Motivations and challenges for top executives in the pharma industry
Imagine the following: You’re sitting on your sofa with a fresh cup of tea, winding down from a busy day and browsing your music streaming service on your tablet. Then you’re told that your favorite artist has released a new song. You enjoy listening to the new song via your connected home entertainment system and read some new background info on the song and the artist. So you put your tablet away, relaxed and satisfied.
And now imagine a second situation: You’re a physician working in a busy hospital, with everybody at the limits of their capacity. You’ve had a day that didn’t go as planned. Emergencies kept interrupting your already busy schedule. As you’re approaching the end of your shift, another colleague calls in sick for the following day. And then – ping – the 187th e-mail creeps into your inbox from one of your ten pharma suppliers demanding your attention and inviting you to a 90-minute webinar you already know might be not much more than just another sales pitch.
What these two situations show is that getting omnichannel communication right is a far from trivial matter in the life science world. Now add to that the potential struggles between omnichannel innovators and other parts of a pharma organization that may want to preserve more traditional go-to-market models. It’s hardly surprising that so many pharma companies are struggling to deliver on high omnichannel expectations.
Despite these circumstances, the business is often highly profitable and growing nicely. So, why not stick to proven formulas and just put enough sales people out there in the field to reach the ambitious growth targets? Why should pharma executives still be interested and lead their organization towards an omnichannel transformation? And what are the main challenges to be addressed on that journey? We’ve taken a close look.
When striving for a competitive advantage beyond the traditional go-to-market models, we believe the following five motivations are most relevant:
- Customer expectations: Health care practitioners (HCPs) today expect a seamless and personalized experience across all channels. Implementing an omnichannel strategy will help a pharma company to meet these expectations and have more meaningful conversations with HCPs, building trust and securing a prominent place in the ‘relevant set’ of HCP choices.
- Improved sales: An omnichannel strategy can lead to improved sales and revenue growth. By providing a seamless and personalized experience across all channels, a pharma company can increase HCP loyalty and drive sales. It can also use an omnichannel approach to maintain access to HCPs where it has become difficult for the sales force to use traditional channels. And it can potentially use an omnichannel approach to reach out to HCPs who had to be disregarded in the past for efficiency reasons.
- Cost effectiveness: Implementing an omnichannel strategy can be cost-effective in the long run. By consolidating all HCP interactions into one platform, a pharma company can leverage the existing sales force better, reduce the costs associated with multiple channels, and streamline its operations.
- Data insights: An omnichannel strategy can provide a pharma company with valuable data insights into HCP behavior and preferences. This data can be used to improve marketing strategies, product development, and customer engagement.
- Compliance: An omnichannel strategy can help a pharma company to comply with regulatory requirements in the pharma industry. By centralizing all its customer interactions, it can ensure that all its communications are compliant with regulations.
Still, as we saw above, implementing an omnichannel strategy in a pharma company can be challenging, especially when it comes to achieving buy-in from different stakeholders within the organization. The most important questions executives need to address when conducting an omnichannel transformation in their organization are as follows:
- What is the key motivation for implementing an omnichannel go-to-market model? Are we mainly seeking efficiency gains? Do we want to secure access to audiences who may be at risk? Or do we want to build a growth engine and reach out to new audiences?
- What kind of organizational model should be pursued for omnichannel? Do we create a separate unit with a fairly high level of independence and potential agility, but with less access to the resources and insights from the business units and with a certain risk of building yet another silo? Or do we entrench omnichannel within the whole organization right from the start, risking simultaneous resistance in multiple areas but with the potential gain of a more holistic transformation of the whole organization?
- What are the formal levers for securing the success of the omnichannel strategy? Will the sales force be incentivized differently? How are marketing budgets being allocated in the future? What control mechanisms are there for securing a new level of customer data quality? How do we manage the demands of the business units for ever more campaigns in the light of HCPs’ information overload?
- What new skills are needed? If sales staff are to act more as content curators for HCPs in the future, how do they need to be trained for that? What are the requirements for cross-functional collaboration, and how can formerly independent teams actively build up mutual trust? If more lateral leadership is required within an omnichannel squad, how can an understanding of different local rationalities be fostered? If you have to iterate the omnichannel approach of an organization, what level of agile management skills is required and from whom?
- How to go about stakeholder management in a transformational setting? How far can we take customer centricity without jeopardizing the goals of our own organization? How can very high global omnichannel expectations be actively managed? What role will Medical Affairs want to play in the omnichannel strategy? What alliances can help to keep a useful level of independence? As there are inevitably winners and losers during omnichannel implementation, how can you maintain a good level of cohesion within the organization?
It’s impossible to predict accurately where omnichannel will be going in the life science sector. But we are at a focal point now. Substantial rewards could be waiting for those who know how to navigate the omnichannel challenges. Let’s get our teeth into it.