10 common pharma marketing challenges (and how to fix them)
What challenges do you face?
While every company is unique – and every brand poses its own specific issues – we know from our clients that there are plenty of shared challenges in pharma too. Some of these are timeless questions like “how do I provide a better experience for HCPs?” which can now be solved in new and better ways. Other challenges are new, like how to optimise your content production chain to cope with the demands of digital marketing. Or how to empower brand managers to develop digital marketing skills.
We’ve collected 10 marketing challenges that many life science companies are facing right now – and provided a solution to address each one. How many apply to your company or brand?
1) How do I reduce my cost of content?
The rapid growth of digital marketing in pharma has put pressure on traditional content supply chains. More digital channels require more content which, in turn, means additional sales and marketing team supervision, extra LMR approvals, increasing content investments, and localization bottlenecks as affiliates face evermore materials to adapt. It can’t continue this way forever, so what should be done?
The answer is a new way of creating and managing content. Rather than developing content for one just channel, you can now use a modular content approach that enables you to create a type of content that fits in any channel. That means that you can easily reuse content elements. With modular content, it’s the same content element in an eDetailer and on a brand website. And when you update the content module, it updates everywhere that it’s been used. That makes everything faster, easier and much cheaper.
This might be where life science companies have experienced the biggest benefit of digital technology to date. The greater number of channels now available to pharma marketers provides more options to reach HCPs and meet different needs.
Some HCPs want one-to-one engagements. Others don’t. And some prefer a blended experience that mixes direct contact with channels that enable them to review information in their own time. By providing a mix of channels, you can meet these different preferences and encourage more HCPs to engage.
Some channels also increase your marketing reach just by being more efficient. Remote detailing, for example, enables more HCP contacts because of the efficiencies that it provides. Approved email is likewise a great way to enable reps and MSLs to reach HCPs cost-effectively. And now there are new on-demand options like self-service detailing systems that make your content available to HCPs 24/7.
3) How can I ensure that my digital channels meet local needs?
Closer collaboration with affiliates around content should ensure that marketing materials meet local market needs. And, by involving people, the process should generate support and ensure that everyone gets behind the implementation.
But any collaboration process needs to be designed. Otherwise, it can get time-consuming and confusing for everyone involved. It can also fail to accurately record all affiliate requirements, as key points sometimes get lost along the way. The result? The whole co-creation process is often felt to be not worth the trouble.
The answer isn’t simply bringing people into a room for a discussion. What’s required is a structured process, that clearly defines everyone’s roles, with an effective system to record all requirements. Technology can play an important role here by enabling online collaboration, providing a permanent record of all requirements, and helping to avoid unnecessary travel expenditure.
4) How do I get my core strategy implemented locally?
This is an issue that we’ve heard from several companies, and we’ve worked with many to overcome these challenges. While global brand plans are often excellent – making great use of the opportunities for technology – often they are not fully implemented locally and therefore never reach the customer. What frequently happens is that affiliates implement a ‘tried and tested’ approach – doing what they’ve done before – rather than taking up the novel strategies and approaches outlined in the global brand plan.
The answer is to switch the local focus from building channels to creating for customer needs. Precisely how to do this is explored in an Anthill eBook, Making the Connection. This explains the strategy that rewires people’s thinking; explores how to approach channel selection; defines the kind of content that enables action; describes how to enable affiliates to build tactics; and much more.
5) How can I increase ROI on my eDetailing content?
For many life science companies, eDetailing remains the major digital content investment for any brand. And with good reason. It is usually the primary channel to reach HCPs. And, done well, it is both effective and appreciated by HCPs. What this means is that eDetailing is usually your very best and most valuable content. How might more of that value be unlocked?
A great way to get more from eDetailing is to create a self-service system. That takes your existing eDetailing content and puts it online so that HCPs can access the information whenever they want. At Anthill, we’ve now enabled many companies to provide this with great success. The materials remain secure and compliant – and deliver an engaging experience by using digital brand assistants that guide and respond to customers as they explore your content.
6) How can I provide a better experience for HCPs?
Great pharma marketers have always asked this question. The desire to see things from the audience’s point of view, understand what people need, and then exceed expectations has always produced results. What’s different today is that there is more opportunity to do this consistently because of the possibilities of technology.
