How will ‘the new normal’ in HCP engagement affect insights approaches?

COVID-19 – a catalyst for change

Pharma has been on a journey towards omnichannel marketing for a long while, however COVID-19 has precipitated a wholesale shift away from face-to-face interaction, with digital channels going some way to fill the gap.

Whilst restrictions will ease, it is unlikely that the marketing mix will return to normal. Digital engagement will almost certainly take a more central role in marketing execution – and use of other channels will adapt and change.

I listened to Eyeforpharma’s recent webinar entitled “The new normal” where leaders in digital transformation and customer engagement shared their future perspectives.

Whilst speakers couldn’t answer questions such as ‘What will the field force of the future look like?’ (we simply don’t know, and it will probably differ for every company/ brand), there were some interesting discussions about considerations for the future of pharma marketing.

1 / A cohesive omnichannel strategy is needed

This is not ‘new news’ but, more than ever, integration and consistency is needed to support a single-minded proposition and clear positioning. This is especially challenging when accounting for the multiple stakeholders that pharmaceutical companies may engage with – not just HCPs, but also patients, the general public, payers and policy makers.

2 / Creating an individualised brand experience is important

To get the most from omnichannel marketing, each customer should be targeted in a tailored fashion, to reflect their preferences and engagement with different channels. Content and channel mix should follow a customer’s needs. I think of omnichannel marketing a little like one big sales call – with the pharma company pulling upon the levers best suited to the customer.

3 / Content should be agnostic of channel

As customers will engage with a brand in different places, the content has to be nimble – it needs to flex to the tactic. Whilst historically the brand story has been told in its entirety within the sales call, with other channels supporting/ reinforcing key messages, now customers may encounter different parts of the story via different channels and tactics.

4 / Virtual detailing will require a new skillset

It is far more challenging to build relationships, be compelling, and to sense and respond to your audience’s needs when online.

Implications for insights

These new imperatives spark a lot of thoughts and implications for me as an insight-led marketing consultant.

Piecing the puzzle together

Single sources of information and data won’t be enough to answer questions of ‘How can we develop an omnichannel strategy for our brand(s)?’ or ‘How effective is our omnichannel strategy?’ It will be important to draw together data and evidence from multiple sources regarding key performance measures (e.g. sales data and brand trackers) and considering the impact of specific channels (e.g. IQVIA, STEM, CRM reports and sales analytics, digital monitoring, DFUs and other primary research sources).

This requires the ability to focus on what’s important, synthesise and connect key learnings, and extrapolate the business implications.

Communications research will need a rethink

Messaging will still be important, but it will be critical to understand how the story can be split into discrete parts that are able to stand up on their own, the role these components play, and where they might be encountered.

Creative will need to work across platforms; the traditional ‘flat’ concept testing approach may not be appropriate given the real-life context in which it will be shared.

Detail-aid testing should not be done in isolation, since there will be other materials that customers may encounter to build the complete story. Learnings for reps will need to be handled with an appreciation of the wider context within which they will be delivering the material, for example the format (virtual or face to face), and the other marketing levers that may be used alongside.

If you have any experiences, thoughts or feedback that would be pertinent to share to this emerging challenge, I would love to hear from you! Get in touch.