The 3 building blocks of pharma omnichannel product launches

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A question of degree

Make a start: This Insight describes how to realise the full potential of omnichannel in pharma product launches. It does require new strategies, better analytics abilities, and more content. But don’t be intimidated — everything doesn’t have to happen at once. And no pharma company, anywhere in the world, has every aspect fully optimised. While you need something in place for all three ‘omnichannel building blocks’ — strategy, data and content — it isn’t all or nothing.

A viable solution should be possible for any pharma or MedTech company. And any improvement to any of these building blocks will only increase your scope of action. At Anthill, we always start by asking: what is possible within current constraints? And then consider what would increase your options. To explore what specific opportunities you have, do get in touch.

Difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing
Pharma companies are moving from multichannel to omnichannel product marketing

The strategy  

The first building block of any pharma omnichannel product launch is the strategy — the objective and how to achieve it. In this case, the objective is personalising communication to make it more relevant to HCPs. The fundamental change is a switch from mass marketing, in which everyone gets the same message, to addressing individual HCP content needs — while still operating at scale. Digital technologies make this possible, but technology alone is not the answer. It must be directed. Technology can be used to ‘spray and pray’ messaging or precisely target a specific individual’s requirements. The difference is your strategy.

Prioritise relevance: Responding to pressing covid challenges, pharma rapidly-digitised content for distribution to HCPs. This digitisation was significant, but often contact frequency was prioritised over quality. As HCPs’ inboxes filled with marketing emails, they pushed back. In response, companies are increasingly implementing an approach that is not primarily driven by frequency but by customer need — leveraging data to match content to people’s requirements. Marketers increasingly understand that what you do with digital is more important than how often you reach customers with digital. Getting the right contact frequency is essential, but quality drives successful product launches.

Be customer-centric: Omnichannel starts with the customer and orchestrates relevant experiences — content at the right time and context for individual HCPs. This strategy differs from the established pharma multichannel approach, which places similar content in all assets. In multichannel, channels work independently, and everyone gets the same message in the same way. Omnichannel is the opposite. This requires sequencing content to provide what HCPs need, depending on: where they are on an adoption ladder, their professional interests, individual channel and content format preferences, and other factors.

Simplify with profiles: A 100% content match for every doctor’s unique preferences may happen in the future, but it is currently too complex. Instead, omnichannel today is about making your engagements more relevant right now, with continual improvement over time. To achieve this, you can leverage your data to build customer profiles. And then design communications for each profile. From an HCP’s point of view, there will be a significant improvement in relevance — encouraging greater interaction with your content and improving your data. In turn, this enables you to enhance your content or refine your segmentation with more detailed customer profiles. But to begin with, directing your product launch marketing with a few customer profiles can work wonders.

Sequence your touchpoints: With customer profiles defined, you can plan specific pathways or 'customer journeys' through your channels and content. HCPs start at one point and then move forward — in a planned way — via a series of interactions with your brand. These customer journeys will all communicate your core product launch messaging but will do so in different ways. Channels may vary, e.g. reflecting preferences for in-person detailing or for virtual engagement via remote meetings, approved email and self-service solutions. Alternatively, touchpoints may emphasise specific topics, e.g. heightened communication on efficacy or more on tolerability. Working with customer journeys gives you a practical tool to realise a pharma omnichannel launch strategy — providing a concrete engagement plan.

Respond to context: In addition to matching touchpoints to individual customer needs, you can also increase relevance by paying attention to context. This means accounting for the timing and circumstances surrounding content delivery. For example, HCPs attending a conference need certain kinds of content during the day, e.g. keynote presentations, and something else when they are in their hotel room, such as ‘refresher’ content that gets them up-to-speed for the next day. Likewise, a clinical paper might be perfect for certain moments but be inappropriate at other times, such as commuting by car, when a podcast might be ideal.

Key points:
Omnichannel increases pharma product launch relevance
Customer profiles simplify the process
Sequence channels to improve customer experience
Account for context to increase engagement

Content and channel orchestration in pharma marketing
Increase relevance through content and channel orchestration

Omnichannel product launch whitepaper download

The data  

An omnichannel strategy — personalised and relevant communication — is fully realised with the right kind of data and the ability to apply it to marketing activities. However, while everyone now appreciates data's important role in pharma product marketing, many companies still lack sufficient infrastructure. But if you make suitable investments in systems and skills, data makes life better for everyone: Commercial get better results, doctors gain more relevant information, and patients receive better services. And companies with a high-priority product launch on the horizon have a great incentive to act.

