The pharmaceutical market dynamics are challenging us to keep up. It seems a long time ago that we were planning for the cliff of patent loss and starting to devise salesforce effectiveness strategies. We then shifted our focus to multichannel marketing as an alternative to large field forces. Before we knew it, the generics gained a strong foot-hold in healthcare. Now, we see the entrance of the biosimilars.
So, what is the go-to-market strategy in the face of so much change? What do we do when we have little clinical differentiation?
The answer is stakeholder, customer and patient centricity, accompanied by strategic resource optimisation across multiple channels. In an interview by eyeforpharma, [December 2017], Georgina Rizik, the Global Commercial Head of Oncology Biosimilars Franchise at Boehringer Ingelheim said, “Physicians are really important but we all know that, in the oncology space, payers are really important, patients are important, nurses are important, pharmacists are important. So, you indirectly make oncologists happy by making their people happy. We learned in the research that contentment for an oncologist is construed as alleviating the pain points and stressors, both in their practice and along the patient journey. In oncology, many customer-centric solutions address various pain points that complement the clinical potential of the product to reach best possible patient outcomes - moving beyond a product focus."
The above-mentioned stakeholders, customers and patients, are today more demanding omnichannel surfers and better informed than ever before. That means you will need an intimate understanding of your customers and optimal resource allocation across all relevant channels. The estimated impact of each channel on sales will guide how you allocate resources across various channels including the field force, and this will determine how effective you can be in the marketplace in order to meet the organisation’s business goals. Let’s not forget, you are also competing for resources within your own organisation’s portfolio.
Multichannel Resource Allocation
In that same eyeforpharma article, Pfizer is referenced as taking charge in this space. “We have built three archetypes, one digital-only, a fully digitalised customer approach, one hybrid including remote sales colleagues, and a third that we call the surround sound model, that integrates new channels into the existing customer engagement model across countries," said Markus Kosch, Vice President of Oncology Portfolio, Europe, Japan & Developed Asia.
So how do you allocate the right amount of resources across models and channels?
Customers, patients and stakeholders will have multiple touch points. When developing a multi-channel campaign, you may face these challenges:
- Integrating data to get a comprehensive perspective from different angles;
- Understanding the portfolio and the competing priorities for resources;
- Evaluating the contribution of each channel; and
- Allocating resources across those channels aligned to your company and individual brand strategies.
You will be using data to better understand the customer needs and preferences, assess the current resource allocation, and evaluate it in the bigger picture of the portfolio. It will then require a continuous cycle of improvements to get it right. Multi-channel approaches are inherently more complicated than selling through a single channel. Channels often have to be carefully aligned with each other for maximum benefit. More channels usually add more complexity.
For multichannel marketing to work, it has to be a core competency and part of the marketing mix right from the beginning – not just a tactic to extend reach and frequency. Leaders need to understand that the strategy and customer segmentation drive the field force structure and sizing. While the salesforce has not been pharma’s only resource, it remains the biggest investment, producing good returns. Now with margins tightening leaders want to see more justification on how marketing tactics and field force headcount impact return on investment. They often see low-cost digital options as a possible replacement for the high-cost representative.
This quote still rings true in many organisations today: “Lack of alignment between sales and marketing, uncoordinated channel management, and fragmented channel data are right now among the biggest barriers to implementing a thoughtful multichannel marketing program in life sciences,” said Pratap Khedkar, Managing Principal of ZS Associates (2014). We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go to get this right and part of our DNA.
Take the time to consider the field force's involvement in each scenario. Following or instead of the sales representative making a face-to-face call, they or a marketer sends an email. Following a link in the email, the customer goes to the website and also talks to a peer at an education meeting. The sales representative should always be given the visibility of activities across the channels, so they can conduct their calls with better information, drive traffic to other channels and of course make the best next decision to drive adoption and loyalty. The temptation with a multichannel strategy to substitute new lower cost channels for the representative dilutes the opportunity to be more impactful through an effective channel mix to fully meet customer needs and deliver a seamless customer experience
The Importance of Strategy
Allocating budget to multiple channels without a clear strategy is wasted money. With the right strategy aligned to customer needs and preferences, all channels can be effective. The purpose of omnichannel marketing is to provide customers with a seamless experience, with each channel serving a purpose. Careful planning and continuous improvement are essential components for successful implementation.
Resource allocation is an indispensable process that should support the organisation’s top-line and brand level goals. In the area of marketing, resource allocation is often equivalent to budget allocation, since it is about the thoughtful investment across marketing channels. When your business goals are clear, resource allocation is an optimisation exercise. In the multi-channel world, however, resource allocation is increasingly complicated and often requires insights into channel contribution. Resource allocation is just as much an art as a science, but data and a clear methodology can help.
There are various tools available to help you analyse, plan and test scenarios, and use the outputs to implement. Actando has an integrated resource optimisation toolkit. Why not ask us more about it?
Article Contributor: Vladislav Urda, Senior Principal
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The Actando Consulting Team