In the wake of the sales field disruption, DHC Group’s Mark Bard held a roundtable with several physician communication experts to discuss how marketers should move forward to insulate against channel dependence in the future. While the phrase “omnichannel” is not new, the concept of building an HCP communication plan that isn’t significantly impacted by the loss of one channel or another is less developed. Our expert panel focused on that reality and what the omnichannel of the future might look like. The 12 minute video of this exchange is available here, as well as a TLDR(watch) summary of the key takeaways.
First, let’s meet the experts:
- Meghan Rivera, Consultant (most recently SVP, Head of Sales and Marketing, AMAG Pharma)
- Clay Romweber, EVP, Chief Growth Officer, BioPharm Communications
- Justin Grossman, Managing Partner, CEO, MeltMedia
- Amy Turnquist, Executive Vice President, Digital, eHealthcare Solutions
Key Takeaway #1 Pharma Cos. have experienced a forced shift from channel optimization to omnichannel – and some are more prepared than others
As previously stated, omnichannel is not a new concept. However, our panel agreed that what was previously sometimes referred to as omnichannel marketing by physicians, was really more the practice of channel optimization. The past several months has created a rapid shift towards true omnichannel, as explained by Amy Turnquist “you need to have more than one channel that can deliver specific – similar types of engagement strategies. Recognizing that not everything in your portfolio is equal. Brands that seem to do this really well had diversified strategies to begin with, and they had scalable options.”
We will look deeper at the catalyst next, but as Clay Romweber outlined “If you’re going to rely on the reps to be more digitally native in their communications with their target physicians, and then you need more non-personal activity around that, then I think we are primed for market evolution.” In order to activate that kind of omnichannel approach, marketers and their leadership need to ensure a solid hold on digital capabilities across the organization. Marketers must recognize the unique value of the different channels and how they fit together, thereby including the sales rep as a tool or channel rather than a cornerstone around which HCP communications is built. Justin Grossman identified some of the gaps here “A lot of the tech infrastructure and underlying data that supports omnichannel just wasn’t strong enough. I also saw from a process standpoint that people were focused not so much on planning for cross channels, rather, planning is going to have to shift.”
So for marketers looking to shore up digital capabilities, Meg Rivera recommends keeping in mind that “Your digital capability is what you’ve engrained within your infrastructure and made native to your commercial work across the board, this really proved to be mission-critical in pivoting quickly and addressing what was happening in the marketplace”.
Key Takeaway #2 – The new role of the sales rep – as a marketing channel
The obvious trigger for much of the conversations happening around HCP communication was the loss of the sales rep / field force for much of 2020 to date. While the panel was pragmatic about the eventual return of the rep, they are agreed that this is an opportunity to shift how in-person promotion fits into the larger plan. Clay Romweber predicts “They are becoming like a local sales and marketing executive as much as anything, where their facetime is going to diminish but they still need to make an impact and provide value.” From his perspective, the sales force will continue to be a part of the omnichannel solution, but with a different engagement profile. One such possible scenario meant sharing “information and insights with the reps about what the physicians’ engagement behavior has been with other marketing campaigns”, thus allowing the reps a more holistic picture of the physician with whom they are building a relationship.
Amy Turnquist shared what they are hearing from the physician perspective: “physicians are feeling that they can get the same quality of interaction through a Zoom or video conference versus having that rep in person in the field.” What does this mean for the future? In Justin Grossman’s opinion “if you look at these reps that are going to be digital-focused, they’re going to have to be looking at what I’m calling micro interactions. They’re going to have less access but they’re going to be needing to solve a specific question, it might be an access question, or it might be a dosing question. Everything is going to have to be structured more in order for them to be able to deal with a specific scenario or a specific type of conversation.”
Key Takeaway #3 – Delivering the right message to the physician on the right channel means having the right data
The new role of the sales rep described by the panel is only achieved with a sophisticated data stream and analysis. As explained by Meg Rivera “we’re going to have to build more nimble sales organizations and more nimble competencies, to round out really how we’ll be doing business in the future.” To achieve this, pharma cos. will have to share data, events, and behaviors across the entire scenario. That new reality may mean an even bigger shift in how teams and data are structured – becoming geared toward the overall experience.
The past several months has pushed us as an industry much closer. Even with the amount of digital clutter in the marketplace, brands are readier to execute on cutting through and capturing the attention of the HCP than they were pre-COVID. But a commitment to deliver the right message at the right time requires the right partners and data organization. Amy Turnquist reflected on some of how this has developed recently “We’re seeing changes in not just the information that our clients are requesting but also the cadence and the frequency of how often we’re sharing data back about which physicians are engaging with certain tactics, so that they can pull that data in and use it to drive next-best action strategies and create better experiences.”