How to empower affiliates to deliver on global pharma brand strategies
From global strategy to local reality
Many life sciences companies are experiencing the same problem: innovative global brand strategies are not being fully realised on the ground. The problem is rarely the plans themselves. Global strategies often provide excellent customer insights and contain strategic frameworks that enable better application of digital technologies. Neither is the issue with the affiliates, who are keen to modernise their HCP engagements and demonstrate results in their markets. Instead, the problem is a handover gap between the strategic intent and real-world implementation.
This Insight explores what’s happening and explains what pharma marketers can do to bridge this gap and better support and empower affiliates on execution — unlocking the potential in global brand plans.
Understanding the problem
At global levels, pharma companies’ HCP engagement strategies often reflect today’s digital technology opportunities. Plans are data-driven, enabling agile marketing. Strategies also now emphasise customer-centric omnichannel marketing techniques that orchestrate channels to deliver more relevant communications. The result should be more responsive and connected communications that give a clear boost to the quality of customer experience that you provide. The change should be obvious. But what often occurs is that locally implemented channels make minimal reference to the global brand strategy.
This isn’t the ‘fault’ of the affiliates or global brand teams. Both parties are working hard. It happens because affiliates aren’t fully prepared for the new strategies. People just don't know what to do. And consequently, they implement what they know: established multichannel thinking, i.e. each containing roughly the same content. As a result, rather than an omnichannel strategy, you get websites and eDetailers that would have been created even if the global brand strategy didn’t exist.
Closing the gap
Solving this problem requires an additional step: global brand teams and affiliates must come together in a process that essentially ‘translates’ the strategy for local markets. You do this by placing the focus clearly on local HCPs. Both parties, if you will, slightly extend their responsibilities and work together to create customer-centric tactical plans.
By starting with their HCP needs, approaches like omnichannel make sense to affiliates. Local markets are well aware that they have different customer profiles, each with specific preferences and requirements. What is not always clear is that new pharma engagement strategies are about meeting those needs more effectively. However, once this is clarified, the question then becomes how to leverage global strategies.
This is the essential step. Customer-centricity enables productive global/local conversations and kickstarts detailed affiliate planning. It also uncovers areas where affiliates may need assistance and guidance.
Supporting affiliate planning
There are numerous opportunities to support affiliates — from general training on digital marketing techniques, specific planning tools, technical support, and even the kind of core content the global organisation provides. The following are some of the most common interventions that you can make.
Channel selection: What is often missing is a consideration of why some channels are relevant and others aren’t, how to best leverage them, and how this will drive the strategy — setting up the next marketing cycle in a meaningful way. To kick the multichannel habit, operational teams need to see that tactics are more than standalone channels filled with messages. Rather, they should be orchestrated communications that improve customer experience by considering which channel/content combinations are most appropriate for different customers and situations. Understanding what each channel offers is essential to this process.
Customer journey planning: This follows naturally from channel selection because, once the role that channels play is understood, they can be orchestrated into a logical sequence. In other words, affiliates select channels that most effectively deliver a message at any stage and connect them so that customers can move forwards — a practice known as customer journey planning. Understanding customer journey planning is key for many affiliates because it switches marketing from a multichannel model to customer-centric omnichannel. In other words, you no longer have content that HCPs should find and sort themselves but rather curate an experience that provides what they need. Affiliates can then decide the level of sophistication — one overall customer journey or multiple versions that meet the needs of different HCP profiles.
Customer experience mapping: This is a valuable way to schedule activity, helping affiliates develop yearly plans of connected activities. It also provides a clear graphical overview — enabling everyone to see the whole plan. For example, your field force can plan engagements in concert with marketing emails if they know when these will be sent and what topics are covered — a very simple but effective omnichannel orchestration. Likewise, marketers can plan multiple customer journeys throughout the year — connecting advertising, digital channels and rep contact into high-value experiences.
Actionable content: In addition to planning tools and training, affiliates can be empowered with modular content. This bite-sized content works like building blocks, with each ‘module’ telling a complete, fully-referenced story. Because modules can be combined as desired, pharma marketing assets are much faster to create. This is hugely beneficial to affiliates trying to develop content according to multiple HCP profiles or respond in an agile way to data — both common objectives of today’s global brand plans. It also brings efficiency to content localisation and MLR processes, which frees up time for affiliates to focus on their customers. Perhaps most importantly, it switches people’s mindset from translators of fixed ‘global masters’ to empowered creators of locally-relevant strategies and assets.
Download the eBook
You can explore these affiliate empowerment techniques in greater depth in Anthill’s Making the Connection eBook — together with other interventions you can make to ensure that your global brand plans are realised locally. The eBook describes techniques that we have been using with pharma clients around the world and have generated positive results for everyone involved. Sign up to receive a copy by email.
How can we help?
If you’re looking to support affiliates to implement your global brand strategies, please get in touch. In partnership with you, we can design an approach that fits the needs of your whole marketing organisation. Or we can provide specific assistance with interventions such as simplifying analytics to enable agile marketing, providing actionable omnichannel frameworks, or building modular content to speed asset creation.
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