It’s the epoch of the buzzword; disruption, big data, growth hacking, IoT, deep linking, engagement marketing, programmatic marketing, immersive design, neuromorphics… ah, I could go on for hours! Let’s also add ‘multichannel marketing’ to that list.
Like many marketers, I’m guilty of loving a ‘big’ word. But unfortunately, the bigness of a word can obfuscate its meaning and get in the way of the value of the concept behind it. In my opinion, multichannel marketing is one of these words, and it could sit very comfortably in my list above.
My definition of multichannel marketing in pharma is very simple: it’s about giving your customer choice in how they consume the value you’re providing, and in how they interact with your brand. Whether we’re talking digital channels or reps, it’s critical to get the mix of channels right for your targeted group of customers.
Let’s talk about the most unfashionable and declining part of your multichannel mix: the Rep. The industry is contracting and that’s not likely to change for the foreseeable future, but while there may be less reps calling on customers, they will remain a large part of the pharma promotional mix for a long time to come. Let’s save the debate on that last point for another day, and instead explore how we can get more value from the headcount we have.
The challenge that clouds every working day of your sales force is gaining that invaluable face-to-face time with their customer. This challenge is one of the biggest factors in limiting the return your sales force delivers.
When you look at the landscape, it’s hard to see it getting any easier for three key reasons. More and more institutions are shutting reps out through increasingly stringent access policies. Customers are under pressure to see more and more patients, which diminishes their capacity to squeeze in that quick ‘catch up’. Customers are increasingly comfortable accessing their needs online. So, pessimistically, we’re faced with one big dilemma!
That said, I believe the value of reps has actually never been higher. Surveys, statistics and a wealth of anecdotal evidence tells me that customers are still turning to reps like yours for the kind of education and scientific resources they need to make good decisions in good time.
In an age and industry driven by data, we all understand the value of an emotional edge in the decision-making process – and the power of connecting one-on-one, person-to-person in our sales interactions. The question is, how do we help our sales teams gain the opportunity to get more time with customers and provide more opportunities for our customers to conveniently connect with our brand?
The answer is simple – an integrated and coordinated approach to your sales and marketing that delivers a consistent message across an array of multi-communication channels – and, importantly, in engaging customers via the communication channels they prefer to use.
A New Approach to a Growing Challenge
Most, if not all, customers value highly trained reps who can prove themselves to be articulate about the disease state, adept at expanding on clinical literature and able to navigate the spectrum of treatments.
So it makes sense to make the most of your scientifically skilled team by having them not only front and center, but on-demand too.
Scheduling high-value calls through virtual channels, with your reps providing compelling stories on your brand, facilitating access to samples, patient education resources or helping customers navigate brand-specific sites, will help your reps build your brand’s presence without having to battle to see difficult-to-access customers.
Coordinate and Connect
Adopting an integrated and coordinated multichannel approach to sales and marketing is only useful if we’re engaging through the right channels – that is, identifying and prioritizing the communication channels our specific group of customers actually want to use. This means finding the right balance between traditional and digital channels to suit your brand.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the access challenges for reps will continue to increase in the coming years. Supporting the on-demand needs of busy, digital-savvy customers is key to optimising reach and making your sales reps indispensable as a human face in the digital age. With some innovative thinking and a brand-planning partner by your side, it is possible for your reps to prevail over obstructive institutional policies, win a few hearts, and meet their all-important sales targets.
Tell us: What are your reps biggest barriers to connecting with customers?
Managing Director, MBA