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Integrating digital channels into biz plan

Mudit Vijayvergiya
Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

It’s that time of the year again! Business plans for the year are being written. Budgets are being debated. NPS scores are getting analyzed. Channel landscape is being revised?

This year, go ahead and challenge the idea that pharma marketing is dull and boring. Get away from the perception that heavy regulations in the industry are keeping you from exciting marketing plans. It’s not true any more. And while you are designing a multichannel marketing strategy, remember that just adding email capabilities into your plans would not magically make it a digital marketing strategy. The key is to coordinate and blend your online and offline interactions - these interactions can be sales call, email, webinar, online advertisement and much more. If you coordinate with them well, multi-channel marketing can help re-define your relationship with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and inject new life into it. Here is how you can incorporate multichannel marketing into your business plans the right way.

Start with customer
Traditionally, pharma has relied on its sales force as the main channel of communication with HCPs and used CMEs/conferences to augment and disseminate key scientific info to doctors. Customers segmented based on value and communication are designed around the product, clinical data and other key marketing propositions. The smart brand manager today is taking advantage of digital technologies to increase efficiency of their sales models.

So far, communication was restricted to sales force and CMEs/ conferences. While these channels will continue to play a key role, integrating online channels will help to deliver more value to customers. Take a step back from current model, and understand what info customer wants and how do they want it to be delivered to them. Technology today allows customers to demand, seek specific info from you and can deliver the same in a cost effective way via online channels.

For example, customers can sign up for weekly email newsletters on the updates in a particular therapy area and can create online repository of videos, KOL interviews and other scientific content. Insights from these channels can be used to arm your sales force with more relevant info to discuss in call. Understanding the interest of customers, creating online content for them to seek and access at their preferred time will be the first step towards integrating digital channels into your customer plan.

Your online content will allow to create a new mapping of customers – those that prefer journals to videos, those that prefer summarized newsletters over webinars, those that prefer rare case discussion and expertise over generic therapy related content and many more. This new customer mapping will then allow you to design a communication plan with online and offline channels that can add more value to customers and increase your brand’s value.

Define right channel strategy
Once you understand customers preferences for channels and information, the defining the right channel strategy for the product will be next step. For different product stages, there are different channel strategies that would fit better. It is important that to define the right strategy based on needs of brand/product. Product in primary care for example, may use a broad range of channels to reach mass market audience. For speciality and niche products on the other hand, a narrow approach may fit better. The objective that you are trying to achieve for product will also play a huge role in defining channel strategy.  A product that has been in market for more than a decade may use a channel strategy that focuses on recall and re-establishing its value. A new product will use a channel strategy that allows for detailed dissemination of clinical data, product characteristics etc. A point to remember here would be that your channels can be the same, you can use webinars for any product at any stage. Webinars for a late stage product may have case based discussions and an early stage product may have webinars that may focus solely on clinical trial data and molecule mechanisms. The design of channel strategy will define how you use a channel to fulfill objective for the brand.

Decide components of multichannel campaign
Once you have the customer needs and the product needs identified, you can now select the right channel mix that will help you effectively achieve both your customer goals and your product goals. Offline channels: Sales calls, Meetings, Print materials, Samples, etc. Online channels: e-Detailing, mobile apps, websites, email, social media, etc.

Success with multichannel marketing depends on clarity with respect to the channels - when, where and how to use them. Ensure that you pilot and test new channels before roll out. Your insights from these pilots will allow you to understand how online channels can be leveraged to augment sales force efforts and improve overall customer engagement and satisfaction.

Target customer segment
Tier-2 customers with high potential and low awareness. Average frequency of sales rep visit - 2 per month. Week 1: Sales rep visit – sales rep visits the doctor to detail the product. Week 2: Social media campaign – design a social media post with scientific facts about the product. Week 3: Newsletter – a newsletter with clinical trial data relevant to the social media post in the previous week is sent to specific doctors that clicked on the post. Week 4: Invitation - sales rep invites doctor to a local (offline) CME. At the end of the CME, doctors are requested to answer a simple survey on a mobile app. Week 5: Email – based on the survey results, an email is sent to doctors with key takeaways from the event and a link to the brand website. Continue with different touch points till week 12. At the end of 12 weeks, generate a detailed report on the engagement levels for all the touch points and design the next 12-week plan based on these insights.

Train team and monitor outcomes
Success for online campaigns can be defined through click rates, amount of time spent by customers on the touch point and overall reach of the campaign. When you integrate online and offline channels, customer feedback and cost effectiveness are important as well. Success also depends on whether you are using the right content for the right channel. You can define your success metrics for different campaigns based on the objective of the campaign.

For awareness about product/brand, can measure success by number of views. For redirection to a mobile app or website, can measure by number of clicks. For measuring the popularity of brand, can measure it in follows (how many customers/users are following your account).

Finally, ensure that the team has got the right skill to design and implement a multichannel marketing strategy. Allowing consumers to engage with brand at their convenience is more relevant than ever today. It is important that there is proper training for brand team to acquire new digital skills to deliver the aforementioned convenience to the customer. Only then can we truly move multichannel marketing in pharma from a concept to reality.

Final step
Before presenting business plan to management for approval, make sure calculation of return on investment from multichannel marketing campaign. To your leadership, present a calendar of events with a mix of both offline and online channels. Describe how insights from your online campaigns can make your offline campaigns more valuable. Discuss any trainings necessary for your team to take advantage of multichannel marketing. Demonstrate how an online campaign in today’s world will get you more engagement in comparison to a ‘leave-behind-leaflet’.

It is not always necessary to ask for more budget from your CFO to add digital channels into your current campaign. You can re-assign resources from your current marketing channels – for example, reduce the number of LBLs and use that budget to increase your presence online. Divert some of your funds from CMEs and assign them to webinars. Again, remember that we are not moving away from the traditional marketing channels – just augmenting them with digital channels. Demonstrate to your management how the new multichannel marketing is going to yield results in a more cost-effective manner. Once you do that, approving your business plan should be a no-brainer to your CEO/CFO.

(Author is co-founder and director of Curofy)


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