Build your infrastructure: The first step is to get your internal infrastructure in place so that data streams can be connected. Without a permanent setup, you will be running a series of one-off projects — essentially recreating the data infrastructure each time. Therefore, it’s a good idea to establish an in-house solution. Right now, data platforms are rarely connected in pharma. The MarTech solution, patient services hub, and field data system often operate separately. Enterprise software will provide 80% of what you need while allowing you the customise the solution. It is a significant investment that is hard to cover by marketing budgets alone. Good data infrastructure is an asset that benefits Commercial, Medical and Patient Services. As such, it should be an organisational investment — and one well worth making for priority product launches.

Get the right insights: Traditionally, companies worked with market performance data. What are competitors doing? Which brands are being prescribed? While this remains important, it doesn’t drive HCP engagement. For that, you need customer data. For example, knowing which content formats someone prefers (clinical studies, videos, in-person meetings) is far more useful than knowing what competitor activities took place last month. So instead of looking backwards, seek data that is predictive. Data should tell you what HCPs will look for in the future, which content formats will be most effective, and which touchpoints are required.  

Earn customer data: It is helpful to differentiate between data that you buy from suppliers and 'earned data' that results from HCP interactions with your content. Providing better experiences provides momentum. Market access increases with good content because HCPs appreciate well-presented quality information and — following a good experience — are more willing to engage. As interactions increase, data quality improves, and you can enhance your content. You learn the kind of content HCPs want and how they prefer to receive it. In other words, earned data enables you to find the right target and design the right experiences. Like a flywheel, pharma omnichannel data starts slowly but speeds up over time.

Support customer teams: While having data experts in Marketing is invaluable, cross-division analytics teams can assist everyone — Marketing, Sales and Patient Services — and encourage a single ‘customer view’ that enables the integration of different activities into one seamless experience. Cross-functional analytics divisions are well-established in large pharmaceutical companies, but omnichannel strategies require new working methods. For example, rather than making quarterly presentations on general market conditions, analytics teams need to be more integrated — making specific recommendations and working closely on tactical plans.

Be business-focused: As the Analytics team’s role changes, they need more than data science skills. A good understanding of omnichannel marketing strategies, and storytelling abilities to get their message across, become critical. Analytics also need to be comfortable standing up for their recommendations. No longer providing ‘nice-to-know’ background data, they must offer more muscular internal consultancy — giving confidence to Marketing, Sales and Patient Services. Equally, customer-focused teams need to build data skills to ask the right questions and understand how to apply insights at a tactical level. In other words, everyone needs to focus more on the daily customer experience.

Key points:
Omnichannel requires customer data
Best practice is to unify data platforms
Analytics should work closely with launch teams
Customer data is earned by improving HCP's experiences

How each pharma marketing channel improves content relevance
Every interaction improves content relevance

The content

The final building block of pharma omnichannel product launches is the content. While it’s often said that you can’t use existing content in an omnichannel world, this isn't entirely true. You definitely can design an effective solution with your existing content — but it needs to be adapted. This adaptation process ensures that your content can be personalised and formatted to fit different preferences. If possible, your content should also be 'systematised' to meet the production demands of omnichannel.  

Turn up the volume: Focusing on customer experience rather than contact frequency might suggest that less content is required. In truth, it’s the opposite. Rather than sending out the same message multiple times, omnichannel product launches require more tailored engagements. This means accounting for different requirements and situations. For example, multiple versions of a webpage explaining product efficacy might be necessary. To make omnichannel work optimally, ensure that you have sufficient content at the outset and can produce more in response to data insights.

Diversify your formats: Another factor driving content volume is a push for more diverse formats — particularly bite-sized content that can be used across channels. These enable you to respond to people's preferences for content that takes less than 15-minutes to consume, reflecting broader trends in digital content consumption. Short-form content also allows you to engage at different moments of a doctor’s day. There are times when longer engagements are appropriate, such as a high-value remote detailing session. Other moments require 'snackable' content, e.g. concise refresher content, ‘Cliff Notes’ keynote summaries, and short video explainers.

Be systematic: The amount of content required can be challenging for unprepared organisations. Companies have discovered that changing the strategy requires changing their content production too. More efficient procedures and systems are needed to cope with the increased content volume. To ease the burden on MLR and affiliates — and to speed Commercial’s own processes — forward-thinking companies prepare with a content excellence programme. Content excellence initiatives reengineer the supply chain with truly digital production methods. These processes bring efficiency, enabling you to scale your content volume. For an omnichannel product launch, it is highly recommended.  

