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Multichannel in pharma

Get ready for the perfect storm

Fonny SchenckExactly 20 years ago, I launched my first HCP website. On the surface, not a lot seems to have changed since then. While many other industries have moved ahead, pharma continues to see digital as a ‘shiny object’ and an ‘afterthought’. Our Across Health Maturometer, which measures the ‘temperature’ of digital transformation, has confirmed this picture year after year for almost the past decade:

  • Digital marketing budgets remain small and basically flat
  • Pharma’s satisfaction with its own digital efforts remains low
  • Digital knowledge is not increasing.

But in our 2017 Maturometer, we see clear signs of change: budgets are up 20% and senior support grew significantly. Is this the second coming of digital, finally?

The HCP landscape is changing

The needs and digital footprint of our HCP customers are certainly evolving. Firstly, by 2020, close to 70% will be ‘digital natives’. Secondly, the once dominant rep-friendly ‘relationship seekers’ have sunk to rank third (25%); ‘independents’ and ‘knowledge seekers’ now constitute over 65%. As a result, channel habits are changing, with:

  • A substantial drop in the reach of reps (from 60% in 2011 to 40% in 2015 for US oncologists)
  • A strong growth in online pharma channel reach (pharma websites have jumped from 25% to 45% reach).

Also, in any market where pharma’s digital ‘supply’ grows, physicians are becoming more satisfied. In Europe, for instance, 34% of HCPs were (very) satisfied in 2017 - against 29% in 2015.

The pharma landscape is changing too

Pharma is changing rapidly, too. As mentioned, both digital budgets and board support are up - strongly - this year. Several companies have undertaken massive efforts to roll-out state-of-the-art platforms and digital capabilities, as well as to hire digital staff. And on the ground, the multichannel rep has become ‘the new normal’. The focus is now shifting to execution at scale and well-designed impact measurement, supported by sophisticated business cases.

In short, the surround sound for digital in pharma is distinctly up again - as is FOMO (the fear of missing out).

Fast forward to 2020

As both the ‘demand’ (HCP) and ‘supply’ (pharma) sides are accelerating, a virtuous cycle for digital transformation in the life science sector should be emerging.

Is the following scenario for 2020 far-fetched? Pharma increases its digital investment significantly, pressured by competition and customers alike, and within a few years the early movers become digital leaders. Digital native HCPs (70% by 2020!) appreciate these much-improved offerings, and further shift their focus to digital - leading to a further drop in rep access and higher reach and impact for online pharma channels. At the same time, medical departments start offering robust ‘anytime, anywhere’ med-ed and meeting services, to complement or substitute the high-cost, time-intensive traditional meetings and congresses.

Some of the savings realised by redefining the go-to-market model for target HCPs are then redeployed towards digital engagement with other stakeholders, like referrers, non-target HCPs, patients and payers. In addition, controlled experiments with fast-emerging and promising health tech solutions and platforms are carried out, allowing ever deeper customer engagement. The result for the fast movers is a virtuous cycle, with stakeholder engagement, revenue, market share and margins… up.

In this ‘perfect storm’, companies who myopically focus on maximising salesforce efficiency will lose out, and proactive leaders will reap the reward of digital transformation by developing a new competitive edge.

What should you do now?

Whether the above scenario will be reality in 2020 is not certain. Its timing will depend on the intensity of customer and pharma dynamics, but it is clearly possible. Just think of the speed with which the industry adopted tablets…

So what should be done now? Let’s look at pharma’s three self-declared key weaknesses first (Maturometer 2017):

  • Marketing automation
  • Channel affinity and mix
  • Training.
  • To overcome these, we recommend these five actions:
  • Revisit your MCM strategy - and make it tangible and measurable (develop a 3-5-year roadmap)
  • Go beyond multichannel rep myopia: include stakeholders beyond target HCPs
  • Invest in marketing technology and high-quality data
  • Bring in actionable training across the board: from the CEO down to the rep and MSL
  • Invest in channel mix methodology and channel affinity.

Across Health engages with its customers in all these areas, with unique offerings like the Navigator (channel mix and beyond), Maturometer (digital maturity), Excellerator (capability building), as well as strategy formulation, integrated execution and impact measurement services.

The tipping point has been reached… we hope you are well-prepared for the perfect storm!

Fonny Schenck is CEO of Across Health

In association with

Across Health

17th October 2017

From: Marketing



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