India represents the 5th largest pharmaceutical market in the world with a $41 billion size and growing at a rate of 16%. It is currently experiencing unforeseen business challenges by way of increased competition, changing consumer behavior, rising employee costs, and new disruptive, agile players. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated this challenge further.
With changing customer behavior and digital disruption across sectors, can pharma brands continue to market products with the same go-to-market models as before?
There comes a time in every industry when waves of change sweep away every construct, process, and system, and in a span of a few years of this change, the industry, its models, customer interactions, metrics, and service models are changed forever.
Banks and financial institutions went through such a renaissance in the last 10 years. An industry that relied on one-to-one interactions, personal meetings, introductions, and social bonding, suddenly and successfully went digital. Many banks have however carefully retained a flavor of the "old times" for quite a few face-to-face interactions. While high engagement products such as wealth management, portfolio management, and premium accounts are serviced with face-to-face interactions, retail accounts, transfers, deposits, and withdrawals have gone digital.
Circa 2021, the pharma industry is at a similar stage. Pharma organizations are adapting novel technologies while redefining their customer engagement strategies. The leadership recognizes changes in the external ecosystem and is pushing marketing teams to evolve new physician engagement models. Commercial leadership continues to emphasize the Medical Sales Rep channel while recognizing the need to bring new tools, models, and channels to engage physicians. Change is here and first movers will gain significant advantage and set themselves up for success in the coming years.
Several progressive Indian pharma organizations experimented with different marketing models by different brands through digital-only and hybrid promotions. While proving the effectiveness of the digital-only model is difficult, it is now an established understanding that digital-only go-to-market and hybrid (integrated digital and face to face) approaches are the future models of commercialization.
So how do you decide when to continue with the in-person model and when to consider a digital-only or hybrid one?
As pharma companies optimize sales resources, many would not want to completely lose out on the benefits of an in-person share of voice.
Here are the 6 tips we would like to share to enable this decision:
1. Select the right brand or portfolio: It is essential you use digital promotions for the right brands, and use face-to-face marketing for key high-value products. Manage your portfolio funneling by considering product life cycle stage, competition intensity, market growth, brand equity, and differentiators.
2. Use agile methods to manage content: Content is the lynchpin of digital engagement. Agile content management is being adopted by many organizations to be lean and responsive. Ultimately, the content delivery system should be able to support hyper-personalization for the physician through all the channels to ensure a 360-degree engagement.
3. Microsegment your customers: Traditionally pharma companies have pursued a one-size-fits-all approach. This is especially true when it comes to brand positioning, go-to-market strategy, or resource allocation. The mantra in today's digital age is "personalize or perish." Acknowledging your customer as more than another member of your database can go a long way. Knowing your customer's digital behavior can help identify the right channel mix to deliver content when and where they are most likely to consume. Taking the time to segment and map the customer journeys across channels will greatly improve your digital engagement. Research suggests that nearly 63% of HCPs are now "triple-screen" users.
4. Prioritize your channels: It is important to prioritize channels on the basis of behavioral customer research. Build a channel mix ranging from high on reach versus high on engagement. Also, create cross-channel journeys based on the growth potential of your portfolio.
5. Focus on the right metrics: It is quite often tempting to start with easy-to-capture metrics. These metrics do not initiate or trigger actions. Marketing teams can get swayed by reach and impression numbers and all decision-making or success definition can be done around these numbers. The danger in such situations is that quite often we miss the 360-degree engagement metrics including CSAT, NPS, or consistency of engagement at the customer level. In lieu of finding a single metric that captures everything, figure out the metrics that matter in each situation.
6. Complement in-house capabilities with agile partners: Many pharma organizations are building digital capabilities in-house. It is important to have the right technology, scale, and agility. The capacity to execute is vital. There are several moving pieces in building cross-channel journeys and driving exceptional customer experience. Keep your internal resources' focus on defining a clear strategic direction and ensuring span leadership sponsorship.
We are still in the midst of this pandemic and it is very difficult to predict when and how we will come out of it, and how our lives, societies, and behaviors will evolve. One thing is certain, the pharma industry will undergo a powerful acceleration of its digital transformation. These 6 steps should help you not just sustain growth through a turbulent period, but also build #FutureReadyHealthcare.