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Tailored to fit

Applications can be custom-built for the iPad and similar tools to suit individual companies and their customers

Measuring SuitIn today's pharmaceutical marketing and sales environment, the ability to maximise the impact of a message within an ever-shrinking timeframe is paramount to success. Pharmaceuticals are becoming increasingly advanced, diversified and specialised. Therefore, marketers must reinforce the persuasiveness of their value proposition in new ways, to appeal to customers with widely varied business needs and medical backgrounds.

Yet, until recently, the business and sales tools used in the pharmaceutical sector have been relatively conventional. Field sales teams have relied on brochures and other printed visual aids to support their meetings. However, because these resources are often designed to appeal to a mass audience, they cannot address an individual customer's needs, and are not as compelling as they could be.

To combat this problem, they are progressively incorporating new technology. This is not only to support sales teams with more meaningful and personalised tools, but also to help marketers guard brand consistency, monitor campaign effectiveness with bottom-up reporting, and give real-time views of critical sales processes and data.

In addition, IT and digital media are becoming more common in the practitioner's office, reinforcing the relevance of these tools in sales and marketing. With this in mind, many companies are choosing tactile computer tablets such as the iPad. In fact, the healthcare sector is one most heavily adopting this tool. The objective is to enhance marketing integration and personalise business discourse.

IBA Molecular chose to create a custom iPad application in October 2010 for its 30 sales offices across Europe. The application integrates various modules for presenting products and institutional arguments, along with supporting information.  

Benefits
The top marketing benefit is that the tactile technology offered by products like the iPad give the company's marketing, and therefore sales, teams, unparalleled abilities to customise messages based on customer profiles. Pharmaceutical marketers are facing increasingly complex sales environments. Decision-making units now include multiple stakeholders with new buying criteria that go beyond the traditional clinical ones, such as financial, strategic and technical. Thus, it is vital to be able to customise messages quickly and simply, providing answers suited to each individual.

Second, the iPad helps guard brand consistency while allowing sales teams the cost-effective flexibility they need to meet these varied customer demands. The marketing department can easily update presentation content centrally, which is then adapted for all field offices. This is particularly important for pharmaceutical companies when, for example, new data becomes available to help substantiate a product's performance. Previously, it may have been difficult to transmit those results and ensure they were consistently integrated into all field presentations. Now, marketing needs only to upload the information and all documents are updated in real time. These updates can save time and budget in a marketing campaign compared to printing new brochures, providing measurable business value.

Furthermore, the iPad gives the marketing team advanced, informed insight into field activities. Built-in reporting options and applications allow live monitoring as campaigns are deployed. With this, the marketers can assess how, and how often, each content module is used in the field. Immediately after sales calls, representatives can also evaluate the relevance and effectiveness of each message used during the call. This information is then escalated and consolidated centrally, allowing teams based at headquarters to adjust the campaign in a timely manner. In this sense, iPad applications provide an effective tool to perform closed-loop marketing.

iPad vs Laptop
The iPad is not just the latest technical gadget; it presents a major change for sales and marketing, when compared to using laptops. Meetings supported by laptops can often be laborious and static, with the equipment awkward to use.

Instead, with the iPad, the interaction around the screen is part of the presentation. It naturally combines text, animations, video, pictures, charts, PDF, PowerPoint and other options to enhance sales presentations. It gives salespeople the tools to illustrate biological mechanisms (phenomena such as kinetic, binding or proliferation) through three-dimensional animations, or to present animated scan images. The application is also a repository for other support information, such as service and accessories offerings, institutional content, news and alerts and more.  

Looking Ahead
As with any new technology, the iPad brings many advantages, as well as some challenges. Because its content is richer and more dynamic, it also requires a higher level of expertise among sales reps who now need to master more complicated value propositions. It also requires more frequent reactions from marketing organisations when making changes in the product environment, as the expectations of both the sales organisation and clients rise in terms of content relevance and timely updates.

Overall, the iPad has the potential to become a formidable marketing weapon for pharmaceutical marketers. Its progress in the industry demonstrates the predominant role that web and new technology can – and already do – play in pharmaceutical marketing. When taken together with advances in social media (medical community management), online collaboration and peer review, image management transfer and pooling and online education, it is clear that pharmaceutical marketers have a bright and interactive future ahead.

The Author
Antoine Jacques is marketing director, Europe for IBA Molecular, a member of IBA Group

To comment on this article, email pme@pmlive.com

18th March 2011

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