Transactional to Experiential: The Evolution of Pharma Marketing

May 8, 2020

Technology is rapidly changing the way we think about and execute marketing.  In the last few years, we have seen profound disruptions in social interactions, cultural dissemination, development and processing of knowledge or skills, and the modes in which all those things get transmitted.  All these changes have had a direct impact on marketing.  Many companies are now thinking of their marketing and communications teams as customer experience managers.  

On the surface it may sound like a minor rebranding of an existing set of job functions, but it’s much more. It signals a commitment to re-align all the various teams interacting with customers, either directly or indirectly, within a larger business context of delivering ultimate value in every touchpoint. Customer experience management, at its core, is about leveraging data and breaking down business silos to optimize all customer interactions. It requires the alignment and collaboration of all marketing disciplines – branding, content, media, public relations, call centers, etc. Growth in connective and personalized technologies is the primary force pushing businesses to adapt to this trend.

In many ways, customers are now in the proverbial driver’s seat of defining a brand. It’s very difficult for a brand to control their own narrative when their customers have a vast arsenal of channels to communicate with peers or potential customers and promulgate their own perceptions. In short, we live in an age where the consumer has more power than ever.  I expect that trend to continue to grow well into the foreseeable future, requiring businesses to adapt as quickly as possible.

So, if the consumer is in charge, the logical next question is how do brands need to operate within this paradigm to be successful and continue to apply basic principles of marketing? It starts and ends with customer experience. Customers want things to be easy.  It’s true, most of us are either inherently lazy or extremely busy, sometimes both. The most logical, but not necessarily simplest way, to make things easy is through personalization. When I call a company, I don’t want to go through an endless series of prompts to get to relevant information, nor do I want to navigate through multiple links on a website until I find the information I need. It’s quickly becoming a minimum level of service we expect. When I sign on to Netflix, I expect the platform to provide me with recommendations that align to the kinds of things I normally watch. It reacts to my interests and personalizes the experience for me so I can be as efficient as possible when I’m looking for something to watch. The principle of personalization is now extending to all areas of customer interaction, including paid and owned advertising. Providing personalization of all facets of customer interaction creates a better experience, which ultimately translates into positive perception and positive performance. You’ll often hear people talk about data as currency and I would add a caveat. The ability to use that data to positively influence customer experience in every interaction determines the actual value of that currency.

How does this apply to Pharma? Many companies are starting to embark on this journey from traditional marketing to customer experience management. They are changing organizational structures to be more agile, developing centers of excellence to break down data silos, aligning the role and definition of marketing and communication teams, enlisting the help of management consultants, and hiring talent that understands and can thrive within this new business paradigm. Some refer to it as omni-channel or marketing automation, but those terms fall short of capturing the needed focus on the complete customer experience. The road to transformation will likely take companies years to get to the desired state, but many are starting to pilot basic concepts and capabilities today, while establishing roadmaps for the future. For example, brands have been using next-best-action algorithms to guide reps on what to show customers through interactive visual aids. Those pilots that have mostly occurred at the business margins, and are now getting support from leadership and change management processes are being put in place to scale those pilots and use the learnings to inform other customer touchpoints, like conferences, speaker programs, MSLs, call centers, and of course media.

These shifts have also begun to alter how we think about combined patient and healthcare professional experiences. CMI/Compas has made significant strides in developing insights and media strategies that link the two stakeholders using customer-level enterprise level datasets. In the next couple of years those datasets will evolve to help orchestrate the
multi-customer journey with messaging aligned to a patient’s profile. As patients move through the consideration funnel, the data they generate will start to inform media strategies for healthcare professionals, closing the circle of customer experience-based marketing. Pharma serves many different customers and providing siloed experiences to different types of customers will one day be obsolete. Instead, we will see brands develop the kind of sophisticated capabilities outlined above for physicians, while also pulling through the same kinds of personalized interactions to patients, each augmented by insights related to the other.  

Over the course of the last couple of years we at CMI/Compas have worked diligently to build the technological infrastructure and strategic support team to move how we plan media to a more personalized experience-based approach. Today we can orchestrate next-best-actions on a daily level through a multitude of owned and paid channels. We have onboarded many of the largest suppliers in our industry onto our own platform and continue to add to that list on a regular basis. We are also making strides to include social media tactics and have made significant strides in connecting our data to rep systems. In short, we are far along in our transformative journey, and we are well positioned to provide the kinds of services our clients want and need as part of their transformations. As we grow, more and more media will be executed within the context of customer experience management. Today, it’s important to be vigilant of the challenges and opportunities these changes are creating and ensure all stakeholders are aligned in bringing them to fruition.