What is eDetailing? What benefits does it bring? How do you do it well? This guide answers the basic questions and then goes further — exploring the role that eDetailing now plays in pharmaceutical marketing. You will learn how it is changing and what it takes to meet today’s healthcare professional (HCP) expectations. At Anthill, we work with eDetailing every day. We know what works. And what doesn’t. So, if you’re new to the topic or looking to take your eDetailing to next level, keep reading. And do get in touch if you want to hear more about our work.
eDetailing, electronic detailing, means digitising pharma sales content and displaying it on a mobile device. Pharma reps and medical science liaisons (MSLs) will use an eDetailer to make presentations to healthcare professionals (HCPs). eDetailing usually occurs through one-to-one calls, though presentations to small groups of HCPs is also common practice. eDetailing is also known as electronic visits, e-visits, iPad detailing, CLM detailing, electronic detailing, pharmaceutical detailing and other terms. But the meaning of eDetailing is the same in each case.
eDetailing has largely replaced the paper-based communications used to ‘detail’ or explain products to HCPs in the past. While digital presentations were initially shown on laptop computers, the introduction of the iPad enabled a more engaging experience — as reps could hand the device to HCPs for increased interaction. This benefit led to the widespread adoption of eDetailing using mobile devices in the life science industry.
eDetailing is often the primary channel for companies to inform HCPs about innovations, share developments in medical science, and train specialists, doctors and nurses on the optimal use of pharma’s products. However, there are now more engagement options, thanks to the on-going development of digital communication technologies. Today, eDetailing is often combined with other channels, including: approved email, remote engagement, and on-demand self-service systems. This multichannel approach enables increasing sophistication in how eDetaiing is used, with sessions carefully sequenced to take place at moments when they provide the most value to HCPs.
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While eDetailing – and pharmaceutical detailing generally – has been around for a long time, it continues to develop. In recent years, technology has opened new ways to provide eDetailing experiences. These advances enable greater efficiency by overcoming the constraints of time or geography. And they provide increased flexibility to HCPs in how they choose to engage with pharma and MedTech. If anything, these developments are now accelerating as companies become ever more fluent with technology and keen to engage HCPs in new ways.
Remote eDetailing is the online form of the traditional ‘face-to-face’ detailing session. Instead of being physically present in the same room, the rep and HCP connect ‘remotely’ through online meeting technology. Done well, this provides a high-quality eDetailing experience. HCPs can view content, ask questions, and engage in discussions with the rep or MSL — just as they would in a physical meeting.
Remote detailing is now a major channel. Initially, forward-thinking companies implemented the technology to gain a more flexible and cost-effective way of engaging HCPs. Then when the COVID pandemic struck, virtual engagement became the primary way of contacting physicians. This move was very well-received. HCPs found that these channels offer specific advantages – providing access to the information they need easily and conveniently. And now doctors want to maintain or increase virtual engagements with pharma.
While remote eDetailing is broadly similar to face-to-face meetings, it does require specific strategies, skills and techniques. With more engagements moving online, excellence in remote detailing is now a competitive advantage. You can learn more about effective strategies, technology and content in Anthill’s in-depth guide to remote detailing.
A recent development that Anthill has championed is the self-service detailing concept. This enables HCPs to access your eDetailing content 24/7 by making it available online in a secure and fully compliant way. With content made more accessible and at a larger scale than is possible in one-to-one meetings, self-service detailing can increase your marketing reach. It enables you to access HCPs who do not want face-to-face meetings. It also provides additional engagement opportunities with existing contacts, allowing HCPs to work through the content in their own time and at their own pace.
Self-service systems are a great way to get more value from your eDetailing content investments while still providing a high-quality experience. This is achieved by adding digital brand assistants to the content, powered by ‘chatbot’ technology. This technology helps maintain the guided nature of eDetailing and ensures an interactive and personalised experience. It is also possible to guide HCPs through the material with audio (voiceover) or visual overlays.
Learn more about self-service detailing
In the past, eDetailing would often operate somewhat separately from other channels. The rep or MSL would engage their HCP contacts as much as possible throughout the year, but there was little direct interaction with the company’s other marketing activities. This has changed. The increasing use of multichannel and omnichannel marketing in pharma and MedTech has encouraged greater integration of Sales and Marketing activities. In particular, customer journey strategies have helped companies see their communication from the HCP’s perspective — and take a more customer-centric approach that designs engagement around their needs.
Now, rather than many separate activities, companies want to provide one customer experience expressed across different digital channels. This development is securing the eDetailing’s place in pharmaceutical marketing. Far from being sidelined in this digital world, it provides the high-value communication needed at important ‘touchpoints’ on the customer journey. Reps and MSLs can, for example, use eDetailing to instigate a particular sequence of channels connecting HCPs to online resources on a specific topic. And customer teams can ‘check in’ regularly to provide personalised follow-up and answer HCP questions about the content.
