How pharmaceutical marketing is undergoing a paradigm shift
Most of the increase in income and share price is directly or indirectly linked to Covid-19, and pharmaceutical company executives are working to address other more fundamental challenges in parallel to ensure a trajectory of sustainable growth.
Pharmaceutical marketers have always been dependent on the great force on the ground to engage with doctors and implement marketing strategies – however, the pandemic has disrupted all physical activity in the field.
Most pharmaceutical companies do not have robust CRM systems with clean data, and therefore physician engagement, as well as pharmacist / distributor relationships, depended heavily on field strength.
Pharmaceutical companies are at the center of everything around us – drugs, vaccines, immunity-boosting drugs, and many other over-the-counter products – all to protect us or to help heal. Almost all of the major pharmaceutical companies have seen a sharp increase in their stock price over the past year, ranging from 40% to 100% increase. Many of them have seen their incomes skyrocket, either because of the sudden approvals of certain molecules for the Covid-19 treatment, or because of customer buying panic which gave a short-term boost. .
However, most of the increase in income and the share price is directly or indirectly linked to Covid-19, and pharmaceutical company executives are working to address other more fundamental challenges in parallel to ensure a sustainable growth path.
Among several other challenges such as production, supply, distribution, counterfeiting, one of the big challenges facing the industry today is that of sales and marketing. Pharmaceutical marketers have always been dependent on the great force on the ground to engage with doctors and implement marketing strategies – however, the pandemic has disrupted all physical activity in the field. And even though pharmaceutical sales representatives have visited clinics and doctor’s offices, productivity is suboptimal – typically 20-60% lower than ideal – as doctors avoid meeting with sales representatives or ask sales teams to show marketing material 6-10 feet away.
Most pharmaceutical companies do not have robust CRM systems with clean data, and as a result physician engagement, as well as pharmacist / distributor relationships, have been heavily reliant on strength in the field. Today, when engagements are forced to shift to digital, pharmaceutical marketers are realizing the gaps in their customer’s data and the lack of digital focus in their marketing strategies. Large businesses that can have clean customer data don’t have their own credible digital channels, and in most cases, get extremely low view and click-through rates on all digital engagements and campaigns. As a result, most pharmaceutical companies in 2020 focused primarily on webinars, a relatively simple to run and stand-alone initiative.
Given the current state of pharmaceutical marketing, digital adoption for the implementation of marketing strategies is now inevitable. In fact, digital is now an integral part of the overall sales and marketing plan of pharmaceutical companies, and most large organizations have appointed dedicated digital managers and leaders.
Here are the 5 mega trends that are shaking up pharmaceutical marketing and which will be the major future growth engines for pharmaceutical companies:
- Integrated sales and marketing strategy – Digital + Physics. Clearly, pharmaceutical marketers will need to embrace digital channels to implement a significant number of their marketing initiatives. This is not only needed against the backdrop of shrinking face-to-face meetings, but also against the backdrop of increasing convenience and the preference of physicians to engage through digital channels. What started as a constraint is now evolving into convenience.
- Digitally driven customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Many large pharmaceutical companies in India continue to use the old closed-loop marketing systems where sales representatives plan their call routes, mark their geo-coordinates and record their expenses and remarks. However, in the future, the majority of customer conversations and engagements will be digital and / or remote, and as a result, activating and tracking engagements via calls, videos, text messages, e- mails, WhatsApp, is now of paramount importance.
- New productivity benchmarks. The industry has historically worked at a productivity level of 8-10 physician meetings (also known as physician calls) per day. However, with these engagements becoming more and more hybrid – physical + phone + WhatsApp – the average productivity criteria increases to more than 20 engagements of doctors per day. This means that the existing ground force can now cover 2X medics, or penetrate 2X more medics under existing coverage. If executed well, we are talking about improving profitability by 3-5%, as selling costs are often in the range of 10%.
- Unified data layer. With the adoption of technology and digital, the amount of datasets is increasing rapidly. This means that there is now more data available to understand physician preferences on disease areas, timing of engagement and channels, and more importantly, to understand nuances aggregated by specialty and location. This means that sales force allocation and deployment plans will now be more thoughtful to maximize returns based on physicians’ physical and digital preferences. However, to take advantage of intelligence, datasets must be organized and unified in a way that allows meaningful use.
- Non-linear growth. The hybrid strategy – physical + digital – also means that the lines between large companies (often defined by a large field force) and small companies (with a smaller field force) are now blurring. Small businesses can now reach physicians in places with little or no staff in the field, allowing small businesses to compete with larger ones as effectively.
Overall, pharmaceutical marketers have more work to do than ever before – now they need to educate themselves about new channels and tools to execute their marketing strategies and, more importantly, leverage the data generated to continue to refine. marketing strategies and their implementation.