It’s time to move from justifying “why” life sciences brand teams should shift to multichannel marketing and talk about the “how.” We talk about placing the customer at the center of marketing strategy, but making it happen has been a struggle for many life sciences marketers.
By Simone Bailey, Director, GTM Strategy, IMS Health North America,
Technology and Applications
In an ideal world marketers wouldn’t need to worry about having the right data integrated and supporting technology in place. But during this state of industry transition, the technology of yesterday is struggling to support today’s commercial reality.
Life sciences marketers already know that shaping the customer experience is key. There’s broad consensus that the marketing approaches of the past aren’t appropriate for data-driven marketing to smaller populations, particularly given the increasing focus on specialty. We know consumers have high expectations for how brands engage them. We are sensitive to the range of healthcare stakeholders influencing prescribing decisions. Orchestrating messaging across various communication avenues is critical.
Marketers should be raising the question, “If we’re all chasing a similar version of what ‘good’ marketing looks like, can our marketing approach be a source of competitive advantage?” The answer is in “how” you reach your marketing goals. One short term source of competitive advantage is to create an optimal customer experience before your competitors do. Enjoy the benefits while everyone else plays catch up. Doing this requires making the right technology investments as soon as possible. Once you realize that speed is of the essence, you have a different lens to view and prioritize technology investments.
In this new environment where technology is critical, what do marketers need to know to be successful?
1 Marry marketing strategy with technology
The most successful marketers in this environment will be tech-savvy and therefore able to influence and accelerate critical technology investments. They need to do the “blue sky” thinking to dream up the right marketing approaches, and then make a strong business case that the corresponding technology spend is worth it. That’s very different from backing into less-than-optimal marketing approaches because you are constrained by outdated technology.
For example, you want to transition from one-off emails with “generic message fits all” to highly targeted messaging, including communication for a comprehensive patient support program. You know patients want access to medical information and to understand their treatment options. They have an eye on managing their healthcare costs. You want them to initiate therapy and stay on therapy. Ongoing communication journeys via the patient’s channel(s) of choice are more likely to build brand loyalty than occasional email outreach that isn’t co-ordinated with other messaging. Understanding of the patient journey guides the content that will resonate at a point in time.
Youd like to co-ordinate across email, social channels, direct mail and ensure the branding is consistent with the TV ads you’re placing in the region. Oh, and you think patients would like an app for easy access to information. And let’s throw in a call center with a 24/7 nurse practitioner helpline.
Making that complex vision a reality takes us back to technology. One role it plays is to orchestrate communication across channels.
• The starting point is building a robust HIPAA-compliant data foundation which captures customer data and understands customer interactions with your brands across all channels
• You will need a master data management solution to ensure that customer information is maintained and consistent over time
Understanding of the patient journey guides the content that will resonate
• Shifting from simple email send to creating automated communication journeys may require an upgrade to your campaign management solution
• You’ll also want to be able to trigger different actions across the channels: e.g. if the patient calls into your call center, that automatically triggers the email containing a patient support “Get Started” kit and simultaneously the direct mail (print) content
• You’ll also want to manage the customer’s opt-in and opt-out preferences so you have consent to contact them. Youd better make sure your campaign management platform can do that too
• You’ll need to see real-time performance information so you know how your campaigns are performing, so let’s throw in an online reporting and analytics solution
• And let’s not forget that your competitors are likely chasing a similar vision. So not only should you match marketing strategy with the right technology investments, but you’ll want to work with internal decision makers to accelerate those purchases
2 Evolve into a responsive marketer
The skillset marketers need to be successful has changed. It’s not just matching marketing strategy with technology enablement. Once the right technology is in place, marketers need to be comfortable with a faster-paced, more responsive style of marketing. For example, today you might analyze campaign performance in a fifty slide PowerPoint deck circulated 3 months after a campaign ends. What you need to do is view a stream of real time online performance data. That gives you the ability to understand what’s working and what isn’t and make changes mid-campaign. Marketers will have the ability to do that, but are they comfortable with what that means for how they do their job? The most successful marketers are not only tech savvy, but will adapt to the style of marketing that technology has made possible.
3 Choose life sciences-specific marketing technology
If you’re one of those marketers racing towards the future, you may be frustrated by how long it’s taking to put the right technology in place to support you. There’s sometimes a disconnect between where the business wants to be and a burdened IT organization struggling to enable the vision. Technology modernization takes time. But there are smart decisions you can make to accelerate implementation of key technology and lift some of the weight from the IT organization. Being educated about some of the pros and cons of different technology approaches can help marketers influence those decisions. Making the right technology investments can make or break the success of your marketing programs. Look for any opportunity to accelerate the implementation of the right technology. You’ll sometimes have to make a choice between technology that is “horizontal” in nature (designed to support business processes common across many different industries) versus “vertical” (designed specifically with the needs of life sciences organizations in mind). Particularly when it comes to marketing, the life sciences industry has a lot to learn from best practices followed in consumer goods, retail or financial services. But there are important distinctions to our industry, which means that a vertical platform will get you to where you want to be faster. Any time you invest in a solution that meets more of your needs without heavy customization work, you’re saving time and money. With horizontal marketing software, someone is going to have to extend the platform with the features and functionality you need. This is in addition to the life sciences education and compliance training that a horizontal services team may need. Either your IT organization or a services provider will do that. Both involve additional time and ongoing investment to ensure the platform and operations team continues to meet your needs.