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In many ways, the benefits of an eDetailer mirror those of other digital channels. Digitisation provides data that improve customer understanding. eDetailing increases relevance by matching specific content to individual HCP needs. And it enables you to keep content updated and refreshed more easily. There are also benefits unique to eDetailing. Done right, pharmaceutical eDetailing provides a high-value customer experience — as should be expected from one-to-one engagement. And it enables greater consistency by helping all reps and MSLs perform at the highest level.
Increased HCP engagement: Digitising presentations will produce a more engaging experience by enabling interactivity. Adding interactive elements to eDetailers will turn an HCP from a passive listener to someone actively engaged in the material. Placing these interactions at key moments in your product story will reinforce messaging where it counts and aid information retention. Being digital, eDetailing also enables more dynamic content — such as mode-of-action animations — that bring messages to life.
Efficient content management: Compared to paper materials, digital content can be changed quickly and easily. Digitisation helps the entire content management process — enabling faster content updates, aiding reviews and approvals, and speeding up localisation. It also helps compliance by ensuring that content changes can be made easily. And even enables specific slides or whole eDetailing presentations to be pulled from the market if necessary. The very efficiency of digital has, however, stretched traditional content supply chains, which were not designed to work at speed. In response, companies are now implementing content excellence processes and using tools such as Anthill Activator to boost marketing platforms like Veeva.
Consistent experience: With attention paid to content structure (see below), customer-facing teams get more than a series of independent slides. The best eDetailing content will have a storytelling strategy built into the eDetailer, enabling reps to make presentations in the most effective way. These communication techniques will be natural to your best-performing reps and MSLs. For others, having these strategies designed into the content is helpful. And with the general quality of engagements improved overall, HCPs receive a more consistent high-quality experience.
Market understanding: While you can now get useful data from PDF documents, the most detailed customer understanding will come from interactive eDetailing presentations. Each time an HCP engages with a presentation – moving a slider, playing an animation – they tell you something about their interests and knowledge levels. At a global or regional level, this data tells you where to focus your marketing efforts or where specific content elements need to improve. For the rep and MSL, the data confirms whether key messages were understood and where they should next move the conversation.
Content relevancy: If your eDetailer is designed in the right way, HCP interactions can determine the story that will be told. This can work by the system assessing their knowledge levels as they progress through a presentation. Or it works directly by HCPs ranking topics to express their interests. The very best eDetailing content then generates a relevant content pathway— that automatically unfolds in front of the HCP. On a more basic level, HCPs can achieve similar results with the right training by observing HCP actions and directing them to content that’s relevant to their needs.
Customer responsiveness: A straightforward benefit of eDetailing is that there are no real storage issues. That means that reps and MSLs have access to all scientific documentation, like clinical papers, at their fingertips. With good eDetailing design, this material will not interfere with the product story. Instead, it will sit ‘behind’ the main presentation, accessible whenever an HCP wants to dive deeply into a particular topic. It’s even possible to add these materials to a ‘shopping cart’ which the HCP checks out at the end of the session.
Deliver interactive content that involves HCPs in your presentation
Track HCPs interactions to improve your marketing and services
Enable all reps to provide a quality and up-to-date experience
Meet individual HCPs with flexible content and storytelling pathways
Provide reps with quick and easy access to all scientific documentation
Keep content updated and fully compliant across all markets
HCP expectations are changing. Learn how the role for eDetailing is evolving as pharma seeks to create more meaningful two-way conversations in multiple channels
Ultimately, what matters is the quality of the customer experience. What HCPs want from eDetailing, is what they are looking for from any form of communication: relevant information, personalised to their specific needs, and delivered engagingly. eDetailing requires getting each element right — delivering excellence in content, strategy and technology. Here you can find some best practices that ensure that you meet customer expectations and build a reputation for providing value in every meeting.
Add interactivity: Using interactive elements in eDetailers involves HCPs in the presentation, focuses attention at key points in your story, and generates data to inform both sales and marketing strategy and customer team call planning.
Make it memorable: HCP now have many options for information, so – if they agree to take the time to meet face-to-face – make it count. Provide an experience that they can’t get elsewhere. That means eDetailing content that is compelling and stimulates one-to-one discussion.
Keep it simple: eDetailing should be intelligent but not complicated. What is the one key message for a slide? Focus on that. Too much content leads to cognition overload, obscuring what you want people to understand and remember. Supporting content should be there but ‘on-call’ when needed.
Keep the data flowing: It’s crucial to connect eDetailing to your business intelligence system so that the rich data of one-to-one meetings inform sales and marketing strategy – and is delivered to customer teams in an actionable way for rep and MSL call planning.
