Multi-channel world: The advent of digital comms


The advent of digital communication has opened up a world of possibilities in pharma sales. How can we make the most of these opportunities?


If I revert back to when I started my career in pharmaceuticals, and we consider different channels of communication to reach out to our healthcare stakeholders and patients, essentially there was really only one, and that was our sales people. Our sales people were the ‘life and blood’ of connecting pharmaceutical organisations to our customers.

Now fast forward nearly two decades on, and things are vastly different. The evolution of the internet, social media and technology generally speaking have opened up a whole new world of possibilities to how we communicate with customers – prescribers, policy makers and patients.

Adapt to the times

Although as an industry we are still taking baby steps in using different channels for communication in comparison to some other industries who arguably adopt earlier than us, things are changing in the way in which we work. Organisations now are seeking to segment, and target stakeholders more precisely based on local environment, needs, preferences, behaviours, profile and alongside this, we are also now adapting our communication and promotional strategies to reflect the numerous options we have available to use, whether that be our sales people, e-detailing, tele-detailing, e-mail, educational meetings and congress, educational electronic media, websites, blogs etc.

Measure effectiveness

With these available options available to us and all of the tools we now have at our disposal, this does pose a different challenge. When we were just working with one channel, measuring the effectiveness of that channel was straightforward enough – we could talk to our sales people to understand what was working well and not so well; we could talk to our customers via market research to understand whether our story was having an impact on their belief systems; we could establish whether the skills of our sales people were at the right levels to provide maximum impact and so on. With more than one channel now available to many organisations, measuring the effectiveness of these channels requires different capabilities and different strategies to capture information in a way that informs us of how effective we are being via the different channels and as a whole.

Take action

With regards to capabilities, I genuinely believe that as an industry, as sales people, as marketers, as commercial leads, we can improve how we use the information we have at our disposal in terms of turning it into action. Turning data into insight and ultimately action from these different channels isn’t for most an easy task, some would say that it is an innate skill, and most would agree that it can be a long drawn out process which requires significant time and investment. I would say that while some have a more natural ability than others to turn multi-channel data into action, it is certainly something that can be learnt and can be built upon. Consequently, my view is that if we as an industry don’t leverage our capabilities optimally, whether we have two or 20 channels, we risk not genuinely understanding how we are being effective, through what medium and why. It is upon all of us to take responsibility of leveraging the right insights and action from the multi-channel world we live in.

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