Many pharma, biotech and MedTech companies seek to introduce omnichannel marketing to engage healthcare professionals (HCPs) better. But without a clear understanding of potential pitfalls, you’re unprepared for the challenges of omnichannel in pharma — and initial optimism will fade as awareness of the challenges builds.
But don’t be put off — every problem has a solution. If you understand the issues, you can prepare your marketing organisation in advance. To help, this Insight highlights some of the challenges that life science companies encounter when implementing omnichannel marketing — and we provide some best practices for you to consider.
Note: if you’re new to omnichannel marketing in pharma, you may want to reviewAnthill Agency’s online guide to omnichannel marketing. This provides a good overview of the topic — explaining the overall strategy and how it applies to the healthcare industry. You can also download a PDF version here.
Omnichannel challenge 1: Difficulties tracking and measuring results
What’s the problem? Tracking and measuring results in pharma omnichannel marketing can be challenging due to several factors:
Fragmented data: This results when your marketing channels — whether eDetailing, websites, social media, email, or offline events — operate independently. Fragmented data prevents a unified view of customer interactions. Without an overview, it’s hard to identify the most effective channels and optimise the customer experience because data is siloed.
Data privacy and compliance: The pharmaceutical industry is subject to strict patient privacy and data protection regulations, such as HIPAA in the United States and GDPR in the European Union. Adhering to these regulations while collecting and analysing data can create obstacles to tracking and measuring marketing results.
Channel attribution: Omnichannel marketing involves engaging customers across multiple touchpoints. Determining the contribution of each channel to a specific outcome, such as a prescription decision, is challenging. Establishing reliable cross-channel attribution models that accurately assign credit to each channel is difficult due to the complexity of customer journeys.
Data integration and systems compatibility: Pharmaceutical companies often use a variety of marketing and sales tools. Connecting data across different systems and platforms is essential for accurate measurement. However, technical barriers and incompatible data formats hinder smooth integration, making tracking and measuring results hard.
Long sales cycles: The pharmaceutical industry typically has long sales cycles, especially for prescription medications. It can take months or even years for a healthcare professional to prescribe a particular drug. Tracking the influence of various marketing efforts on these extended timelines is challenging, requiring long-term data analysis and attribution modelling.
How to solve it Overcoming these difficulties requires effective data management, robust analytics capabilities, data compliance practices, and the use of attribution models to channel effectiveness. If this sounds like a lot to take on, don’t be alarmed. There are now established procedures for omnichannel data management. And most companies have already made the investments in data infrastructure — making it a question of optimising what you have rather than purchasing new systems.
Omnichannel challenge 2: Lack of integration across channels
What’s the problem? The lack of integration of channels in pharma omnichannel marketing leads to several problems and challenges:
Inconsistent customer experience: Without channel integration, customers may receive disjointed experiences across touchpoints. While the basic product claims won’t differ, how they are presented may not match an HCP’s preferences — which is the objective of omnichannel. For example, someone preferring video may receive texts or experience problems transitioning to another channel. Instead of one ecosystem, HCPs get disconnected channels of varying quality and value.
Siloed marketing strategies: When channels operate in isolation, marketing strategies often become siloed. Each channel may have its own objectives, messaging, and metrics for success. Lack of coordination and alignment between channels can result in inefficiencies, duplication of efforts, and missed opportunities to deliver cohesive and impactful communications.
Inefficient resource allocation: Without channel integration, it is difficult to allocate resources effectively. You may invest heavily in certain channels while neglecting others — leading to an imbalance in marketing efforts. Integration allows for a holistic view of performance and helps identify the most effective channels for reaching and engaging the target audience. This enables better resource allocation and maximises the return on investment.
Inaccurate attribution: Attribution refers to assigning credit to marketing channels or touchpoints that contribute to desired outcomes, such as prescription conversions. If channels are disconnected, accurately attributing sales to specific channels is challenging. This can result in an inaccurate assessment of channel effectiveness, leading to poor decision-making when allocating marketing budgets and optimising strategies.
Missed opportunities for personalisation: Integration enables the flow of customer data across channels, allowing for better personalisation of marketing messages. Without integration, opportunities to tailor content based on customer preferences, behaviours and previous interactions are often missed. This reduces your ability to deliver relevant and engaging experiences to customers.
