Multichannel Pharma – a myth or reality?

Posted on Posted in KPI, Multichannel

Is “Multichannel Pharma” a myth, reality, or somewhere in-between, and what should we be doing about it?

I ran a semi-interactive workshop last year on this theme in Istanbul. My first learning (for myself) is that culture matters even more than I thought – Istanbul is a hard pitch for an interactive session with an English/French speaker talking about tomorrows world of Pharma!

The outcomes confirmed (with other European countries that I already know well) the minimal implications in this field by Pharma companies in this country, but more surprisingly, the little understanding of why we would want to do it anyway.

Slides from the event are here:

Engaging hcp and patients through a Multichannel campaign – eyeforpharma Istanbul_2012_02_21 from Sven Awege

Over the last year I have kept this image in my mind, and where possible investigated real life projects to see if there has been any progress. So what did I observe over the year?

  • A breath of fresh air as the basic understanding and intention to undertake Multichannel Pharma initiatives have started to grow and flourish among Pharma Marketers.
  • A cold shower of insight as I understood how basic this understanding really is!

The good news: this is a journey, and at least the path ahead is visible and we’re facing in the right direction.

Most initiatives are using 2 or 3 channels (excellent – I’m not recommending using more), however they tend to be disjointed, slightly uncoordinated (probably because MLR validation has taken far too long on certain channels), little concrete logic for channel selection, not truly congruent, and hardly ever measured correctly. The initiatives feel a bit more like we’re back to Scouts playing with pen-knives.

With global pressures for the marketer to do more with less there is a realization that the single-horse sales rep is not the optimal investment. Pile on top of that the fact that our target audiences are all quite tech-zavvy now; they use smartphones, tablets, read emails, watch webcasts/web-conferences, and yes, they actually engage through social media!

We are starting to realize that we need to get smarter about how we make those marketing and communications investments.

The really good news is that, contrary to what some “common knowledge” would have you believe, there aren’t actually many excellent industry examples out there to learn from, but those that are good at it are actually quite similar to Pharma.

One example that I personally believe has many similarities and constraints is the personal banking Finance industry. They are heavily regulated by the authorities, have their own internal processes (similar to our MLR & E&C), work heavily with their intermediaries (local branches vs our HCP and institutions)… . Yet they nearly all offer you several channels to contact them (physical, phone, website, email, app…your choice), and “promote” their offerings through multi-channels too. They have had their own hurdles to cross along the way, such as data protection, privacy, strict control of “promotional material” that in some cases goes far beyond our own concerns (in Pharma we rarely hold strictly confidential information out there in the digital ether).
The finance industry has however invested a huge amount more than Pharma into the infrastructure necessary to deliver multichannel, over several years, to be able to deliver on the promise, and I don’t see any of them doing a u-turn so I can only assume the ROI is there!

In conclusion:

  • We’re on the right path – we need to keep going, get more professional about it, building capabilities along the way, and making sure we embed them into our DNA fibre.
  • Investigate benchmarking from good examples that we can learn from (such as Finance), and even get out and meet them. Set up some workgroups with real actors in these other industries.
  • Real investment is needed to make it happen and that means hard decisions need to be made by senior directors. Pharma is an industry built on the reputation of making big investments (into the pipe) – lets stretch that philosophy into our platforms too.

I would love to hear your thoughts / insights / comments and suggestions in the “Leave a reply” below!

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