In these days of unprecedented and all-pervasive disruptions – almost in every facet of life – caused by an unknown virus, scramble to find an effective solution for saving lives and livelihoods, still continue. The discomfiture seems to be omnipresent across the healthcare space.
On its upside, pharma witnessed an unparalleled surge in various collaborative activities both in the search for a cure and also in preventing the infection. The downside is, conclusive scientific evidences are still not available for these drugs – except one that was unraveled just on June 16, 2020. On the contrary, after granting emergency authorization on March 30,2020, for use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in Covid-19 infection, the US-FDA on its own, revoked it on June 15, 2020 for lack of conclusive evidence.
Amid initiatives of saving lives, pharma industry – besides trying to be a part of saving livelihoods – alongside others, is also gearing up to restart its demand generation activities, and move ahead, as the looming crisis continues, unabated.
From the pharma industry perspective, this new beginning, as it were, in a scenario that was never envisaged in the past, would require two most critical ingredients, amongst several others, more than ever before. It is another major transformation, where pharma leadership would require encouraging:
- A change in mindset with a fresh pair of eyes to find game-changing opportunities in the new normal.
- Mapping end-to-end customer journey to enhance their experience in the changing business scenario.
This article will focus on the relevance of these two areas, for the drug companies to come out with flying colors, yet again, in a difficult situation.
Evolving changes in the pharma ecosystem:
That the evolving ecosystem is changing the life sciences value chain and creating new opportunities to capture future value by providing end-to-end solutions, was also highlighted in the EY report - “Today for tomorrow: realizing the potential of Life Sciences 4.0.” This was released in February 2020, as Covid-19 started changing the world and the way businesses operate.
To successfully navigate through such fast-changing healthcare landscape, ‘companies need to develop an exponential mindset that leverages technology for business model reinvention and empowering the workforce,’ the report emphasized.
As moving in this direction with agility is critical, drug companies will require a leadership team of a different mindset, who can ferret out path-breaking opportunities amid ‘never before’ problems. Mainly because, the strategy for success will be quite different from the traditional recent practices. Enhancing contemporary and personalized value of product and service offerings to healthcare consumers – with end-to-end solutions, won’t be everybody’s cup of tea in the shifting paradigm.
Let me explain some basic changes in the traditional sales and marketing domain to drive home this point.
Some basic changes in the traditional sales and marketing practices:
Until Covid-19 battle is decisively won by a vast majority in the planet earth, by acquiring either a vaccine-induced or herd-immunity – maintaining social distancing and strict compliance with other health norms will remain in force. Besides, a palpable fear among a large population from getting infected by the Coronavirus, is unlikely to vanish soon. From this angle, many traditional pharma demand generation activities may not be as productive as they used to be, such as:
- Meeting doctors the way one used to in the past for a face to face prescription demand generation activity, will be different. Moreover, per doctor call time may increase significantly – with a commensurate increase in cost, impacting average yield per call.
- All marketing events, requiring the participation of many doctors under one-roof, namely – large symposia, Continuing Medical Education (CME) or even sending doctors by air for educational group-tours or even sponsoring any other medical events, may be challenging now.
- Changing mindset of doctors, triggered during a long national ‘Lockdown’ period to remain updated from different sources in the cyberspace, may continue, prompting lesser interaction with drug company representatives.
There are many other areas, which different companies may consider a great commercial value, would also need to be identified – as the pharma companies restart their prescription demand generation activities. Nonetheless, equally important is to zero-in to alternative strategic approaches, soon.
Zeroing-in to alternative strategic approaches with a new mindset is critical:
There could be several strategic approaches for this area. One such is, mapping the end-to-end customer journey in the changing situation, to enhance their brand experience during this process. As the time is very limited now, being ‘right the first time’, will be crucial for pharma marketers. Otherwise, competition will prevail.
Any game-changing approach at this time, will call for a fresh pair of eyes, having a contemporary mindset. ‘I did it this way before’ approach will not work, as the situation is unprecedented, and there are no footsteps to follow. Thus, I reckon, the organization will require taking the following measures based on a predictive mindset and actionable insight:
- Selecting a right leadership team who can accurately define the changes in each touch-points of a disease treatment process.
- Creating a ground swell of the need for the proposed changes – explaining the benefits of each.
- Prompt mitigation of any resistance that may surface during this process.
- Identifying the loose knots in the process of strategy implantation.
- Choosing the implementation team with right competence, mindset and agility in achieving the set goals, across the business domains.
- Providing continuous training, problem-solving support – ensuring an all-time learning mindset for all in the selected team.
- Initiating an emotional omnichannel engagement to take all stakeholders on board – with aligned messages – for desired outcome.
- Assigning accountability to each one, for achieving agreed results.
The biggest hurdle in the business transformation process:
In tandem, another key point also to be borne in mind. Because, with each passing day, some new finding in Covid-19 disease area – some good news for drug and a vaccine development, or could even be another crisis, may keep unfolding. The team should always remain on course, despite limited resources and other business challenges.
Many will know, the biggest hurdle for any transformation process is culture. Open minds of all concerned will make the process easier. With traditional business practices, it will be complex to navigate through the current situation. Therefore, a change in people’s mindset in the new situation, is a fundamental requirement to restart the pharma industry – in full steam.
The core objective needs to be understood by all:
The core objective during the entire process of such transformation, is to enhance a patient-centric brand experience – throughout its customers’ journey, seeking an end-to-end disease treatment solution. The process would, in turn, require a deep understanding of the emotions, requirements and related preferences of the customers. This is critical to establish a meaningful human connection, virtual or otherwise, with them.
Nevertheless, it will entail data-based and detail mapping the customers’ journey, while seeking an effective treatment solution for the disease that one is suffering from. Accordingly, creating a patient-centric content to build a brand persona, alongside crafty dissemination of the same for the target groups, through omnichannel platforms, will need to be diligently worked out. More important is its execution with military precision, by emotionally connecting the intended stakeholders to deliver a unique brand experience.
Like many other countries, ‘unlock down’ process related to Covid-19 pandemic has already started in India, with varying degree at different places, though, depending on the nature of intensity and spread of the infection. However, the number of Coronavirus infected cases continues to maintain a steep ascending trend. As on June 21, 2020 morning, the recorded Coronavirus cases in the country reached 411,727 with 13,277 deaths.
The unlocking process of critical pharma industry activities has also started rolling. However, the new beginning has to be in sync with the fast-evolving changes in the pharma ecosystem. Many processes and deliverables, including formulation and implementation of an effective strategy for the same, will no longer be a replica of the traditional ones, as it were.
Similarly, to find game-changing opportunities in the pharma sales and marketing space, the marketers will need a change in their current mindset and having a fresh pair of eyes. This will be essential for an unbiased and effective mapping of end-to-end customer journey to enhance their unique brand experience. In tandem, it will help create key brand differentiators with cutting edges, for business excellence in the new normal.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.