Physicians are increasingly open to new channels of information but have not cut off the proven traditional ones. In this “hybrid” era, we therefore need to find ways to flexibly reach them through a mix of traditional face-to-face routes and digital channels, integrating the content to create a seamless experience for the physician, irrespective of the touchpoint.
This leads to an abundance of questions and challenges: What is the scope of developing a communication strategy which provides a smooth plan of content to the customer? How do we provide customers the required information, without them needing to ask? What is the best combination of channels? How do we provide the best experience across the channels available, that ensures a high quality of engagement / interaction?
It’s critical that outreach focuses on getting the right content to the right customer, via the right channel, at the right time. To be effective, the focus should be on:
Enter, omnichannel marketing.
Omnichannel vs multichannel
Marketeers often mistake multichannel marketing for omnichannel marketing. A multichannel approach is unavoidable, because messages have to be visible where physicians access information, and the post-pandemic shift is for those places to be increasingly online. We compete to be heard in these spaces.
A multichannel approach can include face-to-face contact, calls, texts and other digital means such as emails and webinars. However, posting information on digital channels is not in itself a strategy. Instead, an omnichannel marketing strategy is the pure focus on creating a seamless experience for the customer. It is a communications strategy that revolves around customer and patient needs and integrates them into relevant touchpoints for a consistent experience.
In order to understand the channels for the digital arm of an omnichannel strategy, it is crucial to identify both the platforms that are receiving significant traffic in the sector, and the credibility of the platform as a source of information in the eyes of the customer.
Pharma does not have the benefit of a consolidated online platform with significant traffic like those that exist for consumers: e.g. Amazon or Shopee. Such a platform would be time-consuming and expensive to build, like the consumer platforms which have taken a long time to reach their current dominance. We therefore need to have courage to take it slowly and experiment at a regional and local level, looking to find the best channels in the specific market.
It is critical to remember that the channel is just the vehicle to deliver the content, and that the content should be consistent across the channels. It is also essential to experiment with the right marketing mix because there currently isn’t a perfect example of what omnichannel “success” looks like in the pharma world.
The key elements to create an effective omnichannel strategy revolve around clear thinking about the customer’s needs and that the provision of data is:
Convenient – Easy to access, self-guided with on-demand options
Credible – Evidence based and unbiased information
Relevant – Messages delivered in emails, printed materials and webinars for example, must be consistent with what a company is delivering in direct meetings with customers. The communication must also be compelling and valuable
Personalized – Content must address needs and placed on correct channels to reach target audience
Socialising the strategy
An omnichannel strategy that has not been fully socialised internally risks failure, as it needs a cohesive working environment which allows success to be attributed appropriately. The key to success is to develop a joint strategy for which all stakeholders in the organisation are accountable, including:
Senior management: Must understand and buy-in to the strategy, so that funds are available for the creation of content. However, some caution should be exercised so to avoid a knee-jerk development of webinars without an overarching strategy.
Reps and MSLs: Remain a critical and deeply valuable channel of communication and understanding. They must not feel that their role is threatened by content being made available on other channels. They need to be encouraged to see that an omnichannel strategy benefits them and that they can have more high-quality interactions by swapping travel time for digital and mobile channels.
Marketing and business intelligence: Must understand that information needs before, during and after COVID are the same, but that physicians are open to new routes of information and the content they find must be relevant and consistent.
Content creation team: Marketing sets the direction, the strategy, and the content creation team collaborates with other functions and creates the appropriate content. To fully socialise an omnichannel strategy, it is important to invest in a dedicated content creation team, to ensure the right content (messaging and assets) are created and used across the right channels.
With this process, a fair amount of investment is needed, and it is critical to check the direction, right content and channels before dissemination.
Testing the strategy
There is a need to continually evaluate elements of the strategy, be it content or tactics, to further refine various elements and adjust it accordingly. One of the ways we can do this is through market research.
Primary market research (PMR) can help establish the right content, to understand which channels are used, how much they are used, what’s relevant and what’s credible. Not only can it help to measure the number of views, calls, interactions but it also helps to assess the quality of those interactions. Furthermore, PMR can help understand online behaviour by segmenting customers based on technographic profiles. Message testing can evaluate how a company's marketing language around a specific product, solution, or brand resonates with customers.
Market research can also help companies work out the correct use of keyword searches, to ensure the correct language/keywords are being used both in content and in meta descriptions, to direct the end user to the relevant search results.
Sales and sales force efficiency
The ultimate way to measure success is easy: Sales! However, we recommend not only tracking through sales as multiple factors contribute to incremental gains, and the influence of the omnichannel strategy is hard to identify without the ability to track content interactions through to a confirmed sale.
The other measure is sales force efficiency. With omnichannel, a rep might be able to reach out to 20 or more customers in a day. If they are not face-to-face all the time, they could also cover more products, making use of video conferencing and also instant messaging. Furthermore, due to not needing to travel as much, more time and quality can be put into each interaction.
In addition, omnichannel may also allow you to better control the technical aspects of the content, as reps can use digital content to help answer questions (and the better the reps are on the technical aspects, the stronger the interaction). It can also help in quality control if you work through distributors.
Improving sales force efficiency has other benefits for the business, especially where there are limited blockbuster products in the pipelines. Implementing a seamless omnichannel strategy doesn’t just mean enhancing the experience for the customer, it can also help the sales force work more efficiently, make strategic use of the different channels available and ultimately increase the chances of having more and higher quality interactions with potential customers.
1. Don’t act immediately. Think about the communication and content needs and experiment with channels.
2. Omnichannel is not a byword for digital, therefore, don’t rush to create webinars or other digital content, and measure its success by the number of views. Instead, make sure that each aspect of the strategy feeds into the next, so going forward ROI can be measured.
3. Track through sales and sale force efficiency, with the goal of greater efficiency leading to a better profit margin without reducing headcount.
4. Remember throughout that content is king. It’s about putting the right messages in the right place, so that physicians can easily find and absorb it.
If you want to find out more about omnichannel marketing, or examples of research we have conducted in this space, contact us today.