The life sciences industry built a go-to-market (GTM) model with thousands of field reps knocking on the doors of millions of healthcare professionals (HCPs) painstakingly over the years. However, Covid-19 upended this model overnight as reps found it difficult (even impossible in many cases) to access HCPs because of strict safety protocols and increased demands on HCPs' time.
As life sciences brands risked engaging HCPs at a time when their most successful channels were rendered ineffective, HCPs actually engaged even more meaningfully through digital channels. What should have been an adversity turned into an opportunity! Digital engagement channels that were traditionally an after-thought to in-person engagements now became the first port of call. But it is not easy to change life sciences' digital-also approach to digital-first. HCPs are now more digitally-savvy than ever. Having experienced a high-quality digital engagement across their personal lives, they expect the same parity of experience from life sciences brands as well. As Steve Mason, Salesforce Customer Experience Expert, famously said, “Our best experience anywhere becomes our expectation everywhere.” It is time for life sciences organizations to rethink their GTM strategy to engage digitally-savvy HCPs more effectively.
Our best experience anywhere becomes our expectation everywhere.
Salesforce Customer Experience Expert
Figure 1: HCPs' Preferences Are Changing
Figure 2. There Is a Gap in Channels Used by Pharma Versus Those Preferred by HCPs
Figure 3. HCPs Prefer to Engage at Times When Reps Are Unavailable
Source: The Digitally-Savvy HCP, Indegene 2021.
In essence, the life sciences' current GTM model is just not optimized to build a consistent experience for HCPs as when, where, and how they prefer to be engaged. It works great in 1 channel versus another (multichannel), but it is not orchestrated consistently across channels (omnichannel). It is not scalable as brands grow coverage across territories and engage many more digitally native HCPs. And it is certainly not agile to adapt quickly to ever-changing HCP and market needs.
Life sciences’ GTM model is
The life sciences industry’s GTM model is ready for disruption. Carvana skipped aggressive used car sales reps and built its brand equity directly with consumers through an impressive digital-first buying experience. Chime pioneered branchless neobanking with its digital-only experience. Who will take the first step … and scale it up … in the life sciences industry? Why not your brand?
Early signs of this disruption are already emerging. Pfizer announced2 that it is reducing its US sales staff as it expects HCPs to prefer fewer face-to-face interactions with sales reps after Covid-19. It is evolving the way it engages with HCPs in an increasingly digital world. Amarin outlined3 a new GTM strategy to accelerate the growth of VASCEPA® in the United States by engaging HCPs through a new omnichannel platform. Its omnichannel approach will enhance Amarin's reach to HCPs, targeting a far larger number of the almost 700,000 statin prescribers through high frequency, tailored, and impactful messaging. Consistent with its new GTM model, Amarin will optimize its US field force and focus on the most productive territories.
It would be hard to overstate the importance and contribution of the life sciences industry to the innovation landscape in these past few years. Let us just recall a few –
Simply put, life sciences are probably the most innovative industry in the world, despite its unique challenges. In fact, the top of Forbes' recent ranking4 of The World's Most Innovative Companies includes several life sciences brands, and the latest BCG report5 of the Most Innovative Companies of 2021 includes 10 Life science companies in its top 50 list.
But that innovation seems to stop at the lab; it does not have to.
At the other end of life sciences value chain – the commercial side of the equation – innovation in the industry has not been nearly as transformational. Several of our commercialization practices are indicative of a thought process that needs to respond to a world greatly transformed by technology advances and global events. While they are evolving, they are still indicative of a time, place, and market environment that was dramatically different from today's attention-challenged, information-saturated, and digitally native world.
It is time to take a cue from the opposite end of the value chain and apply a parallel set of innovation themes to power a new, digitally enabled era of commercialization and communication. The parallels are easily translatable as follows:
Respond to a market need with agility
While the current environment has accelerated this evolution, it is time to recognize, get onboard, and make this new hybrid model systematic. This truly omnichannel approach leverages the potent alchemy of the field rep, the virtual sales professional, and the platform-driven digital capability
Meet outcome endpoints
Omnichannel, not multichannel marketing, will drive results. Data-driven campaigns enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) are pointing to precisely where, when, and with what content life sciences brands need to be communicating
Follow the data to optimize outcomes
Commercial results and impact are the most important indicators of this approach. Much as technology is driving the proactive side of the marketing equation, data and analytics need to be leading the reactive side, answering questions like how do we matriculate a target up the digital affinity scale? What content and from whom is more impactful? How should we adjust our spend in real time?
Extending the innovation mindset to market demands making the most of what works and augmenting it with what is needed for changing times. As the conventional field rep sales model is rendered suboptimal, life sciences brands need to augment it with a disruptive digital rep equivalence model.
Digital rep equivalence leverages data and analytics to deliver the same impact, as a field rep, through a digital-first omnichannel marketing. It analyzes the interaction data of millions of HCPs to deliver the same impact as a field rep, while enhancing customer experience at a fraction of the cost.
An effective digital rep equivalency model is reliant on the core tenets of understanding customers' digital and prescription behavior at the individual level, aligning those behaviors to an omnichannel (not multichannel) strategic plan that maximizes the best of field force and digital capabilities and, finally, is deployed and optimized at the frequent and consistent intervals.
Figure 4. Digital Rep Equivalence Understands HCPs, Plans Omnichannel Engagement, and Optimizes Campaigns
Source: Indegene, 2022
Innovation is not easy – with it comes countless challenges and inevitable failures. But when the innovation journey produces concepts and products capable of transforming a market landscape, it is worth celebrating and replicating. Taking the lead from the research-end of the life sciences value chain, the time has come to realize the promise of omnichannel marketing. When these innovations flow seamlessly, they serve to simplify the execution and elevate the impact of our communications and relationships with customers.