How to solve it: The solution is to look for channel integration opportunities. The goal is to create a channel ecosystem in which everything connects. Pro tip: visualisation is hugely beneficial. Create diagrams showing the connections between channels and look for integration opportunities when it’s clear that channels are siloed.
Often simple fixes work wonders. For example, most companies have a disconnect between marketing emails and sales force activity. Simply informing reps about future emails enables your sales force to prepare and schedule meetings to discuss the topics in depth. From the HCP's perspective, instead of emails talking about one subject and a rep talking about something else, they now get one connected experience. That's omnichannel.
Omnichannel challenge 3: Limited resources for implementation
What’s the problem? Limited resources can have significant impacts on the implementation of pharma omnichannel marketing strategies:
Channel selection and prioritisation: Resources limitations may encourage pharma companies spread their efforts too thinly over multiple channels — resulting in low impact. Or they may neglect potentially impactful channels for those that are already established. Rather than a healthy balance of channels that provide breadth and depth, the result is an omnichannel experience that is uneven and disjointed.
Technology and infrastructure: Implementing omnichannel marketing requires robust technology infrastructure and tools to integrate and manage data across channels. Resource issues may limit the ability to implement analytics frameworks — hindering the assessment of campaign effectiveness and the capacity to make data-driven decisions. This can result in a lack of insights into channel performance, attribution, and customer behaviour.
Content development and personalisation: Creating personalised, relevant content for each channel is critical for omnichannel marketing. Limited resources can restrict the ability to develop and produce high-quality content tailored to the specific needs of target audiences. This results in generic or less engaging messaging — which undermines the benefits of omnichannel marketing in the life sciences.
Talent and expertise: Successful omnichannel marketing requires a skilled team with expertise in multiple channels, data analysis, campaign optimisation, and customer experience management. Resource limitations may hinder the recruitment of specialised talent — impacting your ability to execute omnichannel strategies effectively.
Testing and experimentation: Effective omnichannel marketing involves continuous testing to refine strategies and optimise performance. For example, you may be restricted in your scope for A/B testing to iterate on campaigns. Without sufficient resources for experimentation, it becomes challenging to identify and implement improvements that can drive better results.
How to solve it: Pouring money into omnichannel isn’t realistic. While there are basic implementation requirements that need to be met, everyone operates with budget limitations. The skill is in allocating resources so they provide the most benefit — doing more with what you have.
For example, rather than seeking to have all possible channels, create a shortlist. You can prioritise channels based on their potential impact and cost-effectiveness. Here, it can be helpful to make a simple categorisation such as reach, depth and interactivity. Then you can make selections to drive your strategy — ensuring you have channels that provide marketing reach, enable HCPs to explore a topic properly, and deliver interactivity to boost customer engagement. At this point, you can also factor in costs to ensure that your channel prioritisation makes economic sense.
Prioritising channels will also address content restrictions. Rather than trying to spread content thinly over multiple channels, double down on the ones that matter. Pro tip: If eDetailing is one of your priority channels, consider a matching self-service solution. This can reuse your eDetailing content and deliver it in a solution that HCPs can access 24/7 — providing the reach of digital media with much of the interactivity of eDetailing.
You can also increase your content supply chain efficiency through a content excellence process, which optimises workflows and enables you to leverage automation. Likewise, introducing modular content makes it easy to reuse and repurpose content.
There are also opportunities to get more from your marketing infrastructure with content authoring solutions such as Anthill’s Activator, which acts as a turbocharger on Veeva Vault. And now machine learning technologies can further speed and simplify content creation by applying AI intelligently to the pharma supply chain.
In other words, by adopting a strategic and resource-conscious approach, pharma companies can overcome supply chain limitations and implement omnichannel marketing at scale — while staying within budget.
Careers are currently being built by pharma marketers who see the opportunity of omnichannel and can drive implementation. What’s their secret? They know that it’s a journey. There are essential elements — technical infrastructure, omnichannel strategy, and implementation execution — that need to be in place in a viable way. But everything doesn’t have to be perfect on day one. What’s more important is having a roadmap. That’s how you go from zero to hero.
Move forward on your omnichannel journey with our Insight on the building blocks of omnichannel. This is informed by Anthill’s omnichannel consultancy work with healthcare companies around the world — you may find it a useful checklist to plan next steps.