Be concise: While it’s tempting to stuff eDetailing presentations with content (just in case it’s needed), it’s best to be selective. Massive digital presentations are hard to overview, challenging to use, and difficult to localise. A good storytelling strategy will help you focus the presentation on what really matters.
Tell a story: Use storytelling techniques (see below) to lift an eDetailer from an isolated collection of messages to a coherent narrative with argumentation flows that involve HCPs and build trust and belief in your message.
Add flexibility: Enable customer teams to respond to different needs. eDetailing should be personalised. Intelligent storytelling and great design will enable reps to communicate multiple topics in different ways to meet HCP needs.
Have a remote solution: More eDetailing conversations are taking place online. Make sure that you can support reps and MSLs with the right online engagement tools.
Test the user interface: Apply the principles of good UI design (see below) and take the time to test the design. You want the UI to be intuitive. These tests are also helpful to build support from the field force by including them in the project.
Engage at the right moment: eDetailing should be high-value personalised communication. Consider how to sequence your channels so that it is most effective, and customer teams can maximise the benefits by engaging when it counts
Connect to other channels: The best eDetailing solutions are part of an ecosystem that includes channels like approved email, remote technologies, websites, and self-service systems. Connected by data, customer teams know exactly what they should be discussing and the eDetailer makes it happen.
Create a ‘shopping cart’: Enable HCPs to choose in-depth material directly in the eDetailer as they move through the presentation. A ‘shopping cart’ system works well, keeping attention focused on what the rep is saying. Then at the end of a session, HCPs can ‘checkout’ their selected materials which they receive by email.
Consider social endorsement: Showing HCPs what other physicians in their area found interesting can draw attention to valuable content. Building 'social proof' strategies into your eDetailer can highlight valuable content that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Make content responsive: An advanced eDetailer can now react to how different HCPs use it by unfolding a personalised story based on their choices. It can even present content in different ways, depending on people’s learning preferences.
Design for different users: A great eDetailing presentation will enable reps to communicate according to their personal style, e.g. ‘short and concise’ or ‘multichannel’ to explore the potential of technology. Defining some ‘archetypes’ can be very useful, resulting in eDetailers that meet multiple needs.
Avoid video: Keep video content for follow-up information to maximise your precious time with HCPs. If you’ve got a customer ready to listen, take every opportunity to engage directly and encourage discussion.
Consider ‘short-call’ presentations: With the right design and content, you can provide a great eDetailing experience in a few slides. You can even create a series of ‘short call’ presentations, enabling the rep or MSL to select ones that meet a specific HCP need.
Provide on-going training: The latest digital sales training solutions build rep engagement skills with ‘snackable’ content released regularly. Rather than a few long training events, eDetailing skill development can be integrated into the working day for continuous improvement.
Respond to the data: Work in a more agile data-driven way by speeding up content editing and approvals. If you’re working with Veeva eDetailing, for example, Activator will simplify the entire content supply chain.
How to extend reach and get more value from your eDetailing content investmentsRead now
Storytelling simply means how you deliver your content. It is the process of sequencing and unfolding your messages to improve understanding, create belief, and enable people to act. While storytelling might sound like a fancy thing dreamed up by agencies, it is an essential part of the best eDetailing solutions, being the communication methodology that underpins all your eDetailing content.
At Anthill, we apply many different storytelling techniques, including: message development, argumentation flows, logical and emotional reasoning, audience motivations and ‘warfare’ analysis. But, at its most basic, an eDetailing storytelling structure comprises three stages:
• first identify the problem
• then explore potential answers
• and finally, zero in on the solution
This ‘three act’ structure will be familiar from novels and films. It’s fundamental to how we think and so works in eDetailing too. First the HCP must understand the unique problem that your product solves. Then they need to explore possible solutions, reviewing them in the light of the specific problem you raised. If the problem was unique to your product, it naturally follows that your product is the solution. Storytelling works because it doesn’t jump to the solution. If you blast out messages, people will inevitably try to defend themselves with critical thinking about your eDetailing presentation. But if you engage them in a story, people are more open and intrigued to learn what happens next.
In eDetailing, this basic story structure works on multiple levels. It can drive the overall presentation flow. You can apply it at a chapter level. And it can be used on each individual slide. In this way, there will be one overall story (the presentation), stories about specific topics (chapters), and stories about individual messages (slides).
A great story needs a user interface (UI) design that tells it properly. It needs to come across to the HCP in the best way possible. Content overload, hard-to-read type, and confusing site architecture quickly turn users away. While clarity, elegance and simplicity — the hallmarks of a good user interface — enable conversations. Attention should be focused on your story, not on how to navigate through the presentation.
