Health

Why biopharma needs to improve customer engagement

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It’s time to question the effectiveness of pharmaceutical engagement with its stakeholders. The 15th Annual eyeforpharma Summit, which took place from March 14-16 in Barcelona, posed the questions*: “What’s stopping us from being patient-centric? Is it laziness? Or…is it simply too difficult to give up control?”

The same organization recently partnered with The Health Perspectives Group** to review the state of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising in North America. They concluded that pharma companies are still overly reliant on TV advertising blitzes and have under invested in authentic patient-centered stories delivered via digital channels. This addiction to old-school push marketing has inflated DTC spending, yet has led to a decline in DTC ad awareness and patient pull-through. How can an industry with such strong scientific roots and talent get it so wrong?

Take advantage of the new digital realities

Unclear guidance from regulatory agencies has led to genuine industry-wide caution when activating digital channels. However, this doesn’t explain a drop in digital pharma advertising spending (excluding search) in the US from 2015 to 2016. Digital shyness can’t be the result of resource constraints because TV, radio, magazine and radio ad spending all increased during this same period.

What’s more, new drug applications (NDAs) are back to record highs, so the industry has a great innovation story to tell. And the mobile app surge continues even though most branded and unbranded health apps have few users. Meanwhile, companies are struggling to reorient and redeploy sales forces to take advantage of the new digital realities. We are in a post-iPad world, where the rep and account manager can be curators of targeted and relevant digital content. Yet biopharma still uses outmoded recall and share-of-voice metrics when gauging detail effectiveness.

Innovate from a new playbook

To paraphrase the futurist William Gibson: The future is already here, it’s just not widely distributed. Plenty of pioneering examples within and outside the biopharma industry heed some basic principles:

  1. Build experience around the patient and customer, not around the product – beyond the pill can be more than a cliché.
  2. Don’t rely on digital as a medium for pushing branded messages; rather, use it as an opportunity to connect in a two-way conversation.
  3. Don’t try to exert too much control as a marketer because you are no longer in control – instead engage, reward, nurture and adapt.
  4. Look outside our industry for great examples of enduring customer engagement and consumer-centricity – especially when developing unbranded ways of engaging.
  5. Upgrade your multichannel marketing contentmultichannel marketing requires multichannel content and multichannel measurements. For example, upgrade sales force effectiveness programs with multichannel modules.

Draw from examples from pharma pioneers

There are plenty of success stories such as AbbVie’s patient access programs, Novartis’ real-world psoriasis patient stories (fueled by the largest-ever global survey of PsO patients in over 30 countries) and Otsuka’s fusion of traditional and digital therapies. These are just a few of the pioneers that gathered at eyeforpharma in Barcelona in March to share the best and brightest ideas for engagement with patients and customers.

*Chairman comments in program for 15th Annual eyeforpharma Barcelona Summit

**The Great DTC Shake-up: Patient perspectives on direct-to-consumer advertising

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