working into traditionally waterfall operating models. 

3.   Leverage multi-channel data to maximize patient value

For marketers to optimize multichannel content effectively, they need to navigate data complexity. In a world where most consumers use multiple devices, customer journeys are fragmented and customer identities span various channels. Many marketing organizations today lack the infrastructure and processes to pull these pieces together and effectively leverage customer data. Some remain reliant on third parties to provide analytics; others struggle to derive insights from large, unstructured, disparate data sets – where unlocking value can become a significant lift. Optimizing multichannel content requires organizations to systematically structure, merge, and analyze multiple data sources quickly to reconstruct consistent and complete audience profiles across multiple channels.

The first step for many pharma companies is to develop an understanding of how data is generated – including obtaining a clear-eyed view of the data’s reliability and completeness. Knowing where those gaps are will allow organizations to begin the process of addressing those gaps. Data management platforms can help marketers match customer identities across multiple channels, avoid data “siloes” that may limit information sharing across the organization, and align cross-functional teams with a unified view of the customer. Accordingly, this level of data sophistication requires new and different skillsets across the marketing team. As pharma companies seek to be more data-ready, not only do they need to closely examine their data management capabilities, but they need to explore whether they have the right people and skillsets in their marketing organizations to help them translate that data into true customer insights. 

4.   Align and enroll the organization 

To achieve truly patient-centric multichannel marketing success, organizations must not only modernize their marketing approach, skills, and technology capabilities, but they must also shift their organizational structures, behaviors, and cultural mindset to ensure lasting change.

This may sound a lot easier than it actually is. Changing hearts, minds, behaviors, and ways of working is something that can only be achieved over time and with consistency. First, the case must be made for why the marketing organization needs to evolve. Adopting a patient-centric mindset and embracing agility must be positioned in a way that connects the roles of individual employees to the success of the mission of the organization and its patients. Employees need to understand their role in the cultural change, and why they should embrace it. People will also need clarity on how moving to modern multichannel marketing affects them individually to avoid the angst and fear associated with the unknown. Helping each team think through how their structures, processes, and roles will flex will help them visualize their role in the future state marketing organization. But perhaps the most important step in making this cultural pivot is emphasizing the need to learn and adapt. Creating space for adjustment and even failure can be quite a sea change for many organizations. Yet the only way to truly adapt to new ways of working is to pilot, learn, and adjust as needed.  We frequently work with organizations to help them navigate the sometimes treacherous cultural waters of moving to agile ways of working; having an outside, neutral party to help guide you on the journey can help soften the transition.  

Call to action 

Successful multichannel marketing lives at the intersection of strategy, data integration, and a patient-centric mindset.  Integrating new ways of working that focus on the patient and applying a test-and-learn approach to agile multichannel marketing allows for growth and the ability to pivot as technology and patient preferences continue to evolve. Making this culture shift, however, is not always easy.  


Melissa Dimitri, is Culture & Behavior Strategy Practice Lead; Larry Smith is Growth & Transformation Strategy Director; Laurel Fitts is Growth & Transformation Strategy Manager; and Mark Trybulski is Growth & Transformation Strategy Senior Associate, all at Grant Thornton Advisory.



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