4 Make modular investments in pre-integrated software
Certain technology approaches will get the business where it needs to be faster and cheaper. There are benefits to making modular investments in multiple applications from within the same commercial software platform rather than taking a siloed approach with different business leaders making investment decisions in isolation.
Very often key decision makers for a technology purchase are highly focused on their own domain within the organization. They want an incentive compensation, a campaign management, or a sales reporting solution. Lines of business make their own decisions within the different areas of commercial pharma, often with limited consultation across organizations. Naturally, they want what fits best for their organization. The result is a mix of many different applications from numerous vendors, all of which need to be stitched together and maintained over time. Historically that has resulted in significant ongoing integration work that slows progress and sucks up IT’s time. Why should a marketer care? Because if IT spends their time doing that integration work, they aren’t going to be supporting marketers’ other numerous needs. If a software vendor can provide you with four applications from within the same software suite, they will have done the data and application integration work for you. Simplistically put, the costs involved are split across their many customers. You end up paying a proportional cost as part of your license fee rather than the whole cost. Until recently there hadn’t been a vendor in the market with the breadth of life sciences-specific software and services to commercial organizations. That has changed, and marketers need to understand what’s available from the market today.
When it comes to marketing, the life sciences industry has a lot to learn from best practices followed in consumer goods, retail or financial services.
However, human nature suggests that business decision makers are likely to stay focused on their own little world. Pan-organization data and application integration benefits probably seem too intangible to someone focused on solving a near-term problem with investment in one application. If you’re the person who understands the vision, have a conversation with an executive who cares about the big picture. Sometimes it takes executive sponsorship from someone with an interest in the cost savings and efficiency benefits that come along with this approach. And if you’re the executive who’s sold on the benefits, be prepared to justify your position to your team who may feel their autonomy is being challenged.
5 Integrate all relevant data
The foundation for marketing success is understanding your customers and then being able to act on that knowledge to build optimal experience for your brand. There’s no doubt that brand teams hold a wealth of knowledge about their customers, yet that sometimes isn’t translated into highly targeted messages that reach the customer at the right time via their channel of choice. There’s a separation between knowing the customer in the abstract and actually engaging with them as an individual with marketing campaigns.
Bringing together all relevant customer and marketing data is the starting point for building your customer experience. Today that data often sits across multiple internal and external organizations. Your employees spend far too much time attempting to make sense out of the chaos of data that surrounds them. Data integration is absolutely central to a marketer being able to execute their marketing strategy. Everything you know about your customers should be accessible by you, via one portal. Having a segmentation engine sitting on top of that data is what enables marketers to slice and dice their customers and start crafting highly targeted messaging for those segments. It is the combination of the right campaign management platform plus integration of all the relevant data that makes a difference in how you marketers can execute. Then you can start to close the gap between the wealth of customer knowledge and the execution of data driven marketing campaigns leveraging that knowledge.
If you want to differentiate in the short term, leverage technology to create optimal customer experience as soon as possible. Make the right technology investments. Prioritize investments according to whether they will accelerate your mission. Take some of the data and application burden away from your IT and shift it to a software vendor. Free up IT to support the business in other areas. The opportunity to differentiate isn’t going to last for long. Eventually everyone will catch up and this foundational technology will be a given. No-one’s talking about the benefits of Microsoft Word or Excel to the organization anymore! Make the transition before your competitors do, and then focus on the fun stuff – using this technology foundation as the launch pad for creating emotional connections with your customers that will shape their experience of your brand.
Simone Bailey is a marketing and technology strategist with GTM Strategy, IMS Health North America, Technology and Applications who advises healthcare companies looking to execute more successful customer marketing programs. Simone has a background in business intelligence (BI), customer relationship management (CRM) and multi channel marketing (MCM), gained during fifteen years within software, services and pharmaceutical companies. Simone is currently the Strategy Director for IMS’s U.S. Technology Solutions organization, with responsibilities spanning marketing, sales enablement, alliances and corporate development. IMS Health is a leading global information and technology services company providing clients in the healthcare industry with comprehensive solutions to measure and improve their performance. End-to-end proprietary applications and configurable solutions offer comprehensive insights into diseases, treatments, costs and outcomes. The company’s 15,000 employees blend global consistency and local market knowledge across 100 countries to help clients run their operations more efficiently. Customers include pharmaceutical, consumer health and medical device manufacturers and distributors, providers, payers, government agencies, policymakers, researchers and the financial community. firstname.lastname@example.org