The UI is the foundation for your eDetailing presentation. Any UI that is too complex will push away both customer teams and HCPs. Even an eDetailer with amazing graphics, beautiful photography, and clever interactive possibilities, will fail to enhance the user experience without proper functionality. All the investments in impactful eDetailing content will go to waste if the user experience is neglected.
Good UI design is seamless, smooth and useful. At its best, it should hardly be noticeable. Achieve this by keeping things simple but elegant. Navigation should be obvious and consistent throughout the eDetailing presentation. People should not be looking around the screen to work out how to progress to the next slide. Layouts must be clearly structured, using grids and a clear visual hierarchy that focuses on the main message. Likewise, use animations and interactivity intelligently and never just for the sake of it. Keep them for key moments in your story.
As always, design for maximum accessibility. The font size, colour choices, and image clarity should meet many different people’s needs. Ultimately, attention to accessibility issues benefits everyone. It makes your eDetailing content clearer for all users. And it helps you make the right choices, providing the clarity that ensures that your messages stand out.
Keep the focus on the message. Use interactivity and animations intelligently
Make navigation obvious and consistent. Design for maximum accessibility
Ensure a clear visual hierarchy so the message stands out. Use grids for clarity
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If you just want an eDetailer, there’s no problem. You will get one. But it pays to be more demanding. Today’s standard for an eDetailing solution is one that is effective, meets the needs of many kinds of HPCs, is easy for reps to use, is delivered without any fuss, provides excellent on-going results, and is simple to update. To achieve all that, you need an eDetailing agency with multiple skillsets.
There are four main elements to the best eDetailing solutions. Presentations will have great design and UI, making it easy for the users to navigate. They have brilliant content, with the creativity and intelligence to create the right experience for all HCPs that use it. They are technically flawless, giving reps and MSLs confidence that it will work every time. And, as we believe in Anthill, they take account of the human factors so that companies and their customer teams can get the maximum value.
When choosing which eDetailing agency, it pays to confirm that all four skillsets are there. An eDetailer isn’t like any other piece of digital marketing. An agency might be brilliant at digital advertising, but they can struggle with the technical, logistical and content challenges of eDetailing. For example, the eDetailer may not be properly connected to your CRM. The agency may stumble with the complexities of global localisation. The solution might be hard to update. Or is not properly embedded in your organisation. And, while the content might look great on the surface, it lacks the depth to enable multiple engagements — bringing little long-term benefit to reps and MSLs.
Even the very best eDetailing content still benefits from a skilled and professional presenter. At Anthill, we always account for the human factor, which is a belief that technology’s full potential can only be fully realised by accounting for how people think and act. For eDetailing, a big part of this requires ensuring that reps and MSLs fully understand and support the technology and are entirely comfortable using it. That requires training. Often, little things make a big difference – such as these five simple eDetailing presentation factors that help customer teams make the right impression.
Before the call: Always dust off your device and wipe off any smudges or fingerprints. If the device was just updated or upgraded, check that everything is working correctly. Make sure that the battery is well charged. And that your eDetailing app (i.e. Veeva CRM) is in an easily accessible location e.g. the home screen. Brightness levels should be just above 50%, the screen rotation locked. Activate ‘do not disturb’ and ‘airplane mode’ if required.
Keep visual contact: Remember, eDetailing is a conversation and the eDetailer is an aid to discussion. Maintain visual contact as much as possible — being mindful of the need to switch between using the device and talking directly to the HCP so the interaction feels personal and natural.
Stay in control: It’s good practice for the rep to handle the device and involve the HCP where appropriate (usually your interactive content elements). To take the device back, just say “May I? or “Let me show you…” This keeps the meeting a conversation rather than the HCP reading through a presentation while the rep sits quietly.
Do not sit behind the device: There really is no advantage to placing yourself behind the mobile device. And if the rep or MSL do this, they will have difficulty handling the touchscreen. It’s much better to sit to one side, placing the device on a stable support so the rep can keep both hands free.
Be the focus of attention: For group eDetailing presentations, the rep or MSL should position themselves so that the audience is looking directly at them as much as possible. If using a larger screen, they should stand close to it. The rep should be the focus, not the iPad or the screen.
If your company is new to eDetailing, training is essential. And even organisations with a lot of experience are increasingly prioritising digital sales training. Continual skill development, delivered in more engaging formats, is now best practice. Small ‘bite sizes’ courses (micro-learning) integrate training into a rep’s normal working day. And it’s made more engaging with gamification and online coaching sessions.
eDetailing remains an essential channel in pharmaceutical marketing. And one that HCPs appreciate if their time is respected with high-quality and relevant content. eDetailing can work brilliantly if customer teams are empowered with excellent presentation material, trained to use it effectively, and have technology on which they can rely. With face-to-face time with HCPs at a premium, every meeting should be memorable. Make sure your eDetailing experience stands out.
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