Pharmaceutical companies are starting to look beyond recession and investing in innovation again. Many are expanding their international customer excellence teams or even appointing a Global or Regional Head of Digital or Head of Multichannel for the first time in 2013.
Where does this new leader need to focus their efforts? My New Year Resolutions will be the next 4 BytesizePharma posts:
- Get the Platform Right
- Get the People Right
- Get the Process Right
- Get the Right Partner
Get the Platform Right
Pharmaceutical companies have still not prioritised information technology as a key driver of the business. Many have strategies about it, but have they really committed enough investment to deliver a seamless experience across channels and a single view of the customer?
Of course the platform should be like the ‘plumbing’, it should just ‘work’ and allow you to get on with the job of implementing your strategy. But if the plumbing isn’t functioning well the impact is massive, and so it is for digital platforms.
You should, at the very least, have:
- an integrated CRM system to track customer relationships across channels
- an enterprise-wide web platform with efficient content management system
- a closed-loop system to connect rep visits to the CRM
- an email platform with built-in testing and shared templates and reporting
- a strong analytics solution to demonstrate both metrics and customer impact
- an asset-sharing system that supports all kinds of media
And the core technologies are not enough. You need standard wireframes, templates, content elements and business rules to ensure the platforms are being used consistently and with quality – maximising business impact and minimising cost.
Having the right tool alone won’t make your organization into a great multichannel marketing engine, but you can ‘design-out’ some of the potential pitfalls by offering a ‘solution-in-a-box’ service with ready-built website, email, banners, social media elements and high-quality content that is re-use ready (more on this in Resolution 4).
Back to the investment, what will this cost? With cloudsource and outsource models, the cost can be scalable as the number of customer relationships grows. Still, it is not a trivial undertaking. It needs to be looked at from a global strategic point of view. If your enterprise-wide platform costs €5 million a year and helps you strengthen long-term relationships with 500,000 physicians, that is only €10 per customer. An investment worth making?
This resolution will help you get to the next level but in order to realise its potential your team needs to know how to utilise the platform properly to build strong, engaging customer relationships – that is the subject of Resolution 2 – Get the People Right.
The need for a big-rethink about the place of the content management system (CMS) within the customer & information architecture of pharma deserves separate consideration – and prioritisation – over the CRM-centric approach set-out by Kay here.
The strength of the enterprise model she advocates is that it will help pharma companies improve the effectiveness and efficiences around their existing processes and customer touchpoints… no doubt about that in my mind whatsoever.
But what it risks entrenching is a mindset that the solution to all marketing, sales and customer interaction challenges lies within the organisations’ direct control. That maintaining meaningful access to customers in such a changeable market environment is a tough task for all companies goes without saying, but if the platforms and systems architecture result in that company being unable to exploit opportunities to present itself through its products, services and knowledge to customers on terms that the customer dictates, then that company will be no further forward.
The answer is not to abandon your CRM – that needs to be fit for purspose in supporting the way that customers interact with your company directly (reps, med info, websites) – but to recognise that the shiny promise of CRM as the answer to all life’s problems is making some pretty big assumptions about the willingness of those people you’d like to think of as your customers (but probably don’t look at themselves in a similar light) to dance to the beat of your drums as opposed to those of their own choosing or making.
But investing in a good CMS – now that holds promise! Being able to make the knowledge that patients, customers and stakeholders respect pharma for available without obstacle across whichever site, service or platform provides the best way of being seen and engaged with by that group is a functional benefit that directly services the interests of customers and with it should be seen as a priority for investment… dare I say far more so than the headlong rush to equip the entire organisation with the latest in mobile technology.
Thanks Chris for your comments. I agree that a smart CMS strategy is key, but companies must still have a relationship strategy too – indeed aren’t HCP relationships the very USP offered by your own organisation? 🙂
We make no claims to provide “relationships” with doctors to our customers – that is a decision down to each and every one of them to make for themselves and is based on the relevance of that companies products and services to the doctor’s needs.
The very concept of relationships, when abstracted to a business or technology process, is troubling on a number of levels but others have done justice to that discussion far better than I have time to do now! Suffice to say that many people confuse the dealings doctors have with pharma as being relationship-driven, where many doctors take a far more transactional view on this.
My point, in essence, was that companies would be better served by subordinating the CRM / CMS hierarchy; trying to shoe-horn all types of customer and channel interaction into their CRM risks restricting companies from being able to take a more opportunistic and open view on what tactics are best for that disease / medicine / audience situation. CRM is needed for managing the allocation of internal resources and building a better picture of customer demand, but it is not exhaustive. Content Management Systems on the other hand have had little of the attention and focus that their stablemates on the CRM side command, and this is a strategic weakness that should be addressed.
…but thanks again for the article and for the blog in general. Much needed!
[…] This is my fourth and final resolution. Full list is in my first post. […]