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How To Deliver Exceptional Pharmaceutical Omnichannel Customer Engagement

Portions of this content were developed initially by Pitcher and are being updated and shared with their permission. Pharmaceutical companies looking to improve their approach to omnichannel marketing can complete the form at the end of this article to potentially qualify for a free workshop from Pitcher to evaluate, develop, and enhance their omnichannel strategies.

Why Do We Care About Exceptional Pharmaceutical Omnichannel Customer Engagement?

Success in the healthcare sector has traditionally been a matter of being in the right markets, at the right time, with the right message delivered with stellar HCP engagement. But today, the pharmaceutical industry is more competitive than ever, and healthcare professionals have less time for interruptions–pharmaceutical marketers, MSLs, and field teams need to deliver a seamless customer experience across multiple channels.

Make no mistake, the HCP’s path to purchase is complex. Journeys are highly tailored to an organization’s industry, company profile, requirements, challenges, and expected outcomes.

Having said that, the buyer journey is also a collection of interaction touch points between the HCP and an organization, from their very first encounter all the way through to post-purchase. Like a B2C customer, we see the evolution through purchase stages: unaware, aware, consideration, evaluation, rationalization, purchase, loyalty, and advocacy. It’s a long, complex, and highly technical process involving several engagement points across different decision-makers and multiple departments.

Forrester Research found that from 2019 to 2021, total interactions during the purchase process increased by nearly 60%. Unsurprisingly, purchase timeframes are also going up.

The pharmaceutical industry deals with complex customer journeys mirroring those across B2C and B2B.

So how can we help HCP customer journeys fall in our favor? Improving the customer experience can make a huge difference.

Brief Definition

What is Omnichannel vs Multichannel?

Many people struggle to understand the difference between these terms — so let’s get that out of the way.

Both multichannel and omnichannel approaches leverage more than one channel to interact with HCPs.

The difference?

The omnichannel approach is orchestrated to leverage data, messaging, responses, and so forth to create a seamless customer experience. In contrast, multichannel methods fail to have a clear picture of all communications and fail to benefit from the more expansive approach.

Empowered HCP Buyers Are In Charge

The days when a salesperson was in charge of the buying process are long gone. In the era of empowered customers, life science companies need to shift their mindsets toward the buyer’s process and make personalized engagement the strategic objective. While many pharma companies think they’re customer focused, that’s not what buyers perceive.

The most common mistake organizations make is assuming that customers move through your marketing, sales, and medical touch points precisely as you expect. As Millward Brown points out in their Navigating the New Path to Purchase report, “The traditional purchase funnel diagram is officially dead. The singular, orderly sequence of purchase stages has been scrambled.

Paraphrasing Brown, each HCP’s path to purchase is complex and unique.

Combining Digital And Human Interactions Is Crucial

Organizations think digital self-service approaches will do so much to guide customers along the purchase path; salespeople are no longer required. Customers don’t want to give up face-to-face meetings with sales reps altogether. According to Gartner research, 76% of respondents describe engaged sales reps as a sign that the supplier values a relationship. Customers who choose to make purchases without a rep are more likely to regret their purchase after they’ve made it!

While some believe that the pharmaceutical industry has become transactional, we know the most successful companies are not falling for this false belief.

Leaders now recognize that driving revenue growth will require significant reskilling. Equipping medical and commercial teams with the tools and skills to approach customers more consultative will take effort, but the payoff is enormous.

Orchestrate Personalized, Omnichannel Engagement

Customer experience selling is top of mind in nearly every organization, but most get it wrong. According to Salesforce research, fewer than half (49%) of marketing leaders believe they provide an experience aligned with customer expectations – and customers agree.

B2B customers regularly use ten or more channels to interact with suppliers and vendors. Customer engagement channels across marketing and sales are typically operated in isolation, with departments focusing on measurement metrics like web traffic, backlinks, social posts or mentions, advertising impressions, NPS number, reviews, leads, appointments set, opportunities created, and bookings and revenue realized.

And pharma sales are often no different.

“Effective sales enablement isn’t about tools – it’s not even about delivering content, training, or processes. It’s about orchestrating all these things.”

– Forrester

In a rush to embrace the new reality of the customer-empowered process, many of today’s B2B buyers find it harder to make purchase decisions. Too many overlapping channels without a synchronized engagement approach creates a disjointed, non-personalized experience instead of the expected integrated experience.

Delivering an omnichannel experience requires marketing, sales, and medical leaders to stop thinking about an inside-out, product-led approach that forces customers to match their internal processes and systems. Instead, leaders should embrace a customer-centric strategy and focus exclusively on how customers want to discover, learn, evaluate, and buy.

Healthcare Companies Need To Change

Are you ready for the change?

It’s Time For An Omnichannel Approach

In today’s world, reps must work across multiple channels with stakeholders whose preferences vary across deal stages.

  • In-person visits
  • Reach-outs on social media
  • Emails
  • Chatting
  • Phone calls
Have a value-creation mindset

It’s time to develop integrated solutions, tailor the value proposition, and construct unique pricing arrangements.

  • Combine and design components
  • Create packages and ecosystems of products and services
  • Design offers along the entire customer lifecycle

Orchestrating the buyer journey requires understanding the most important content for that customer, pinpointing the best channel mix, and deploying it at the right time. It’s a formidable combination of insight and coordination – but if you get it right, customers will happily pay attention. According to Forrester’s Predictions 2022, “persistent digital engagement will become the norm, with 70% of marketers adopting an always-on digital engagement strategy.”

“34% of B2B buyers surveyed are more likely to buy from a vendor that masters customer experience.”

