How To Start Pharma Digital Journey

courtesy: HubSpot offers

courtesy: HubSpot offers

Context

I recently had a discussion about “going #digital” with a pharma executive. I showed him this. He confided that he believes digital as the way forward but simply does not know how to propose to his management. He also said that it all looks fantastic to talk but when you want to start, you go nowhere. He was sure that his management will not accept any proposal which talks about a budget for gadgets.

We shall go about discussing some aspects of it to the extent a blog post would allow it. I confine this discussion to what pharma can internally decide and execute because that’s where I want them to start with their learning curve. I welcome you to join this discussion by reading, making notes of your thoughts and sharing your comments.

Pharma Campaigns

Pharma marketing operates with 3-6 campaigns every year. On an average, a minimum of 4 meetings (one per each quarter) are called for, to meet with the reps within the company. The expenses incurred for such a campaign briefing meeting (every company has different names for such meetings) include

  • Expenses of Reps travelling from the towns they are based to where the meeting is held (to and fro)
  • A place for them to stay for 2-3 nights
  • Food for them on all these days
  • A meeting place
  • Paper-based stationery and training material
  • Going by our own experience, atleast two working days get spoilt other than these meeting days (yeah! you can contest that)

What happens in a campaign briefing meeting? The following list (indicative but not limited to) gets discussed

  • Product priorities (seasonal, new launches etc.)
  • Mapping the product priorities to the Drs List (a term pharma people understand well)
  • Sampling strategy
  • Detailing strategy
  • Detailing priorities within that individual detailing strategy
  • Follow-up calls (Number of times to visit each category of doctors)
  • Targets (primary and secondary)
  • Training/briefing reps to execute these
  • Analysis of last  quarter sales figures or YTD sales (year-to-date)
  • Announcements of incentives against achievements and for future achievements

You will find that most of the above are mere communication except the training part. In my experience such meetings will not allow time for individual attention of reps and hence not much of individual discussions happen during these briefing days. They happen with respective bosses after these meeting days (mostly while working in the field).

Now consider the fact that most of these can be done through digital platforms with much more efficiency at a fraction of the costs that are currently incurred.

Efficiency because

  • The training material as videos can be played back any number of times by the rep to learn without additional costs. A series of 2 minutes video learning in between Dr calls might be more effective than once in a quarter learning.
  • Mock sessions through digital platforms, which will improve the rep, costs next to nothing and can be a continuous process as part of the work regimen.
  • Product quizzes can be done online and can be part of the evaluation for further training.
  • Feedback Systems that I spoke about here

Generally I get two objections:

1. Nothing like physically being together for motivation, team spirit, blah, blah, blah…(I come from the traditional background and hence I know every inch of that territorial objections to give soltuions).

2. Investment costs of gadgets are high

1. Being together:

You can do the 3-6 campaign briefings through digital platforms and use that savings to take your reps to exotic locations for being together, develop team spirit and for unwinding once or twice a year. That way, you fund yourselves and, I bet, the reps will like both being sophisticated in work with the gadgets, learning and also the exotic unwinding trips. You will start a trend which others shall follow. You will attract the best talent too.

2. Investments

This is a false objection. Because you dont need to be a maths genius to know that if you calculate the costs of all those campaigns over a period of 1-3 years you can fund yourself for the gadgets and still might save some money. And listen, the benefit is not just the cost. Imagine how your company will get transformed through this and also how customers will perceive your reps and your company. Hence investing(initially) and transforming your company through digital platforms should be a no-brainer. It is an investement that pays itself off and also ensures your future. In the long-run you can have huge cost savings too. All those digital creations can be used in the training departmernt for new comers. That again is a big benefit because these are created for real situations and a huge experience with instituitional memories come along. Such realistic company owned training materials will stand you in good stead for years to come. So much of ROI. Think about it.

Have Both?

Some still might feel that their successes live on their physical campagin briefings. Even if you conduct your briefings in a traditional way, digital platforms can help you increase effectiveness by follow-ups in a bettter way. Traditional ways and digital ways are not the same. Hence a word of caution here. Old strategies with newer tools dont work. But you can make a start by demarcating some parts of it to go the digital way. This is not something that you have to achieve overnight and it is not possible too. But you can make a start towards survival for the future.

My question (or rather answer) to those pharma executives

As pharma person, you know from where these false objections come from and why. You also know how to overcome them. Why will you not apply them interally and convince your management to move forward? We are not even talking about rep-physician relationship or relationship with distributors, chemists and finally patients. We are talking about internal implementation with your own people. What say? You are the best judge.

Is there anything that I did not factor in? Add them. Feel free to share your comments. I will be willing to talk to you if you need help.

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