15th December 2020
Digital is no longer a world that belongs to tech experts or consumer industries, it is part of every element of our day to day lives and it is here to stay.
As digital has become embedded in our lives, consumers have developed a deeper trust in, and demand for, cross-channel digital information. This evolution has been compounded by the global pandemic, during which time digital stepped up to the plate to replace most face to face interactions.
As more people rely on digital interactions in day-to-day life, there is a rise in expectations. From the weekly shop to booking theatre tickets to arranging a doctor's appointment, customers expect seamless communications across a range of devices. However, the healthcare industry has been left behind; a recent survey of HCPs showed that 59% of US and 67% of EU interactions were dependent on field reps, with just 8% of US and 6% of EU reps using a combination of face-to-face, email and virtual meetings to engage with their clients.
In order to keep up with the digital age and gain leverage with new and existing customers, the healthcare industry needs to move away from traditional communication methods in favour of targeted, streamlined, digital interactions.
A rising demand for digital
Field reps’ long-term relationships with HCPs are valuable, but there is no denying that when it comes to efficiency, digital wins every day. We have moved from a time when sales rep visits and entertaining were an integral part of the healthcare lifecycle, to an age where it is increasingly difficult to engage HCPs using the traditional methods. This is partly due to a rise in demand for digital, a drop in sales force-only interactions, and a move away from primary care to specialist and orphan drugs. What’s more, doctors are known for their love of tech and time is at a premium, which means that they are much more likely to look at targeted digital content at a time that suits them than answer a cold call.
It’s not just healthcare professionals who expect digital interactions; patients who are accustomed to day-to-day digital interactions in every other part of their lives have increasing expectations of digital information and targeted communications regarding appointments, healthcare advice and product information. So, as HCPs are required to look at how they communicate with their patients, their digital expectations of their suppliers rise, too.
The rise of the Digital Rep
Larger organisations have taken the lead in developing a digital strategy that will enable them to reach customers who, until now, have been inaccessible. And as they get an early start, the gap between the big players and smaller pharmaceuticals is only set to widen. By empowering the Digital Rep, organisations will be able to leapfrog the competition, accessing HCPs and providing them with current, customised, compelling data that can be accessed wherever, whenever, and however the customer likes. In an industry when time is precious, this ability to retrieve information at any time is a significant advantage, so it makes sense to invest in content that can be accessed and absorbed at the client’s convenience. However, a successful digital strategy extends far beyond sending out millions of emails in a hope that someone will open it, read it and engage with it. By utilising a multi-channel approach, it is possible to get tailored, targeted content to specific groups of customers and patients. The result? Greater customer engagement and greater ROI.
The need for digital is now. However, the real challenge is in achieving a series of omni-channel interactions that can bridge the gap between the traditional rep/HCP relationships and today’s digital requirements by bringing a frictionless, tailored customer journey from beginning to end.
A omni-channel approach
An omni-channel approach achieves something far greater than the sum of its parts. Each intervention magnifies the others, bringing together a cohesive, customised interaction likely to gain much greater traction than stand-alone digital interactions or even traditional, face-to-face methods. There are multiple digital opportunities available for exploitation; an experienced, native digital agency will be able to help your organisation to find the channels that best suit your brand and purpose.
When it comes to producing an effective digital strategy, it is important that you identify who your target audience is and how they interact with you and your competitors, to determine what works, and what doesn’t. By investing time in finding out what works best, you will be able to reduce wasting resources on activities that aren’t appropriate. This is no mean feat; traditional marketing agencies who have evolved to digital in order to survive often use tried and tested marketing methods that were cutting edge in their time, but fail to gain traction in the digital world. Native digital agencies with no industry-specific knowledge apply methods that worked for other industries, but which don’t support the life science industry’s strict compliance and regulatory needs. In order to be effective, an entirely new, creative yet industry-specific digital approach is needed.
Likewise, in order to achieve digital success, you need to consider what you want to get out of the interaction, what your customers (in this case an HCP) want to achieve, and what their customers (the patients) want. By starting with the patient and mapping out the motivations and interactions from patient to healthcare organisation, it is possible to create a strategy that has maximum impact. It’s simple really: to achieve digital success, you need to put the patients first.
There are many advantages to sending emails - unlike cold calls, emails are unobtrusive, familiar and can be responded to at leisure (on the commute home, during lunch hour or coffee break). Add in the fact that there are several ways for a HCP to respond, and it is no wonder that approved emailing is the favoured digital asset of most pharmaceuticals. In fact, 66% of HCPs want to be able to receive emails from life sciences reps.
Effective emailing isn’t just about having the capacity to email HCPs, it is about knowing how and when to do so in a way that is engaging and elicits the desired response. A mass-email approach may be easy and cheap, but it is not necessarily productive. By tailoring interactions according to the target audience, organisations can vastly increase their effectiveness; the average open rate between HCPs and reps is 35% compared to just 3% from corporate sources, and personalised, relevant email content increases the industry click-through rate six-fold.
However, emails do have their limitations. Regulating email content so that every piece of content complies with guidelines while keeping on top of any changes in recommendations can be a challenge, particularly if you rely on multiple platforms interacting with each other. It can also be hard to maintain consistent branding and tone across a range of emails within a standard communication chain. In fact, achieving consistency and compliance across communication channels is one of the most significant limitations holding many proactive organisations back from going fully digital.
e-Learning enables you to showcase your brand as well as getting the right information to current and prospective customers. Unlike paper documents, once published, e-Learning is instantly accessible to a variety of audiences across a range of platforms meaning that critical, up to date information and advances in knowledge can be distributed at the push of a button. e-Learning can also be a valuable tool for virtual meetings, allowing the rep to introduce a product to the HCP, which the HCP can access at a later date.
One of the biggest limitations when it comes to e-Learning platforms within the healthcare industry is security. Existing e-Learning platforms often meet the organisation’s practical and branding needs, but the lack of Open Source codebase means that it can’t be certified secure. This means that the route to market for e-Learning materials can be prohibitively long, as information must go via industry experts, designers and content creators before being compliance checked and published.
As with all digital interactions, the proof of the action is in the measuring. Your e-Learning platform should allow you to analyse how people interacted with your resources so that you can gauge what content is most relevant, compelling and successful.
So obvious that they are often overlooked, landing pages allow you to gain unsolicited contact with a broader target audience, as well as providing a platform to which you can direct leads and contacts.
However, many ambitious organisations fall short of the combination of industry compliance, data application and creativity, making it hard for them to attract a specific audience while maintaining industry standards. Similarly, some organisations may struggle to guide customers through a complete and compelling digital journey.
By putting your brand and your customer at the centre of every digital process, your digital marketing strategy can overcome these challenges to create a customer experience that is seamless from start to finish.
A compliant solution for HCPs
With the right strategy and delivery, digital can transform the healthcare industry. By gaining a deeper understanding of customers and patients and how they interact online, healthcare organisations have the potential to deliver improved customer experience, engagement and trust. With the right approach, there is a clear opportunity for organisations to place their customers at the centre of their delivery, and themselves at the forefront of their industry.
There is undoubtedly a gap in the digital opportunities for the healthcare industry, but we are bridging it.
We have invested in creating digital experiences that exceed the needs of the healthcare industry while maintaining compliance at every touchpoint. Our skilled teams will examine your digital landscape, apply what we know about existing HCP interactions, identify where we need to be, and create an omni-channel approach. Once we have achieved this, your Digital Rep has the potential to be your most valued asset.