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Winning internal approval for an online community

Explanation is key, Sanofi’s Claire Derbyshire tells BHBIA conference

Winning internal approval for an online communityGaining internal consent for an online community-based strategy requires “explanation and reassurance, lots and lots of it”, according to Claire Derbyshire, Sanofi's UK & Ireland market research manager.

Derbyshire, who was recounting her first-hand experience while at Boehringer Ingelheim, delivered her comments at the last week's 2012 BHBIA conference during a joint presentation with Damian Eade, director, Insight Research Group.

Working with industry specialist Insight in 2010, Boehringer predicted some significant market changes which would affect a key mature product and wanted to monitor the reaction of key account customers in order to define forward strategy.

Taking inspiration from the Tesco Clubcard concept of consumer understanding, Derbyshire proposed the creation of a bespoke market research online community (MROC) which would run for a full six month period, something which had not been done before on this scale.

The project employed three core principles of social network behaviour: the human need to connect; the desire to share thoughts and opinions; and the increased use of mobile technology, enabling regular updates regardless of location.

With these in mind, the plan was eventually given the green light from all of the necessary departments within Boehringer, a result which the Q&A session that followed indicated some pharma companies are still wrestling with.

Derbyshire commented: “We had to pre-empt all of the challenges we would face in order to convince the whole team, particularly the medics as there were no guidelines in place for this. The pharmacovigilance team were concerned as to whether we could handle the quantity of adverse events that might arise – in fact it did not add to our workload any more than standard market research.”

Claire Derbyshire, Sanofi at the BHBIA Conference Claire Derbyshire, Sanofi, BHBIA conference

Giving insight from the market research agency side, Eade explained how they ensured the MROC would engage for the full six month period.

“We took inspiration from social media,” he said, “ensuring that each of our community members was motivated, fully informed and received personalised contact and feedback, which created a real feeling of intellectual engagement.

“The project had to be mapped out in detail, whilst remaining agile enough to change over the time period – ultimately we planned the first month fully and the remaining months broadly, ensuring we had the hard content to retain engagement over this time period and staying fully flexible.”

Both speakers concluded that the project was successful, leaving all parties engaged after the six month period elapsed and having added additional value throughout by way of the ability to answer ad-hoc market research questions from the brand team.

Other topics addressed at the 2012 BHBIA conference included the concept of holistic research, the impact of NHS reform of business intelligence and the developing use of social media in research projects, all with a nod to the upcoming Olympics and the event's theme: 'The Winning Feeling'.

The conference also incorporated the BHBIA AGM, with Novartis' head of business intelligence and BHBIA chair Paul Ward announcing four new board members including Merck Serono's system manager Nick Coolican-Smith and Boehringer's business intelligence manager Simon Barnes, who will replace those stepping down.

21st May 2012

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