Healthcare practitioners (HCPs) today receive countless messages from pharmaceutical companies. In fact, data from our recent AffinityMonitor report estimates that the most valuable 30,000 HCPs receive 2,700-plus pharmaceutical contacts per year, equivalent to one contact per hour for 365 days.

Imagine if you received this amount of promotional messages each day. It would be hard to filter relevant information from the noise. HCPs feel the pain when pharmaceutical companies don’t coordinate their marketing interactions. One doctor we interviewed said: “It’s important I get what I prefer. I only have so much time. It’s important [pharma companies] learn what my preference is and, in the little time we have allotted, the best way for me to learn.”

Clearly, uncoordinated promotional activities can lead to a negative physician experience, which can also adversely affect a pharmaceutical company’s reputation and bottom line.

So how do you improve customer engagement? We’ve seen success when companies shift from a tactic-led approach to a customer-led approach. This includes delivering the messages that customers want when they want them and how they want them. It also involves integrating your sales and marketing promotions as well as optimizing the delivery cadence. It looks like this:


If done effectively, this will provide a more harmonized experience from the physician’s perspective.

Developing an orchestrated customer experience can be daunting if you’re just starting out. At IIR ePharma 2016, two industry experts answered questions about everyday challenges and provided advice for getting started. Deborah Cava is director of oncology and multichannel integration at Merck, and Craig McGettigan is director of channel integration at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Here are their top responses:

Q: When faced with the task of harmonizing your promotion planning across all channels for your customers, what are some of the challenges that you’ve experienced?

Craig McGettigan: Pharma has been sales-focused as digital has risen in importance in the last five years, so it has grown independent from sales. Therefore, sales planning, multimedia planning and digital planning happen in silos and tend to focus on individual tactics rather than individual customers. Internal teams may view digital as a threat to the sales force instead of seeing how they can work in harmony. However, if you give the customer the information they need through the rep and through other channels, the result will be better engagement.

Deborah Cava: We spent years trying to convince our organization that there were other channels of engagement that weren’t being represented. We were tracking sales and marketing metrics separately instead of focusing on the customer. We needed to show our leaders data on how customers wanted to engage with us, push the value of deploying digital, and help build a framework for reporting metrics not by tactic, but by customer.

Q: What advice can you offer to help overcome these obstacles?

DC: Show marketing leaders the data on how customers want to engage. It’s very eye-opening and gets them to start thinking about customer centricity.

CM: Start small. Identify the appropriate stakeholders and business partners and think about change management. Don’t try to take on too much at first. It’s about looking at how you can augment and supplement the current call plan with other channels. Use the data and assets you already have to set your goals and build from there.  

Q: How can you get buy-in from senior leaders to take a more integrated approach?

CM: When your leaders have exhausted the typical channels and recognize they need something more sophisticated, that’s the perfect opportunity to take on a more integrated approach. That is when people get more creative. Many other industries have already figured out how to do this well. When people ask why we [pharmaceuticals] aren’t doing this, the answer is: We can. We have the capabilities, the technology and data. The next step is putting together the plan and processes and pulling it through.

This post was adapted from ZS Managing Principal Pratap Khedkar’s presentation and panel discussion, “Orchestrating Your Customer Experience? Start With an Integrated Plan!” at the 2016 ePharma Summit, held Feb. 29 through March 2 in New York. View the presentation to learn more about integrating sales and marketing to orchestrate the customer experience.

Photo, from left to right: Pratap Khedkar, Deborah Cava and Craig McGettigan. Photo courtesy of IIR ePharma 2016.

Topics: Pete Mehr, Pratap Khedkar, epharma 2016, craig mcgettigan, epharma, deborah cava