Digital marketing is now a customer expectation in all industries and an essential part of the overall marketing plan. However, pharma remains the laggard, taking an understandably conservative approach in a highly regulated, risk-averse industry. And let’s face it: while the benefits of digital marketing are clear, the penalties of getting it wrong are costly.
Recall the Aesop’s children’s fable of the hare and the tortoise. The tortoise always won by progressing slowly and surely, never distracted by the arrogance and frivolity of the hare’s taunts. Hare was often reminded, "Don't brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!"
Just like the tortoise, pharma is progressing slowly and surely in the right direction. Digital marketing is finally being embedded in the way we communicate. There is a growth of websites, apps, webinars, remote detailing, rep-triggered-emails and even some activity in social media.
One Digital Marketer shared her best practices on digital transformation as follows:
- Appoint a central person along with an organized team to guide digital initiatives and ensure there is transparency and consistency in the approach across the business.
- Encourage the recruitment of specialists in key markets to support the related activities, such as CRM, email marketing, and social media.
- Design a robust operational model that is scalable at the affiliate level.
- Secure centralised global vendors that offer economies of scale, but account for the ability to capitalize on local market expertise and solutions.
- Provide capability development for the cross-functional teams so that they understand how digital marketing can improve their reach, frequency and differentiation, and the creation of a superior customer experience;
- Don’t forget the need for robust analytics to continuously improve the outputs.
- Don’t lose sight of the ‘why’ of digital marketing – what is it helping you to achieve?
Some may have a vision of the day digital marketing is not seen separately from marketing. On that day marketers will be as comfortable with digital marketing as they are today with traditional marketing. Is this vision realistic? Maybe not. What we are seeing instead is the number of digital specialists growing just to keep up with new technologies and capabilities in the digital space.
In a recent consultation with a Digital Marketer it became clear there is still a long way to go to get the model right. Reflecting on his experience in two global pharma companies, he concludes that pharma wants more digital marketing tactics from their marketers to overcome access, reach and frequency challenges, but is not allocating the appropriate investment in expertise and resources to do the work. There is frequently a lack of an overarching operational model of how things will work. The option to start small and grow capabilities organically, results in a variety of ad hoc tactics within various franchises, without much transparency across the organisation. The results of all this is sub-optimal and inconsistent customer experience, branding and messaging.
The Digital CoE must break down the silos and get everyone working together to leverage the digital channels and limited centralised resources. The people appointed to set up and run centralised ‘centres of excellence’ [CoE] are high performers, plucked from the business, but do not always have vast experience in digital marketing or the design of a scalable, agile production model. A CoE with little experience but with a big budget may decide to work with a large consulting firm to design and set up a model including global partners, processes and procedures but may not consider how the various countries that will use it can remain responsive and agile locally.
All too often, the CoE becomes a slow-moving machine, attempting to manage large volumes of diverse country requests simultaneously. In order to deliver high quality co-created assets, the model becomes very resource -intensive. “Quality is sacrificed for scalability. Agility is sacrificed for savings. Cultural nuances are not addressed.” [ Pharma Digital Marketer.]
In considering how best to set up your digital marketing for success, consider whether a centralised global centre of excellence is the right model, or if a hybrid of global plus local is a better option. The hybrid model may be more costly in the short term, but a high quality of market-relevant content and market responsiveness will bring about higher customer engagement. This is the real ‘why’ of digital marketing.
How is success being measured?
It is easy to fall into the trap of measuring activity versus results. Global CoEs are typically measured on the number of affiliates using their services, the number of brands and individuals being serviced, or the number of tasks completed. We suggest instead that the ultimate measures of success are results, measured in revenues and/or cost savings, and customer satisfaction, measured in the number of repeat engagements, and their quality according to customer satisfaction scores.
And if it is true that, "slow and steady wins the race", then the best advice may be to just keep moving forward, improving each iteration based on the learnings from the previous step, and enjoy seeing the results in customer satisfaction.
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Article Contributor: Melanie Brown, Managing Partner
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The Actando Consulting Team