As HCPs increasingly adopt digital channels, life sciences brand managers have access to data that are growing at an exponential rate. Brand managers can use these data to identify the type of content that specific HCPs prefer and the channels they prefer to consume this content. They can then estimate the impact of various marketing channels and tactics on prescriptions and sales. They can also forecast the impact of future sets of tactics. These insights help brand managers build omnichannel call plans with personalized journeys, which engage HCPs better and lead to the desired prescription behavior.
But what does it take to make this vision a reality? It comes to essentially 3 factors – (i) Access to data from millions of digital touchpoints to create robust HCP profiles, (ii) Effective statistical modeling to score channel impact, and (iii) Personalized omnichannel call planning to engage HCPs.
Digital rep equivalence delivers the same impact as a field rep through well-orchestrated digital touchpoints.
Here is how you too can achieve the same (or better) impact from a digital rep equivalent as that from a field rep, at a fraction of the cost –
Big data sets such as closed-loop marketing activity data, sales data, anonymized patient-level data, and demographics information offer deep insights and recommendations on HCP behavior. Use predictive scoring approaches, leveraging ML techniques to predict key HCP behavioral characteristics, like their content and channel preferences and their probability to prescribe a certain type of treatment.
Then apply advanced scoring models considering multiple factors and narrow it to a single score such as Digital Affinity – essentially how likely would an HCP respond positively to digital and virtual promotions. Such a score helps you differentiate digitally-savvy HCPs from those who prefer more in-person engagements.
Here is an illustrative equation to calculate a Digital Affinity Score.
The channel scores are predicted engagement scores and are calculated at an individual channel level. w1, w2, … wn are weights assigned to these channels based on the importance of these channels to the overall conversion.
You can use these scoring models to create derived variables, which are then used to define multidimensional HCP personas for smarter targeting and prioritization of your brand's sales and marketing efforts. These multidimensional personas also help you personalize the sales and marketing strategy, resulting in better customer experience and a higher engagement.
Figure 5. Digital Affinity Score Leverages Multiple Factors to Create HCP Profiles
Source: Indegene, 2022
Marketing and sales data enable brand managers to answer key questions like – What is the impactable sales distribution across channels and the carryover impact. Statistical modeling (regression analysis) assesses the historical impact of each channel on brand sales. You can use the output of such models to estimate the relative impact of each marketing channel in reference to field sales reps, thus deriving a Relative Impact Score for each channel as well as a combination of many channels.
A modeling equation, using sales (Rx) and channel interaction data available at HCP level looks something like this as given below:
TRxpost = α.TRx pre + β1.fn(F2F callspost)+β2.fn(channel 1post) + … + βn .fn(channel npost)
Where, TRx is the total number of prescriptions, Β is the relative impact of each channel toward new sales (TRxpost), and Α is the carryover effect from past sales (TRxpre). With such modeling, you can derive Channel Impact Scores for each of your segments or microsegments.
Figure 6. Channel Impact Score Presents Digital Channels' Impact Relative to Face-to-Face Interaction
Source: Indegene, 2022
Statistical models use data from benchmarking studies and customer experience surveys to predict changes in customer behavior and factor them in to the models to adjust channel impact scores. For example, in-person meeting and events will have a reduced impact score now compared with pre-Covid-19 times due to a change in HCP behavior during the pandemic. Similarly, the impact of digital channels and virtual meetings will continue to be higher in the post-pandemic era.
Figure 7. Channel Impact Score Adapts to Changing HCP Preferences
Source: Indegene, 2022
Based on the multidimensional HCP personas and relative impact scores of the available channel mix, brand managers can build omnichannel call plans that rightly mimic the field rep experience. These call plans with personalized journeys fueled with simple, relevant, trustworthy content that better engages HCPs and drives desired prescription behavior.
Figure 8. Omnichannel Call Plans Mimic the Field Rep Experience
Source: Indegene, 2022
Omnichannel call plans are optimized with business constraints or spend targets to arrive at a channel mix best suited for a specific sales target. You can then use what-if simulations to measure the performance of multiple scenarios and choose the best one.
Digital Rep Equivalence is already at work, driving growth for a mature drug brand.
This mature cardiovascular drug brand was reaching its Loss Of Exclusivity and needed help to maintain a top-line revenue of $75 million among covered HCPs. At the same time, it wanted to expand its reach and make an impact in a whitespace.
The Digital Rep Equivalence approach from Indegene is amplifying the brand’s sales force efforts with omnichannel marketing to educate HCPs in whitespace. We are applying digital affinity insights, Rx potential data, and payer mix analysis to target HCPs with the highest probability of engagement.
The brand is realizing enhanced outcomes with 63% fewer field reps. It is expanding its coverage by 30%, saving $100 million, and gaining 10% more prescriptions in the whitespace.
Figure 9. Digital Rep Equivalence Is Driving Growth for a Mature Brand with 63% Fewer Reps
Source: Indegene, 2022
Life sciences brand managers feel the need to disrupt their GTM models for an increasingly digital-first world. The digital rep equivalence approach is a key enabler on this journey. All you need is the access to a high volume of digital interaction data to create robust HCP profiles, effective statistical modeling to score channel impact, and some personalized call planning to engage HCPs more effectively. The benefit is significant – same impact as a field rep at a fraction of a cost. Commercial innovation along with product innovation is vital to enabling future ready healthcare.