Pharma's Omni-Channel Efforts Empower Patients
I'll never forget the day when I heard a physician joke that the biggest 'problem' facing the population was the Internet. What he meant was that his patients would often go online to various medical sites to diagnose themselves. When they finally got to see their doctor, they would emphatically tell him what the medical problem was - even if they weren't even close in their self-diagnosis. I have even heard a doctor's annoyed voice: "You tell me the symptoms and not diagnosis."
But the phenomenon of consumers 'talking' to the Internet to receive some sort of medical information is a testament to how distant they may have grown from their primary care physicians. As time in a physician's exam room is getting shorter and waiting time in doctors' offices is becoming longer, accessing the Internet to find treatment options has become natural. Pharmaceutical companies are using this widening chasm and are beginning to see the advantage of omni-channel marketing to doctors as well as patients.
For a very long time, pharmaceutical firms had been stuck in a bygone era as far as their sales and marketing efforts were concerned. It's only recently that these companies have been using an omni-channel approach to reach doctors - they believe that targeting patients will be one of the most effective ways of selling their products in the near future. Of course, regulators are keeping their eyes wide open. But that's part of an interesting phenomenon we are experiencing today: letting consumerism drive changes to the behavior of regulators!
As the ratio of prescription drugs to over-the-counter medication changes (with latter winning by a huge percentage), marketing strategies are changing significantly as well. The traditional push for the field force to market content has taken a hit. Today, those sales associates are lucky to get a busy doctor's attention and that's why a distinct consumer focus has arisen lately.
Some pharma companies have been notoriously lacking when it came to knowing their return on marketing investment. Not too long ago, it wasn't uncommon for a pharmaceutical giant to spend untold millions of dollars on field sales, without having the right metrics in place to measure how their very traditional sales efforts stacked up. Today, some 40 percent of doctors say that they don't have the time to sit down with pharmaceutical salesmen and hear their pitches. True, maybe they'll take a few free samples in order to hand them out to patients, but beyond that, doctors are a lot less influential in moving pharma products than they used to be.
Sales tactics are changing, for very obvious reasons. Here's an example. A European drug company improved its marketing reach by using applications that it deployed across all marketing channels. They dubbed this strategy as a 'digital solutions factory'. Its success is proof that use of all possible channels joined at the hip through a factory operation is critical to the future success of pharma. First, the company gathered feedback from key opinion leaders on what features they wanted to see in a new offering. Then the company provided caregivers with access to different resources that ranged from large communities all the way to highly specialized medical experts. Creating marketing content faster, scaling from a small number of doctors to a group of many, collecting feedback to analyze, and changing marketing content frequently are all possible in a centralized, omni-channel marketing model. This large pharma company has changed its internal content review and approval process to make digital content creation a lot more nimble. This is a game-changer in the industry.
The quick launch of portal solutions increased patient adherence. Better yet, the information gleaned by the pharmaceutical company was such that it could reduce content creation costs by over 40 percent simply by reusing previously created digital assets that were effective the first time. The company reduced precious time-to-market by a minimum of 25 percent because of this omni-channel approach. Lastly, brand managers could save up to a third of their time by not having to think about which channels to use and whom to approach for enabling their brands. They got all channels enabled at no additional cost.
Digital solutions have a direct effect on the time it takes to get a drug to market. This is not just because all information becomes easily available online. The best part is that there still exists a highly knowledgeable and trained sales force. It simply becomes more effective when it's part of an overall omni-channel effort that includes field sales-driven 'e-Details,' social media, emails, call centers, mobile devices, video, and mobile and offline 'eDetails.' All these sources are integrated and interactive with customers.
In virtually every industry, digital consumers have become paramount to a company's success because they use their preferred channels and times to reach those firms' products or services. Pharmaceutical companies have realized the benefits of the digital shift and are now maturing towards maximizing the benefits through all possible channels. In the end, they need to generate as much revenue as possible until the product remains innovative and effective over the products of their competitors.