|Ritesh Patel and Kristie Kuhl co-authored this article.|
It’s a well-known fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many industries to re-evaluate how they market, sell and engage with their customers and other stakeholders. We’ve seen words like “contactless” become a brand attribute and “curbside pickup” a norm. Customers have begun to accept and expect a hybrid model of digital and analog (safely) engagement for products and services. We live on our mobiles. We buy more from ads on social media and expect things to be delivered to us at the press of a button.
The healthcare industry hasn’t been immune to this new world. Between March and June 2020, we began to see lockdowns. Clinical trials came to a grinding halt as people weren’t able to visit the investigator sites. Hospitals, suffering under the weight of the influx of COVID patients, began to lock down the buildings. Meetings and events were cancelled. All the things the pharmaceutical industry relied on were being shut down and locked down.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '21 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine
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This accelerated the use of digital tools and also the focus on Omnichannel, with almost the entire pharma and biotech industry adopting “Veeva Rep Triggered Emails” as the new communications and sales tool. Then came Zoom/Teams calls, virtual meetings, use of video and investment in digital advertising (mainly banners).
Fast forward to 2021, the pharma industry is coming to terms with this new world and the words “Omnichannel strategy/Roadmap/Capability” are permeating throughout. So, what should we do?
We should focus on a number of things for this new world:
Experience: Defining and designing an optimal customer experience.
Data: Collecting and using data to inform our activities.
Content: Creating relevant, contextual and engaging content.
Channels: Engagement in the right platform or channel, at the right time.
Technology: Tools for managing omnichannel engagement.
Gone are the days of a basic healthcare provider persona with prescribing behavior. Today, marketing and sales should truly understand their HCP customers—and their behavior—in order to create HCP profiles, using data that will enable an understanding of the day in the life of a customer, their workflow, their channel preferences, their referral behavior, their brand sentiment, their specialty and their prescription habits at an individual level. Once we have a true understanding of the day in the life of our customers, we can design experiences that fit into their workflow and meet their needs, as opposed to interrupting them. This experience design model will give pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to derive value; however, to realize it, they will have to build advanced digital experience capabilities similar to those deployed by leading retailers, airlines, telecom companies and consumer goods companies.
Digital technologies have opened up a new world for the pharmaceutical marketer. Sales reps, medical-science liaisons and patient-service teams can inform and influence patients, physicians and caregivers, either in person or via mobile devices, using apps or on social media. With the advent of the EHR, healthcare consumers are already starting to use patient portals for their medical records and to communicate with their physicians; and they use apps to fill scripts prescriptions and online patient communities to speak to with other patients with the same disease.
An example of an integrated approach to using data for marketing is none other than Google. Google tracks your search habits (Google), video viewing habits (YouTube), Email messages (Gmail), Internet browsing (Chrome), mobile activity (Android), storage of content (Google Drive) and seamlessly and dynamically uses that data to generate art and copy that feels completely personalized.
This kind of approach, applied in the pharmaceutical industry, should enable the industry to get back to the days of HCP relationship management, where the company knew a lot about their customers for a brand or a franchise, and long before the industry got hooked on the “drug” known as an iPad e-detail.
But before this promise of digital marketing can be achieved, the pharma company must create a strategy for collecting and storing the right type of marketing data. That begins with deciding which type of data to collect and how to store this data in the most efficient and accessible way. The focus should be on creating something that will enable a universal HCP profile by brand, by the franchise or for the enterprise.
Crucial to the experience is creating content that’s relevant, contextual and consumable/usable. It’s amazing that in 2021, pharma companies are creating 32-page PDFs for HCPs to review on their mobile devices. Once you’ve defined the persona and journey, mapping content types and creating content that is relevant for that moment in the journey is crucial. Snackable and sharable content, visual content that educates and informs, and video are increasingly prevalent in our personal lives. Our brains have been rewired to view visual content first. Creating the right amount of content, managing the content, storing the content and creating an agile methodology and framework for approval of content in the new hybrid world is crucial. Finally, embracing a model of create once, publish everywhere, across owned, earned and paid channels is something we encourage.
Channels and platforms
There’s been an explosion of new channels and platforms for reaching and interacting with our customers. It’s no longer about broadcasting a message or sending an email with a follow up visit. The personal work should lead to channel preference as one of the major artifacts. Digital is featuring more and more within integrated marketing plans and therefore seamless experiences are emerging, but communicating complex health information across channels, demographics and psychographics is as challenging as ever. While the channels and platforms like WebMD, Medscape and Univadis continue to thrive and social continues to grow, new platforms and capabilities like point of care and account based targeting need to be explored. For example, Tik Tok has done an incredible job of creating Gen Z and Millennial digital KOLs, yet not many pharma companies engage on that platform.
A truly integrated marketing approach requires the right technology to manage the process that will be required to execute the strategy. A robust CRM solution such as Salesforce or Veeva, Nurturing solutions such as Marketo, Email Marketing, a Content Management Solution and integration with a master data management platform for managing customers. The pharma industry is replete with silos of technology from disparate data sets, to point solutions. A modern, connected, integrated, open API based Martech stack is crucial for this to succeed.