Cloud computing enables true multichannel marketing

Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - July/August 2012

A cloud-based network of marketing services providers will address the inefficiencies of current multichannel practices

For the last 10 years, the technology that marketers need to successfully create, execute, measure and enhance multichannel marketing programs has fallen short. Some might even argue that the distractions of rapidly developing technologies around social media and mobile communications are hindering multichannel success.

The disappointments that have occurred with many multichannel programs of the past few years boil down to cost, time and effectiveness. A truly integrated multichannel program devoted to a pharmaceutical brand can be a very costly IT project to implement—and that’s even before the operational elements are begun. The time it takes to conduct a campaign in one channel, obtain results and perform analytics can lag by months—all but destroying any chance to modify or tailor a campaign in progress. This lag, combined with the sheer difficulty of coordinating multiple channels (typically carried out by multiple marketing services contractors), can make the effectiveness of the overall effort questionable.

Veeva Systems, which provides cloud-based customer-relationship management (CRM) systems, as well as cloud-based document management services. Veeva has recently announced a major initiative to address many of the existing limitations of multichannel marketing. Briefly put, the solution, aptly named The Veeva Network, has the potential to solve many of the common implementation and coordination problems of multichannel marketing in life sciences by gathering and centralizing HCP Interaction data from both sales and marketing activities in the cloud.

Multichannel?—depends on whom you ask

Multichannel marketing is not unique to the life sciences industry, but over the passage of time, it has taken on its own set of definitions and practices within the industry. The earliest versions seem to have involved the combination of traditional face-to-face sales by pharma reps, with “nonpersonal” promotion, such as e-detailing (some people think that this is still the basic concept). The rise of social media over the past several years, along with current practices in online marketing and traditional direct mail or telemarketing, brings those marketing channels into the mix. Most recently, the dramatically rapid uptake of mobile communication platforms—smartphones and interactive tablets like the Apple iPad—has created new channel possibilities. These mobile devices are becoming universally popular among both pharma sales forces and their customers—prescribing physicians.

In fact, according to the new Taking the Pulse® U.S. 2012 study from healthcare market research and advisory firm Manhattan Research, physicians’ device and digital media adoption are evolving much faster than anticipated, especially when it comes to tablets. The study surveyed 3,015 U.S. practicing physicians online in Q1 2012 across more than 25 specialties. Physician tablet adoption for professional purposes almost doubled since 2011, reaching 62 percent in 2012, with the iPad being the dominant platform.

A multichannel marketing program does not require deployment in each of these media. The value of such a program increases as a determination is made of which channels are most effective for the target audience, healthcare providers. (Analyzing channel preferences, and then tailoring a campaign to individual prescribers based on those preferences, can be a multichannel marketing exercise of its own.) So, a full-fledged multichannel program, across a large number of prescribers, can involve a few or many channels, and can have channels used by only some of the target audience, and channels used by others.

The generally accepted elements of a multichannel program in life sciences looks like this:

  • Personal Promotion: Face-to-face sales, conventions, dinner programs and traditional in-person marketing
  • eDetailing: Online sales interactions
  • Online promotion: keyword-driven search, media banner advertising sponsoring online community websites and blogs, etc.
  • Print advertising: journal ads
  • Mail: online and direct mail programs
  • Phone: Telemarketing and call centers

Woven throughout all of these channels is the standard industry practice of sample distribution and fulfillment, which is rapidly evolving as “no-see” physician practices become more prevalent, and as some prescribers show a preference for online ordering. Another thread woven through all these channels is the growing database of specific knowledge about prescribers—where they work, what other practitioners they interact with, what communication media they use, etc.

Fig. 1. Data from the Relistor Message Recall Study (Customer & Market Insights) shows the trend toward e-promotion

Each channel has metrics, and the savvy marketer pays attention to these metrics, analyzes them, and uses them to determine program effectiveness. In recent years, budgeting for various types of online promotion (e-promotion) has risen (Fig. 1); while more than two-thirds of physicians now use eDetailing or online video to learn and keep up-to-date with clinical information according to 2012 Manhattan Research. Furthermore, the inherent ability of digital communications to be tracked and reported has led to a literal explosion in data to be analyzed.

And that’s where the problem is: the ability to take in all these data streams and make sense of what is going on in the marketplace, or how a campaign is progressing, is becoming harder to accomplish. Keep in mind that the true value of multichannel marketing is the ability to tailor messaging and campaign goals while the campaign is in progress—hence a need for real-time reporting, rapid analysis and program adjustments on the fly. Hard-to-decipher results that come in weeks or months after a campaign has begun will never provide marketers with real insight or help marketers optimize live programs.

The cloud’s potential

Cloud computing has many technical elements that won’t be dealt with here, but the basic message is, working in the cloud makes even very large databases available to multiple users, and allows different organizations to share information without the complexities of setting up customized, one-to-one communication channels.

The cloud-based Veeva Network is focused on our company’s CRM life sciences clients. This focus means that the Sales HCP Interaction Data will immediately be centralized with Marketing HCP Interaction Data for Veeva CRM clients. We have invited a large group of marketing services organizations as solution partners (about 15 currently). To become a solution partner, they have agreed to link (in the cloud) with our solutions, and to work with us, our customers, and other solution partners to establish standards-based data definitions and communication protocols. Our research tells us that there is already common terminology and definitions for about 90% of what gets reported from a marketing channel—basic parameters such as click-throughs, call completions, sample orders, third-party prescription sales data and the like. Each partner will endeavor to make use of these common parameters. If a client has a need for more customized HCP Interaction Data that is unique to them, the client can work directly with the marketing partners to obtain the data. For example, one life sciences client might want to know what type of browser a prescribing physician most often uses; but another client might not.

Fig. 2. The customer interaction repository (CIR) is intended to bring multiple parts of promotional activities together

Figs. 2 and 3 show how these organizations could interface with each other and with life sciences clients. A key technical element of the

network is to have a true multitenant platform (which Veeva provides). Every partner organization and life sciences customer will be able to tap into the same basic Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, eliminating nearly all of the communication-protocol problems, and allowing everyone to interact with the same solution elements. Multitenant technology also enables all participants to work with the same version of the network software—no version control processes are necessary.

“This is the big step I’m waiting for,” says Chris Carol Bremer, SVP of marketing for Grünenthal Pharmaceuticals, Europe & Australia (a Veeva customer). “I think we will see major benefits of being connected closely with sales in the way we integrate the information gained from the field on interactions with the customer into our campaigns. We can tailor to the needs of our customers, and this will drive the most impactful changes in marketing.”

Fig. 3. The CIR can be a hub for connecting sales and marketing activities for a unified view of the overall promotional activities of a brand owner


Sarah Harper is Vice President, Product Strategy for Veeva Systems, leading the Veeva Network undertaking. Most recently, she spent over eight years with WebMD network as Executive Director, Consumer Insights and Analytics, among other roles. Previously, she was President of the Tempelton Group, a consulting company she established to create increased profitability for Fortune 500 clients through brand strategy, multichannel program management and related areas. She holds an MBA from New York University and a BS in Business Administration from Boston University.

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