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Upgrading Omnichannel Coordination to Improve Customer Centricity


“The customer is always right” is a retail industry axiom, but one pharma companies need to keep top-of-mind in an environment where every consumer not only seeks, but expects, personalized interactions. There has always been a diversity of preferences in the marketplace. But, with the advent of hyper-personalized marketing, individuals expect companies to engage them with tailored and relevant communications. This emphasis on personalization presents pharma companies with both challenges and opportunities related to their promotional efforts. Let’s start with the challenges related to four recent shifts in the industry.

David Laros, Beghou Consulting

David Laros, Beghou Consulting

  1. Changes in patient-HCP relationships: Many patient-HCP interactions have moved to virtual settings, which has several implications for treatment. For one, it puts nurse practitioners and physician assistants and other non-MD HCPs on the front lines of more interactions. Additionally, fewer face-to-face HCP-patient interactions can result in less switching and add-ons to therapy. And, when patients have fewer in-person interactions with physicians, adherence challenges can increase.
  2. Shifts in the nature of rep-HCP interactions: Securing in-person meetings with HCPs continues to be challenging for even the most enterprising reps. As a result, the mix of channels through which HCPs receive information from pharma companies has expanded. HCPs receive information through a wide variety of touchpoints – in-office visits, virtual meetings, text messages, emails, banner ads, destination sites, and more. Additionally, HCPs are increasingly seeking out these disparate forms of communication from pharma companies.
  3. Fragmentation of the commercial data landscape: Related to the expansion of rep-HCP touchpoints, there’s more data available from these various interactions, and this data is fragmented (across technology platforms, for example). This data also arrives via a mix of sources, including various data collectors and aggregators, and in different formats. Further, data is often siloed across pharma commercial organizations. These dynamics puts pressure on companies’ data management and analytics processes.
  4. New digital innovation and products: As touchpoints between reps and HCPs have proliferated, the growth in digital vendors and offerings has continued apace. Pharma companies must therefore navigate an increasingly crowded ecosystem of digital promotion tools and companies. They must also properly vet how well these tools integrate with existing technology and data management processes and support the appropriate scoping of promotional tactics and channels. Proper scoping enables a company to scale its omnichannel program and drive sales and marketing ROI.

All these trends have resulted in a significant shift in HCPs’ promotional and educational expectations and preferences. Now that they’ve been on the receiving end of the full gamut of marketing outreach across channels, many are becoming more selective about the content they receive and when and where they receive it. Today, HCPs increasingly expect to receive information from pharma companies they want when they want it and through the channels they prefer.

Unfortunately, what pharma companies deliver to HCPs doesn’t always align with what HCPs want to receive from pharma companies. For example, a pharma company may share product information when HCPs want to receive educational information. And, of course, no two HCPs are alike. While Dr. Smith may prefer short, consumable infographics packed with efficacy data, Dr. Stephens may care most about cost and coverage information. And Dr. James may prefer to review scientific papers. So, pharma companies must customize their outreach to meet HCPs’ desires and expectations. They must also make these interactions dynamic and responsive to HCPs’ shifting needs.

Here’s where the opportunity lies. By adopting a more customer-centric approach to promotion – fueled by a wholehearted embrace of omnichannel marketing – pharma companies can deliver tailored and relevant content to HCPs and improve the customer experience.

Uncover, then apply insights

Omnichannel marketing involves sending a strategically crafted and continuous flow of messages to customers (in this case, HCPs) through the channels they prefer. Properly executed, omnichannel marketing produces harmonious customer engagement that benefits the HCP, the patient, and the pharma company. It’s important to note that omnichannel marketing is not multichannel marketing, which is an often-disjointed collection of marketing tactics and channels. Instead, with omnichannel marketing, the company puts itself in the customer’s shoes, seeking to create a seamless, integrated and ongoing interaction across many channels. And this ongoing interaction must be fluid and responsive to the customer’s evolving preferences.

To execute an effective omnichannel marketing effort aimed at HCPs, a pharma company must first collect the right mix of data, then deploy advanced analytics techniques to uncover insights from that data. A robust and accessible technology infrastructure is key to helping stakeholders across the organization access insights. But the company won’t make real progress on improving engagement with its customers unless it activates an organization-wide campaign to apply those insights to the company’s commercial efforts.

