Digital Marketing in your 2017 Business Plan

It’s that time of the year again! Business plans for the next year are being written. Budgets being debated. NPS scores getting analyzed. Channel landscape being revised? This year, go ahead and challenge the idea that pharma marketing is dull and boring. Get away from the perception that the heavy regulations in the industry are keeping you from exciting marketing plans. It’s not true anymore. And while you are designing a multichannel marketing strategy, remember that just adding email capabilities into your plans would not magically make it a digital marketing strategy. The key is to coordinate and blend your online and offline interactions- these interactions can be a sales call, an email, a webinar, an online advertisement and much more. If you coordinate them well, multi-channel marketing can help you re-define your relationship with your KOLs and inject new life into it. Here is how you can incorporate multichannel marketing into your business plans the right way:

Step 1: Start with your customer 

You may already have a touch point mapping done for your key customer segments. You know your brand messages, your CMEs, your conferences and maybe your webinars and even emails. But take a step back, and understand what information your customer wants and how do they want it delivered to them. For example, have your customers signed up for weekly email newsletters. Do they prefer short videos of KOLs? Do they tend to be more satisfied with expert forums? What do they like to discuss in a sales call? Understanding some of these questions will be first step towards integrating digital channels into your customer plan.

Step 2: Define the right channel strategy for your product 

For different product stages, there are different channel strategies that would fit better. It is important that you define the right strategy based on the needs of your brand/product. Through your channel strategy, are you trying to differentiate your product from your competitors, are you trying to launch a new product or are you trying to increase scientific awareness around your molecule? Product in primary care for example, can use a broad range of channels to reach the mass market audience. For specialty and niche products on the other hand, a narrower approach can fit better. The objective that you are trying to achieve for your product will play a huge role in defining your channel strategy.

Step 3: Decide the components of your multichannel campaign 

Once you have the customer needs and the product needs identified, you can now select the right channel mix that will help you effectively achieve both your customer goals and your product goals.

•  Offline channels: Sales calls, Meetings, Print materials, Samples etc.

•  Online channels: e-Detailing, mobile apps, websites, email, social media etc.

Success with multichannel marketing will depend on your clarity with respect to the channels – when, where and how to use them. Ensure that you pilot and test new channels before rollout. Your insights from these pilots will allow you to understand how online channels can be leveraged to augment sales force efforts and improve overall customer engagement and satisfaction.

Step 4: Train, Tailor and Monitor.

Success for online campaigns can be defined through click rates, amount of time spent by customers on the touchpoint and overall reach of the campaign. When you integrate online and offline channels, customer feedback and cost effectiveness are important as well. Success also depends on whether you are using the right content for the right channel. For example, transferring your detailing aid onto an email for an online campaign is not going to work. Make sure your tailor and adapt your communication to your channel.

Finally, ensure that your team has the right skill sets to design and implement a multichannel marketing strategy. Allowing consumers to engage with your brand at their convenience is more relevant than ever today. It is important that there is proper training for brand teams to acquire new digital skills to deliver the aforementioned convenience to the customer. Only then can we truly move multichannel marketing in pharma from a concept to reality.

The final step:

Before you present your business plan to management for approval, make sure you calculate the return on your investment from your multichannel marketing campaign. Demonstrate how an online campaign will get you more engagement in comparison to a ‘leave-behind-leaflet’ (LBL). It is not always necessary to ask for more budget from your CFO to add digital channels into your current campaign. You can re-assign resources from your current marketing channels – for example, reduce the number of LBLs and use that budget to increase your presence online. Divert some of your funds from CMEs and assign them to webinars.

Again, remember that we are not moving away from the traditional marketing channels – just augmenting them with digital channels. Demonstrate to your management how the new multichannel marketing is going to yield results in a more cost-effective manner. Once you do that, approving your business plan should be a no-brainer to your CEO/CFO.

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