This isn’t about new systems or major capital investments. You likely have what you need. Rather it’s about getting more from what you already have in place. Often you can make significant improvements to customer experience just with the right strategy.
One concrete example is the use of customer journey planning. This just means orchestrating your existing channels and content into a sequence that meet a customer’s needs. The ‘journey’ is simply the steps that they need to take. For example, they might start with a remote detailing session, which is followed up by an approved email, then a visit to a web page. This provides the information that an HCP needs, delivered in the right order, and in an engaging way by mixing channels.
Customer journey planning isn’t complicated. You just need the right strategy to unlock the potential of the channels and content that you already have.
7) How can I make my marketing content more impactful?
Does this sound familiar? You define the content for the channel. You work with the agency on the master. You get input from affiliates. You make the revisions with the agency. You shepherd it through LMR approval. You then engage affiliates on localization and adaption for each market. And finally, you really hope that it works because repeating that whole process would be a nightmare!
And the truth is will likely be fine. Some of the content will work great, some bits will be so-so, and a little bit might not work at all. But ‘fine’ isn’t great. And that’s frustrating. You often know from the data that some small fixes would make a big difference, but even small changes are not easy to make. The process holds you back.
The answer, again, is modular content. That enables you to update, approve and localize just the content elements that need to be changed. Because it’s never a big deal to make changes to any one element, you can keep changing and improving. Responding to data, and making lots of little fixes, adds up to a lot more impact.
8) How can I help brand managers develop their digital marketing skills?
Many companies have developed handbooks to help brand managers make better use of digital marketing channels like eDetailing, approved email and brand websites. While providing guidance is always a good idea, these handbooks and guidelines often go unread.
A common reason for this lack of engagement is that such handbooks generally contain a lot of information, much of which isn’t directly relevant to a brand manager’s job. Also, these manuals too often set out general rules and principles rather than step-by-step instructions.
The answer is to ‘switch from rules to recipes’. The recipes in this case being detailed instructions on how to overcome common digital marketing challenges that a brand manager will likely face. Recipes can also be positive, providing step-by-step guidance for digital marketing activities that they may want to try.
One common issue is the difficulty of managing brand websites across all countries and regions. Companies have built many hundreds of websites over the years and each brand may have multiple language versions. These sites are often running on different CMS systems, or are coded in different ways. It makes for a highly complex environment in which web content is hard to overview, slow to update and isn’t always uniform in brand expression.
The result is that brand teams often can’t make full use of brand websites. Ideally, your web presence would be activated by a customer journey strategy in which sites or specific pages are included in targeted communication flows. But when websites are hard to work with, this kind of planning is impossible.
The solution is to unify your web presence. All sites should be running on the same platform. That allows affiliates to easily build and update content (rather than it being ‘owned’ by agencies). A modern unified website system also enables you to overview all the sites and push out content – via a structured review and localisation process – to any or all of your brand sites
10) How can I get better work from digital agencies?
We’ve discovered that brand managers often have difficulty communicating their requirements to agencies. Sometimes brand managers feel that they don’t even speak the same language as agencies. This might sound like a small thing, but it really isn’t. The interaction is crucial to the ultimate success of your HCP engagement. If the briefing and reviews aren’t working, the results probably won’t either.
A simple fix is to provide brand managers with the words they need to communicate their ideas. A ‘design vocabulary’ enables more precision in requirement specification. It also subtly trains brand managers on issues of which they should be aware. For example, where a brand manager might say that something “didn’t look right,” they can now see and express that there is a problem with “alignment and spacing.”
A shared vocabulary is a little fix that makes a big difference. It enables brand managers to communicate with confidence and produces better work from agencies. It also reduces costs while speeding time-to-market by avoiding delays that arise from misunderstanding.
Approved email can be highly effective – empowering reps with pre-approved content to engage HCPs. And it’s definitely been proving its worth right now with face-to-face HCP meetings being restricted. But it still has to be done right.
While every company is unique – and every brand poses its own specific issues – we know from our clients that there are plenty of shared challenges in pharma too. Some of these are timeless questions like ‘how do I provide a better experience for HCPs?’ which can now be solved in new and better ways.