– Deloitte Digital

While this statistic is based on B2B buyers, outstanding HCP engagement is just as crucial for the pharma field force.

These orchestrated interactions should be supported across all traditional, remote, and self-serve channels. Then, those organizations that master this customer buying experience will see more robust revenue growth – Accenture predicts twice as much return on customer experience investments as their peers.

Three (3) Omnichannel Marketing Channels for Life Sciences Companies

While healthcare professionals will have their individual preferences, consider the following:

  • Chat applications like Viber, WeChat, and WhatsApp – personal and immediate
  • Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime – helpful for edetailing remotely
  • Social media networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter – are perfect for targeting HCPs with relevant content
Improve Your eDetailing Efforts

In our article about pharma sales reps, we mention the following about eDetailing:

Edetailing involves making relevant sales content accessible to HCPs and other buyers digitally. This grew in importance during the Covid-19 pandemic and has continued in importance for several reasons, including:

  • HCP Preferences. While healthcare providers have always had limited time for sellers, the pandemic further reduced their availability, and many professionals found they preferred remote communications.
  • Content is always up-to-date.
  • Tracking leads to personalized service. Sellers know what doctors and pharmacists are reviewing and reacting to, allowing them to fine-tune their messages and share the most valuable information with these pros.
Three (3) Tips For Improving eDetailing Efforts Now:
  • Get personal – focus on each HCPs needs and personalize your conversation
  • Be brief – HCPs have less time than ever– get to your point
  • Create value – We keep mentioning value, teach them something they didn’t know before your interaction
    Unlocking data for a holistic view of customer engagement
Customer Data Is A Must-have To Unify Commercial and Medical Teams

Data will help you understand the customer path-to-purchase like never before. New knowledge about people, content, and interactions gives you a truly holistic view of what customers value. Furthermore, customers expect organizations to use this data to personalize their interactions, providing them with relevant content and helpful engagement experiences.

Many B2B organizations have deployed multiple, overlapping customer engagement systems that operate in different interaction channels and at different points in a customer’s path to purchase. For example, one company may have website personalization, automated email nurturing, account-based marketing, intent data modeling, and customer intelligence — all provided by different tools and systems.

These systems aim to automate the processes associated with moving customers through their discovery and purchasing stages. But the data these systems gather is locked in silos, unavailable for sellers as insight when engaging with customers. This is a huge missed opportunity!

Data Concerns for Pharma Companies To Keep In Mind

We all know that data is vital to your omnichannel marketing strategy, and we also know that pharma marketers and your field force need to recognize the regulatory and legal implications associated with using that data incorrectly.

As you construct your data strategy, partner across the organization to ensure data governance is top of mind, including:

  • Privacy – Store and access it securely
  • Security– Protect against unauthorized customer data access, manipulation, or deletion.
  • Integrity (aka good data)–Ensure that customer data is always correct
  • Compliance – Comply with relevant laws and regulations, such as HIPAA and GDPR.
Data-driven Customer Engagement

Once customer data is unlocked from siloed interactions systems and available for analytics, an organization will become much more “customer aware”. The data will provide sellers with invaluable customer insights from all marketing and sales funnel stages, helping them personalize and improve customer engagement.

An analytics engine can crunch all this data to proactively suggest relevant content, constantly learning from successful sellers to improve those recommendations. It can even bolster cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, detecting offers that will work best for specific customers depending on their path-to-purchase state. Sellers that use analytics engines find they can fit with the new B2B non-linear journey, embedding explicit micro-learning content at every stage.

Time for Advanced Technologies

Many of the approaches already covered benefit from the latest technologies, including:

  • Marketing automation systems
  • Machine learning and AI
  • Advanced analytics
  • Sales enablement, engagement, and effectiveness
Marketing Automation Systems

Pharma marketing teams need access to these systems to orchestrate efforts across the different channels properly. Increasingly, the pharma industry is turning to marketing automation systems that leverage integrated CRM and analytics tools to understand customer needs across their entire journey with a company.

Machine Learning and AI

Pharma companies can use machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to detect better customers’ interests, actions, behaviors, and buying patterns.

Advanced Analytics

The ability to analyze large amounts of data quickly allows Pharma companies to identify patterns in customer behavior across different channels and gain insights into what works best for specific segments.

Sales Enablement, Engagement, and Effectiveness

Sales Enablement platforms can provide MSLs and field sales reps with the necessary insights to better anticipate customer needs and make more effective decisions while interacting with customers. These platforms also allow for better coordination between sales, marketing, and medical teams by providing everyone with a single source of truth.

Ultimately, Pharma companies that utilize the latest technologies effectively will be well-positioned to maximize customer experience across their customer’s journey.

Stepping Back – Planning Your Omnichannel Marketing Program

This sounds easy, right?

We know it’s not, so we wanted to include these five tips for deploying an omnichannel marketing strategy in your business.

  • Be clear about your business objectives.
  • Determine how you will measure progress toward these objectives
  • Where are your current gaps in terms of tactics or measurement
  • Define your tactics by working back from business goals to each team’s tactics
  • Prioritize efforts, start small
  • Measure the impact of initial efforts
  • Iterate based on what is working, HCP, and internal team feedback

Note: You must remain aware of regulatory and legal changes across all domains and geographies you serve.  Privacy and security rules regularly change and may impact data, content, and other aspects of your omnichannel strategy.

Are You Ready To Improve Your Approach?

A customer-driven buying experience is based on context, cadence, and simplicity at every point of customer engagement.

For sellers to engage HCPs in deeper, more value-led conversations, they must have the proper knowledge, insight, and content relevant to that person. The content must fit with the customer’s challenges and opportunities and fulfill the specific needs of all decision-makers.


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