Go modular: A common element of many content excellence programmes is switching from individual asset production to modular content systems. Modular content is a library of flexible content elements that work like building blocks — which can be assembled in different combinations to rapidly create assets. Modular content also speeds MLR because it is approved once but used multiple times — avoiding repeat approvals of broadly similar assets. For pharma omnichannel product launches, this is ideal. Assets need to be generated fast, and you must also respond quickly to market feedback in the initial months. Long content creation and approval processes don't meet today’s market realities, so companies taking a modular approach operate with a significant commercial advantage.  

Use GenAI: AI systems can generate texts, images and even video with just a few prompts. The potential is obvious, though it needs to be applied carefully. While AI produces remarkable results, it can generate content that seems plausible but is incorrect — a problem often termed hallucination. This is unacceptable in the regulated healthcare sector, where companies have a duty always to provide accurate information. However, it can be applied safely — especially when combined with modular content.

Respond quickly: Content excellence and modular content bring efficiency and speed to today's pharma product launches. This is critical in the first months and essential as your launch year progresses. HCPs always want fresh medical content, so regularly updating assets maintains interest in your product. For example, HCPs are calling for more real-world evidence, wanting to hear which patient groups benefit most from a product six months post-launch. Getting these results to HCPs quickly is a significant opportunity — and one you can realise with an efficient content supply chain.

Employ content marketing: HCPs increasingly engage with digital content first and meet your field force later. This trend mirrors what is happening in other business sectors where the initial steps of the adoption ladder now occur online. For pharma, this is a major change from a system in which reps handled the whole 'awareness-to-decision’ process themselves. Content marketing — unbranded or lightly-branded materials with an emphasis on medical communication — lends itself to on-demand strategies. HCPs are willing to listen to product messaging but expect brand communication to follow medical information. In other words, companies increasingly ‘earn’ their ability to market brands with high-value medical content marketing.  

Speak with one voice: Being customer-centric, omnichannel should provide one coherent experience for each HCP. With the desire for medical information to precede brand communication, there are good reasons to align Medical and Commercial. Right now, these divisions usually work separately, even using different data systems. Content marketing is one area where Medical and Commercial can collaborate, providing complimentary skillsets. Medical have the information and can frequently shape it to meet HCP expectations. But they often don't think in terms of trackable KPIs or know how to connect channels to build HCP experiences — which is where Commercial provides essential expertise.

Key points:  
Diverse content formats enable you to account for context
Content excellence programmes bring efficiency
Modular content enables the rapid creation of digital assets
Customers increasingly engage with digital content before seeing reps
Brand communication opportunities are earned through quality medical information
Align Medical and Commercial activities for one omnichannel experience

How modular content speeds omnichannel asset creation
Modular content speeds pharma omnichannel launch asset creation

Bonus: 2 simple actions you can take

At the start of this Insight, we wrote that every pharma and MedTech company can get a viable omnichannel product launch solution in place. While it’s true that some aspects of omnichannel require significant investment, there is plenty of ‘low-hanging fruit’. Indeed, there is one very simple omnichannel orchestration that almost every company can make.  

Most commercial organisations now regularly send marketing emails to HCPs. But only a few coordinate this with their field force — telling reps what the emails will say and when they will be sent. Simply informing field teams about marketing email plans enables reps and MSLs to coordinate their activities. And they can also seek feedback on how the content was received. It’s that easy. But from HCPs' point of view, it presents as joined-up communication in which they are central to the process. Even simple orchestrations do matter — especially during pharma product launches when every engagement counts.

Another example relates to customer profiling. Designing launch communications for numerous profiles can be challenging, but what about just two? Simply differentiating between the ‘known’ HCPs already in contact with your company and ‘unknown’ HCPs, who have not yet given marketing permissions, can drive a viable omnichannel launch strategy. The experience will be very different for the two groups, with digital content accessible by ‘unknown HCPs’ and more personal contact provided to HCPs with whom you have an established relationship.

Once you take an omnichannel approach and start looking at your marketing from the HCP’s point of view, you will find many easy fixes that make a big difference. And from there, you can start building your capabilities within omnichannel strategy, data, and content.

Digital ecosystem of HCP portal
Simple HCP profiling can drive effective omnichannel launch campaigns

How can we help?

Do you have a product launch on the horizon and want to apply omnichannel marketing techniques? Anthill Agency can assist with the overall approach, your data strategy, and deliver the content in a way that makes the whole process easier. Talk to us about a solution that fits your company’s immediate needs and sets you up for the future.

Book an omnichannel presentation

More pharma product launch resources

Webinar recording: from launch to legacy
: product launch success factors
: content experience for pharma launches
: HCP content preferences
Marketing guide:
 understanding omnichannel
Case study:
omnichannel implementation


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