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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Ten Commandments for using iPads in pharma sales

New shiny things are often overvalued. In all the excitement about iPads, these 10 tips could keep you grounded

When Charlton Heston first patented the electronic tablet in 1888, he couldn't have imagined the success the iPad would enjoy 124 years later. The stats are pretty well known – over 55m units sold worldwide to date, and according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index the iPad is the highest scoring product of any category, ever.

It's understandable then why pharmaceutical companies, like many other businesses, are excited about the iPad. It's seen as a fillip to multiple ailments, such as reducing print costs or minimising down time in doctors' waiting rooms, and particularly as a way of revitalising the interaction between sales rep and HCP.  

In the past two years a number of industry sources have reported pharma companies buying up thousands of iPads. As the Wall Street Journal puts it, an 'arms race' is developing in pharma, as companies strive to get iPads in the hands of their reps and in front of doctors before the competition.

For this reason, here's our list of Ten Commandments for companies thinking about deploying iPads to their salesforce:

1.    Thou shalt not commit iDolatry
New, shiny things are often overvalued because the initial novelty inflates performance (for example, the first ever banner ad in 1994 had a click through rate of 78% per cent, compared to an average today of nearer 0.07 per cent). Although research suggests HCPs prefer iPad detailing, the wow factor will wear off, and the impact will lessen – relying on this might work at first but will yield limited value in the long run. 

2.    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's huge pile of iPads
“Because everyone else is doing it” is not a good reason to dive into iPad implementation. The competitive advantage of getting there first is short lived, and haste risks poor execution – instead concentrate on doing it well.

3.    Remember the business objectives, and keep them holy
Think about what business objectives an iPad initiative will seek to address. Then consider how you will measure whether this is being achieved, and what metrics you can use to do this.

4.    Honour thy user needs
Think as well about what the needs of the users are and how the iPad might meet these. This should start with HCPs and sales reps, but also think about other stakeholders, such as district sales managers and marketers.

5.    Thou shalt design for digital first
Although digitising printed materials or using existing eDetails can be an easy way to experiment with iPad detailing in the short term, relying on these in the long term will only deliver minimal value.

6.    Thou shalt make full use of multi-touch
Existing iPad users (which means an increasing number of HCPs – the latest stats from Manhattan Research suggest nearly 30% in Europe) have an expectation that content presented on iPads should work. Meet this.

7.    Thou shalt not replace thy laptops
Although iPads are great for consuming content and pretty good for stuff like quick emails, they aren't as good at creating content (eg. long-form writing or slide presentations). In addition, some other systems don't currently integrate with iPads.  Although some functionality will overlap, don't assume that iPads will completely replace laptops. 

8.    Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy sales reps
As the message boards of cafepharma.com will attest, a major concern amongst sales reps is that iPads can be used to track their activity, in terms of how they use their detail aids, and even where they are (using GPS). In order to achieve successful salesforce adoption, ensure clear communication and transparency about what is being measured and why. In addition, companies looking at iPad deployment on a pan-European level should be cognisant of local Works Council regulations.

9.    Thou shalt close the loop
While the iPad offers a way of presenting content that is engaging and innovative, it doesn't address the fundamental problem of physician relevance. Closed loop marketing provides a solution to this – by capturing usage data from iPad details, then using this data to inform and improve future content.  This is where the greatest long term value from iPads can be delivered. 

10.    Thou shalt not launch in haste
Finally, implementing a successful iPad initiative requires significant organisation and planning – particularly around training, but also in terms of cooperation across multiple business areas, strong governance, and clear communication.

Thanks for reading; it would be great to hear what you think of this list – have we missed any commandments? All comments and questions welcome…

Article by
Alex Brock

consultant, Blue Latitude

12th March 2012

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