As a former sales professional and sales leader for nearly 15 years, I clearly understand the dismay that many medical representatives (MedReps) and sales leaders feel when they are told that “face to face meetings with healthcare professionals (HCPs) are dead” and “digital will take their job away.”
Based on our experience at the Cloud Communications Division of NTT Ltd. (formerly Arkadin), digital is certainly not replacing MedReps or Medical Science Liaison (MSL). On the contrary, digital can be a fantastic enabler to help face to face interactions become much more meaningful and more valuable to customers.
Why does this even matter? Because in today’s world, customers are connected, self-educated, reluctant to read promotional content, and keen to learn and access information at a frequency and via the platforms of their choice (see Digital Savvy HCP survey, Indegene).
Many industry sales leaders shared with me that MedReps’ face to face interactions with HCPs often last less than 5 minutes, sometimes even only a few seconds. Considering these short interactions, of course HCPs access medical evidence and high-value medical education content via sources other than their MedReps or MSLs.
So how do you successfully utilize Digital Engagement to enable those valuable interactions with HCPs?
#1 Success Factor for Digital Engagement with Healthcare Professionals: Be Customer-Centric
‘Customer-Centric’ is a great buzzword. But, what does it mean to be customer-centric?
It means that any answer must be based on clear metrics rather than on assumptions. As Paul White from Novartis Australia recently reminded us: “Assumptions are not evidence” (Workshop: Engage HCPs by giving them what they want: Work with your customers to understand their preferences).
The first baseline of customer centricity is that it is all about delivering what the customers want (and not what we want to tell them). In this context, being customer-centric leads to collecting insights on multiple dimensions:
The content/messaging dimension:
Start with these key questions:
- In the given therapeutic area landscape and with the specifics of my product and indication, what are my customer segments and personas?
- What level of awareness or interest are they at and why?
- What information do they need, and why?
- What content, medical evidence, and educational material do they search for?
Your MedRep and MSLs can be instrumental in helping you to collect this critical input. However, also consider conducting advisory board meetings and market research. Multiple viewpoints are worth more than a single bottom-up channel.
The channels and formats dimension:
When you focus on understanding customer segments and content expectations; also ask your customers directly:
- What channels would work best for them?
- How and where would they search for information?
- What format do they prefer?
- What frequency?
The answers to these questions will help you to conceptualize your customer journey.
Being customer centric is also a moto that your entire business must live and breathe day in and day out. After all, there is only “one customer”. However, many internal stakeholders need to join forces to think holistically about the experience of this given customer and how to best bring value at each touch-point (be it face to face or digital).
#2 Success Factor for Digital Engagement with Healthcare Professionals: Build a Dream Team Internally
Aka: Break the Silos
Being customer centric is everybody’s business. One person alone cannot be accountable for designing the right customer journey. All the stakeholders listed below are involved in the current customer experience in one way or another. So it is only fair to ensure that all of them contribute to collecting insights as well as to defining the right engagement model moving forward:
- MedReps and Sales leadership
- Marketing (Digital and Multi-Channel Marketing)
- Brand and Product Managers
- Medical Affairs & MSL
- Commercial Excellence
Based on experience, the best way to deliver what your customers want is for this team to come together and:
- Be engaged with the customer-centric methodology and data collection process from day 1.
- Review the findings of point #1 together with clear roles and responsibilities for existing content assessment, content creation (see next point) and the customer journey design.
- Assess your existing content and messaging, and challenge it against customer expectations. This may lead your medical team to conduct new steering committee meetings and advisory boards. It may also lead them to work with your KOL communities or societies, which in my opinion is essential.
The pitfall we sometimes witness is stakeholders who drift away from facts and data to focus on assumption-driven statements instead. Always remember: The only agenda that you must follow is the CUSTOMER needs and expectations.
To ensure the success of your internal team, it can be helpful to leverage an external partner that remains neutral and, when needed, re-focuses the entire team on the customer. It is in this spirit that Arkadin created a global Healthcare Digital Success Practice. Being part of these conversations brings the reassurance of co-creating the below key elements with our clients:
- The right customer journey
- Seamless integration of all channels
- The right set of KPIs, metrics, and data to track over time
#3 Success Factor of Digital Engagement with Healthcare Professionals: The “Why, How, What”?
Aka: Defining objectives and KPIs to measure success
Digital channels are a means to an end (like any other media) and not the end itself. Leveraging Digital Engagement Channels must be motivated by meeting customer expectations. As such, it is essential to define specific objectives and translate them into a set of precise KPIs to track.
Some of the pitfalls we see happening are:
- No objective
HCPs describe webinars, videos, e-detailing, and portals as the most engaging channels (see below). This fact leads some teams to rush and push their content via these channels, forgetting the need to focus on customer expectations. Most importantly, they forget to answer the magic question: “What are we trying to achieve here in the first place?” No clear objective means there’s no way to know if the activity is efficient, brings value or serves the greater good.
- Too broad objective
Defining objectives that are too high level makes it difficult to translate them into clear metrics and measurable insights. That makes measuring success very difficult.
- Too narrow objective
Conversely, a purely quantitative view (i.e.: “I want x number of participants at my medical education webinar campaign”) is equally disconnected from a clear medical or commercial outcome. Success measurement becomes biased.
In other words, setting objectives is about clearly answering the “why, how & what”. Make sure you answer the questions:
- How will we measure and prove that we are providing the right value to our customers?
- How do we ensure that our messaging continually meets expectations?
- What medical or marketing outcome do we want to obtain?
- What KPIs and data can prove that the outcome is achieved?
One of the benefits of Digital Engagement Channels is undeniably their data collection capabilities and the great insights that can be generated. In other words: Let’s not ask what data can tell us but rather agree on what we expect to measure in the first place and why it matters.
#4 Success Factor of Digital Engagement with Healthcare Professionals: There is no failure, only learning experiences!
Have you ever heard the quote “done is better than perfect”? The way we see this translating well into the Healthcare Digital Engagement Journey is via a constant test and learn methodology.
Once your extended medical, marketing and commercial team has collected irrefutable insights on client expectations, you are left with two options:
- Option 1
Design and build it all internally. Create the full customer journey. Invest massively in new solutions. Get all your tools and content ready. Launch everything in one go only when it is 100% ready and comprehensively structured by your best experts.
- Option 2
Define a customer journey. Define first initial KPIs serving your long-term goals. Get your primary content assets ready. Test them with your customers to see the outcome, collect feedback and insights. Fine-tune from there.
Based on our experience, we believe there is a huge risk considering Option 1. Customer expectations, the competitive landscape, and platforms, as well as technology, are not static. On the contrary, these factors are constantly evolving. That is why it is crucial to build your Digital Engagement Practice one step at a time with a continuous focus on testing, learning and improving.
However, test and learn does not mean randomly trying things with no strong strategic thinking and methodology behind. It requires specific tracking of KPIs over time that can provide precise insights from both medical and commercial angles. That way it will help you to measure success and progress.
Thanks to our many pharmaceutical and medical devices customers who have engaged our team to be part of this exciting journey allowing me to share some experience here.