Know the difference between omnichannel and multichannel. Even though both strategies use multiple channels, omnichannel and multichannel are very different. Understanding this difference is essential because multichannel is more established in pharma and, therefore, the default option. If people are not clear on the distinction, it is multichannel, not omnichannel, that will likely get implemented.
In contrast to multichannel, an omnichannel strategy begins with your customers' needs, not by creating channels. Omnichannel is an experience designed to match a specific HCP profile — or series of profiles — with content that is delivered in successive engagements. In other words, you orchestrate a series of interactions that build on each other: 'interaction 1' enables 'interaction 2', which allows HCPs to move on to 'interaction 3'.
Technically, this customer journey could be as simple as a series of emails. But mixing channels and content types improve the experience. For example, an HCP might start with an approved email, which prompts them to learn more on a website, where they book an MSL discussion during which they are invited to a relevant webinar.
Marketing guide: omnichannel engagement. Get started in the right way with the strategy, use cases, and practical implementation clearly explained. Download the guide
Put the customer at the centre
Design for customer needs. Omnichannel communications are strategic and designed around the customer. Therefore, you start by considering people's needs and then sequence channels and content accordingly. What's critical is switching from providing the same information everywhere to curating individual experiences that unfold over time. The strategy can be as simple or sophisticated as required, but it should describe:
The specific audience and their needs
The start and endpoint of the customer journey
The steps HCPs take (channels and content)
Metrics to confirm effectiveness
An 'adoption ladder' is a very simple yet effective framework to underpin your omnichannel strategy. This visualises a customer's awareness of the topic or issues you want to address, e.g. prescribing your product. It consists of three stages that you need people to move through: awareness, belief, and support. Each person's position on the adoption ladder tells you what communication they need. For example, someone who has little or no awareness of your product requires more basic, introductory information than someone more experienced with it.
Step beyond strategy. Launching a global omnichannel strategy requires getting affiliates on board. Simply describing the approach is not enough. Omnichannel engagement will only get implemented correctly if local markets understand what to do and have the skills to make it happen.
To get the right results, it is a good idea to work directly with affiliates and help them develop local omnichannel plans for their markets. Starting small — one or two simple customer journeys — builds confidence. Later, affiliates can plan more sophisticated journeys once omnichannel thinking is embedded in your organisation.
eBook: Making the connection. Learn how to empower affiliates to deliver on your omnichannel strategy. Download the eBook
Visualise the customer journey
Show how it works. Visualising the customer journey is very helpful for affiliates unfamiliar with the concept. A picture really is worth a thousand words (or Zoom calls, Teams meetings, and Skype chats). Even a simple illustration of a basic customer journey can work wonders when introducing the omnichannel concept. And visualisation is also good practice for affiliates' own local planning — helping to clarify thinking and provide a visual way to share their approach with other markets.
Case study: How to implement omnichannel across markets. Learn how a leading pharma company implemented omnichannel by providing clear explanations and support for affiliates. Read now
Match content to profiles
Create ‘experience streams’. Omnichannel is a great way to leverage your market data. Rather than ‘one experience for everyone’, you can use your customer understanding to create more targeted communication flows. These can address different topics or reflect preferred communication styles.
For example, some HCPs may be more focused on the societal impact of a disease, while others are more interested in the science. In effect, you communicate the same messages (i.e. efficacy) but in very different ways. Accounting for communication preferences not only makes for more effective communications but also meets the rising demands from HCPs for more personalised and relevant information.
Match channels to profiles
Use the right channels. It isn't just content that can respond to individual needs; your channels selection can do this too. Increasingly, we have preferred ways of receiving information. Some people dislike phone calls, being more comfortable with text messaging. Others prefer speaking to a real person and prize the human contact of eDetailing and remote detailing. Omnichannel communications can account for these individual preferences.
For example, in pharma marketing, we often need to differentiate between 'known' and 'unknown' customers — HCPs who don't have an existing relationship with the company and haven't given any marketing permissions. Engaging these two groups requires very different approaches that are reflected in your channel choices. Where known customers can enjoy direct contact with the company through eDetailing and webinars, unknown HCPs will need to be reached via 'indirect' channels like social media, advertising and search engine optimised websites.
Marketing guide: approved email. One very useful channel is approved email because it can link the different stages of a customer journey. But it has to be done in the right way. Download the guide
Keep HCPs engaged. The overriding omnichannel objective is to improve customer experience and increase HCP engagement. Content relevance matters greatly but so does the variety of experience you provide. Receiving four emails in a row becomes tiring. But then a fifth? A sixth? Pharma marketers have a far larger toolbox today and the opportunity to curate multiple mini-experiences along a customer journey.
Try to mix things up. We can switch channels, enabling HCPs to experience one-to-one eDetailing, approved email, webinars, brand websites, clinical papers and other documents. And we can switch content formats. In addition to the standard texts, graphics and videos, we now have the opportunity to provide recorded interviews, live discussions, and other content forms that are novel in pharma.
This variety is more intriguing ("What's coming next?") and provides opportunities for multiple kinds of audience involvement. Try thinking about the experience you are providing in terms of verbs. Great omnichannel experiences will have lots: reading, listening, watching, interacting, testing your knowledge etc.
Speed asset creation with modular content
Optimise the content supply chain. The complexity of generating content in pharma put the brakes on omnichannel for many years. Matching content to customer profiles does require more content. And more varied use of content formats also strains resources. Add the rigours of MLR and a generally slow content supply chain, and it’s clear why many pharma companies have not been able to embrace omnichannel strategies to their full extent.
Modular content changes this. Instead of creating and approving assets one at a time, modular content provides pre-approved content ‘building blocks’ that can be quickly assembled and reassembled in different channels. Rather than approving each asset, colleagues in MLR can now focus on reviewing modules that are used multiple times. This avoids the duplication of work arising from reviewing the same messaging again and again in different assets.
If you switch to modular content, you bring efficiency to your whole content supply chain. Materials can be developed at speed, providing the volume required to match content to different customer profiles. And MLR approvals happen much faster, reducing time-to-market. So if you're looking to implement an omnichannel strategy, modular content makes it far easier, and it is highly recommended.
Online guide: modular content. Read our in-depth guide and learn how modular content works and implement it in your organisation. Read now
Make the first move
Start with what you’ve already built. Many life science companies are switching to omnichannel marketing — delivering the experiences that customers now expect. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be complex. You can create excellent omnichannel engagement that meets your business objectives while being easy to implement.
You can start with your existing content and empower affiliates to create local omnichannel plans and tactics. You can then increase relevancy with customer profiling. And you can make it easier with modular content.
We all know how much the pandemic has impacted the industry’s ability to engage with healthcare professionals (HPCs) and the extent to which companies have switched to digital to maintain HCP relationships. What interesting, however, is where those investments were being directed – and how that might change in the future.