Here are four keys to improving the effectiveness of pharma omnichannel promotion efforts.

1. Widen the data net

A comprehensive understanding of the HCP is crucial to the success of any omnichannel marketing program. To achieve this understanding, companies must collect, process, organize and analyze a variety of data to capture the full reality of an HCP’s situation (prescribing habits, patient portfolio, business challenges, etc.). Companies should include a mix of internal data, syndicated data, analytically derived data and managed market data in their analyses. It’s also important to incorporate rep knowledge. After all, reps are on the promotional front lines and often have insights about HCPs that even the most sophisticated analytics can’t uncover.

Study both what physicians are doing (via formulary data, claims data, lab data, affiliations data, etc.) and what the company is doing (via promotional response analyses, content affinity analyses, etc.). Then, bring these data streams together to better understand HCPs’ business and prescribing environments, patient pools, and promotional preferences. Understanding the strengths and limitations of each data set and leveraging a coordinated approach will increase the overall value a company gains from its data.

2. Measure more frequently

Successful omnichannel marketing programs are responsive to evolving market conditions and HCP preferences. To facilitate this dynamic response to the changes taking place across the industry, pharma companies must measure frequently to understand which aspects of their omnichannel marketing efforts are working and which are not.

The key here is frequent measurement fueled by activating easily repeatable advanced analytics processes. By continually measuring and analyzing data from omnichannel marketing efforts, companies will be able to put in place and execute more agile and dynamic commercial operations efforts and ensure they meet HCPs where they are with the content they want to receive.

3. Elevate the omnichannel rep

The shift toward omnichannel marketing will fundamentally change the role of the sales rep. A rep historically charged with meeting with HCPs, inviting HCPs to speaker programs, and triggering emails to HCPs will need to take on new responsibilities in an omnichannel marketing effort. The sales rep is a central player in an omnichannel effort, playing the role of manager and orchestrator of an HCP’s relationship with the pharma company.

In an omnichannel world, the rep orchestrates “push” engagements with HCPs (e.g., outbound communications) and manages “pull” engagements with HCPs (e.g., inquiries from HCPs about a product). Historically, a company’s marketing team managed these efforts. In an omnichannel marketing program, though, the rep plays a crucial role in enabling digital engagement with HCPs, given their proximity to HCPs and knowledge of their unique needs. Pharma commercial leaders must equip reps with the customer insights and technology tools they need to succeed in this expanded role.

4. Coordinate omnichannel efforts

In nearly every discussion about data management and advanced analytics, “breaking down silos” comes up. So, it may sound trite at this point. But it is essential to the success of an omnichannel marketing effort. Given the dynamic nature of omnichannel marketing, where there is constant interplay between channels and messages, with frequent shifts taking place, it is essential that commercial leaders align internal teams and work to create a collaborative environment. Pharma companies must do away with siloed planning, execution, and analysis across sales, marketing, and digital teams.

In our experience, a company should consider putting in place a commercial and digital generalist to quarterback the omnichannel marketing effort. This individual can play a key role in bringing commercial teams together.

More coordination and collaboration across commercial teams will enable more agile planning and execution in response to real-time customer insights. After all, customers’ marketing appetites aren’t static. Therefore, a pharma company’s omnichannel efforts shouldn’t be either.

Embrace the omnichannel journey

A commitment to omnichannel marketing is necessary in today’s commercial environment and will help companies improve commercial effectiveness by enabling rapid insights, agile refinements to marketing efforts, and a more predictive approach to promotion. This commitment will also facilitate more selective (and efficient and effective) promotion. For example, instead of promoting to an entire target audience, a company can prioritize the segments of the audience that have the highest propensity to engage with promotion.

Perhaps most importantly, though, a commitment to omnichannel marketing is a commitment to serving the customer. Through omnichannel marketing, pharma companies can address the needs of HCPs and equip them to better serve their patients.

Achieving omnichannel sophistication is a journey for pharma companies that they must continually work to refine. To succeed in a fast-changing commercial environment, embrace this journey.

David Laros is vice president of digital strategy, analytics and insights at Beghou Consulting.

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