Customer engagement models in life sciences are traditionally focused on optimizing the "share of voice" and "reach and frequency". The underlying principle of this approach is volume drives impact. This was fairly successful in a world where the majority of engagements were sales representative-driven and mostly in-person. Although digital channels were in use, they were considered as surround sound to the primary rep-driven in-person channel. As a result of the pandemic, the reach and frequency of in-person interactions suffered due to access restrictions. According to Indegene's healthcare professional (HCP) study in 2020, the in-person engagement levels dropped from 78% to 15% during COVID-19. 1 Naturally, organizations tried to offset it through remote and digital touchpoints and spent a greater share of their marketing budget on digital channels. It is estimated that the global spending on key digital channels in 2020 grew by 130% from 2019. 2 However, instead of shifting their engagement strategy to suit the new order, most organizations ended up extending the same to digital channels.
To achieve the pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face equivalents, organizations drove lot more digital touchpoints than their customers were accustomed to. This sudden influx of digital and remote outreach caused the HCPs to disengage. According to a Medscape study, 49% of the European HCPs prefer visiting professional independent websites rather than receiving pharma emails. 3 The reach- and frequency-based "push" engagement model that seemed to work fairly successfully in the past has fallen flat and the volume game lost its efficacy.
In the post-pandemic world, although the reach may return close to pre-pandemic levels, the frequency of face-to-face touchpoints will likely continue to be curtailed. Some studies even claim that reps will be able to reach the HCPs only 25% of the time through in-person channels if they target to reach them 4 times a year. However, that figure goes up to 50% for twice a year and 93% for once a year. 4 In-person interactions with your customers will be few and far between and will come at a premium. Therefore, one must save in-person interactions for high-touch, high-quality conversations only.
Thomas Thestrup-Terp, CVP, Novo Nordisk, in his talk at the Indegene Digital summit, expressed that in the future, the volume-based share of voice and reach and frequency will no longer be the primary guiding principles of engagements, the "share of engagement" will. Your customer engagements have to move from focusing on frequency to focusing on the "sequence";the right sequence of interactions and content that precisely addresses HCPs' needs in the shortest span of time. Focusing on sequence enables organizations to move their engagements out of islands and allows triaging the customers between the channels of engagement based on where they are now and what can advance their journey. It also enables to drive targeted content relevant for that specific stage of their journey. For instance, an HCP who shows higher levels of engagements through one or more digital channels, tracked through their digital footprints, can be triaged to a sales rep to have a deeper product level conversation, who can then be triaged to a medical science liaison (MSL) to have a scientific conversation. This leads to a well-balanced pull-push engagement orchestration.
Engagement strategies can no longer just trail a brand strategy but also must tie closely to customers' needs. Precise customer journeys will be the key as they allow timely and accurate understanding of customer need. The engagements must move from point-in-time blasts to customer journey-based orchestrated engagements. They must move out of islands and integrate into the whole.
To understand the customers' needs, you must be able to reach them first. Establishing a good digital reach is a primary step in the journey. Knowing the actual reach vis-à-vis potential reach is important. Organizations must solve digital reach and access gaps by driving consent collection through robust consent collection campaigns, especially in Europe.
The next step is to identify what channels are preferred and what content engages your customers. Content and channel analytics have a key role to play in this space. Identifying the channels, content, and sequence that drive the highest share of engagement and correlating them to total prescriptions (TRx) help build optimal customer journeys—journeys that drive the best experience for the HCPs while leading them on the shortest path to conversion. This also helps to know your top value contributing customers and better resource planning. Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven dynamic segmentation tools leveraging real-time, ethnographic, and technographic data allows organizations to develop a single customer view and track their journeys accurately.
Customers' needs are dynamic and so are their journeys. Traditional and static data collection sources, such as CRM systems, periodical market research, and surveys, do not capture the dynamic aspect of customer needs and journeys. New data collection foundations with advanced digital and AI backbone are necessary to surgically capture and extract the signals (that inform on evolving customer needs) from structured and unstructured data in near real-time.
With the advancement of data science and AI, the future of engagements will be guided by predictive analytics, automated engagement execution, and personalization at scale. Organizations must pave the way for the future by getting their data and analytics in order now.
1. Indegene. The healthcare customer experience playbook. Indegene. February, 2021. https://www.indegene.com/insights/article/healthcare-customer-experience-playbook
2. IQVIA. ChannelDynamics Global Reference 2021. IQVIA. August, 2021. https://www.iqvia.com/fr-be/library/publications/channeldynamics-global-reference-2021
3. Brandreth M. Engaging HCPs on their own terms: how pharma can adapt to the post-pandemic digital era. PMLiVE. October, 2021. https://www.pmlive.com/pharma_thought_leadership/engaging_hcps_on_their_own_terms_how_pharma_can_adapt_to_the_post-pandemic_digital_era_1380836
4. Pollaro F. Turning the corner: a new era of pharma sales comes into view. Pharm Exec. November, 2021. https://www.pharmexec.com/view/turning-the-corner-a-new-era-of-pharma-sales-comes-into-view