This New Engagement Model Garners Significant Rewards For Pharma

Last year, on July 26, 2021, I wrote in this blog on gaining a competitive edge with Omnichannel pharma marketing Omnichannel pharma marketing. However, from several recent studies, it appears, it’s still remains in a nascent stage. Most players in the industry haven’t been able to get there, just yet.

This is evident from a paper, published in the Reuters Events on November 08, 2022. It underscored, ‘But few, perhaps none, can say they have yet mastered omnichannel. A 360-degree view of the customer remains a work in progress. The seamless customer experience that physicians have come to expect in their private lives as customers in retail, finance, or hospitality, remains an aspiration.’

That said, the good news is – today – with rapidly declining Covid-19 onslaught, many drug companies have realized that their earlier assumption of ‘we know what our customers want,’ is invalid in the emerging perspective. Thus, it is foolhardy for their marketing strategy planners to believe that have a 360-degree view of their customers. This realization has prompted several companies to find out, based on the data, what the key customers’ needs are and engage with them accordingly.

In this article, I shall, therefore, reemphasize for the consideration of the young marketers that Omnichannel customer engagement, including patients and doctors, would help fetch significant and sustained financial rewards for drug companies.

However, another visualization of 6 years ago seems to have come true:

About 6 years ago, on December 26, 2016, I visualized in this blog: ‘a majority of the doctors’ choices in India would, possibly, involve MRs, while a good number of other important doctors’ choices may probably be independent of them. Nevertheless, from this emerging trend, it’s clear now that multi-channel engagement would be a new normal in pharma sales and marketing, sooner than later.’

This visualization seems to have come true by a great extent, as vindicated by the above study of the Reuters Events. It confirms, currently, most companies are stuck in multi-channel content delivery and, in fact, are still a long way of enjoying the benefits of truly aligned – Omnichannel engagement. This brings us to the question: ‘What’s the difference between Multi-Channel and Omnichannel content delivery strategy for customer engagement?’

Difference between Multi-Channel and Omnichannel content delivery strategy:

The article published in the Pharmaceutical Executive, on June 30, 2021, indicated: ‘An integrated strategy based on Omnichannel marketing is now increasingly replacing multichannel marketing.’

Nonetheless, in my article of July 26, 2021, I highlighted, although both omnichannel and multichannel engagement will be able to deliver targeted contents to patients through several interactive digital platforms, these two aren’t the same. Omnichannel approach connects these channels, including smartphone-based Apps, specially formatted websites, social media, community, and the likes – bridging technology-communication gaps that may exist in multichannel solutions.

Notably, any change from the fragmented and siloed multichannel approach to Omnichannel marketing would entail simultaneous orchestration of channels across personal, non-personal, and media. Besides orchestration of channels, the message of course, needs to be unified, interrelated – without being repetitive. From this perspective: ‘Bringing the channels and stakeholders together in a truly integrated manner is the pivotal shift required to break through today’s noisy and crowded pharmaceutical marketplace,’ as the above Pharmaceutical Executive article concluded.

More and more people are charting the digital space:

Fast increasing penetration into the cyberspace by a large section of the population, especially in the healthcare space – triggered by Covid related lockdowns, is now all pervasive. An increasing number of people now want to know more and more about various disease states, their treatment and prevention options, in the digital space. Patients and healthcare providers’ key requirements include, where to get the right information from, and how.

Information-needs expanding beyond disease or drug efficacy and safety:

A discussion, arranged by the Fingerpaint Group and published in the Fierce Pharma on November 14, 2022, covered some interesting points in this area. It acknowledged that in the digital space: “You’ve got the efficacy, the safety information, all that.” The discussion then pointed out: “But for a consumer, it’s a different type of journey. It’s, how do I learn more about the disease I’m dealing with? What is it I want to know, not only either for me, or if I’m a caregiver for somebody in my family, even, how do I help support them?”

Thus, it comes out clearly that patients’ or care givers’ quest for information isn’t just about the disease, it’s also about the quality of information that will help the person, as a whole. The drug companies, I reckon, should now accept it as one of their responsibilities. As one of the participants in this discussion said, ‘finding ways to reach everybody in the whole continuum so that they’re educated and informed, so that they can make better decisions for themselves,’ are imperatives for the marketers.

Personal detailing or other personal engagements don’t become irrelevant: 

Omnichannel approach doesn’t make traditional in-person detailing or other personal engagements irrelevant or obsolete. However, those alone, will no longer help a pharma player to achieve performance excellence. The new challenge is how does a company get to the right audience, get the right product to the right patient, or caregivers, amongst this vast ocean of digital noise.

Moreover, the ongoing digital push – beyond several essential personal outreach, will only accelerate in different ways. Omnichannel customer engagement, based on their own terms of engagement, including time, speed, and quality of information, will be the name of the new the game for success.

Many pharma companies aren’t sure where to start, But…

McKinsey & Company in a paper, published on January 05, 2022, also said so. It observed: ‘An analytics-enabled omnichannel commercial model can elevate HCP engagement, but many pharma companies are not sure where to start.’ However, it reiterated: ‘An analytics-enabled omnichannel commercial model can create value; Companies should start now.’

Thus, many pharma marketers may require hand-holding by domain experts, at least, to begin with. However, selection of experts being the key, should go through a structured validation process, including their previous success record in this initiative. As I articulated above, the challenge remains, how does a company use Omnichannel platform to engage the right customers with the right products and associated details, navigating through the noisy cyberspace.

That said, it won’t be unfair to acknowledge that many pharma companies are moving in the right direction.

But many pharma companies are moving in the right direction:

As I mentioned in my article of May 31, 2021: COVID-19 is driving lasting changes in what HCPs need and value,’ found the Accenture Healthcare Provider Survey May 2020, named – ‘Reinventing Relevance.’ Several physicians from the US, Europe and Asia were found to have experienced a significant change taking place in many pharma companies’ communication with them – going much beyond just product information.

Accenture’s follow-up study in August 2020 also reiterated, ‘pharma companies have improved how they engage with healthcare providers during Covid-19.’ It, therefore, appears that the new value expectations of many physicians are being met with a newer value delivery model, significantly deviating from pre-Covid practices.

However, in the above article, I discussed about value delivery through content – not about the channels used.

Conclusion:

The paper by McKinsey & Company, as mentioned above, also indicates another important point. While channels to engage HCPs and other customers are proliferating, the line between online and offline engagement is rapidly blurring. It further adds, managing this imperative has become more and more overwhelming for sales reps. The reason being, they “have traditionally relied on their ‘instincts’ to build relationships with HCPs.

It is now becoming challenging even for many experienced reps to tailor and optimize today’s complex mix of channels, content, and frequency of interactions for individual HCPs, the paper underscores. Which is why, today, transforming the existing commercial model is considered both inevitable and urgent, and:

“Pioneers that have adopted analytics and omnichannel approaches as part of their commercial model have garnered significant rewards.” the paper concluded.

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.

 

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