What Should Healthcare Marketers Know?

These are my views addressing Healthcare marketers who are coming in (with technology) for the future. A twitter conversation with @HealthIsSocial is shared to encourage you to post your comments.


Healthcare Conversations

Taking MSME Towards eCommerce

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

I wrote The Vegetable Vendor And The eStore and eStore: Get Inspired By Volvo.

I had said that training programs, with basic content, educating about eCommerce will help rates of adoption. 

Training Programs

  • The training should start from introduction to Internet, mobile Internet and online market concept.
  • Businesses should be taught to think of opportunities. 
  • They should be encouraged to check with their existing customers and see some proof.
  • Seeing their name on the internet will sure encourage them to do this exercise of showing and getting more feedback.  
  • They can be taught to start from the Contact Page (even their promotion to customers can start here).
  • They will see a lot of relevance when they start from this page. They can be taught to spend a few hours everyday online.
  • Simple designs, video testimonials can be easily picked up by them while they learn. 
  • It should be explained that eCommerce can be tried as a part of overall business while they are on the learning curve with limited resources.
  • They can use Signage and Hand-outs to promote their presence online with existing customers and/or at their current traditional outlets. 

What sellers can do over the internet:

  • Learn Internet as a market place
  • Learn marketing over the internet
  • Learn actual selling over the internet
  • Learn to share information
  • Collaborate internally (with employees)
  • Learn the advantage of expanding markets, if they can deliver over the internet

Factors that could encourage people adopt eCommerce

  • Increased sales
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved customer service leading to increase in sales
  • Supply chain streamlining and solving continuity issues
  • Overall efficiency compared to traditional methods employed

Shortcomings

  • Lack of Internet access
  • Lack of skilled staff
  • Consumer indifference
  • Security concerns
A comparison of current costs, necessary capital costs, ongoing costs, timeline to experiment, measuring some of the factors discussed above and a review of all these every 3 months can be done with businesses to encourage adoption or to alert them to fine-tune to make it successful or even to discontinue. 
 
Such training programs can be done through trade associations and so many other non-profit associations which work in the welfare of MSMEs.  
 
I am sure increasingly eCommerce will become the order of the day. But those who help businesses gain advantage will lead from the front establishing themselves through conversions by creating a good ecosystem for the growing eCommerce. 

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.

Empowering Systems For Pharma

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

foto courtesy: HubSpot offers

I wrote about a pharma case-study here: Big Data and What they can do

Meaningful reports on time

There are many situations in pharma where quality feedback in a timely manner is of paramount importance.  All of us in Pharma believe, and know, the reports of feedback that are written during the same work session or the same day is of higher value than what is written after a week. Hence many pharma companies have the practice of daily reports or feedback then-and-there. But for a working representative it is highly difficult to write such feedback reports. He has to take the time-out and this is always difficult when he runs from clinic-to-clinic in the race of finishing the day’s work of mandatory Dr calls. (“Dr calls” being the jargon used to state the number of doctors to be seen by a rep every day of work). While the unproductive data of whom he saw and what he did can wait, the feedback from the doctors (whenever, wherever applicable) could be very productive and important. Pharma people can well imagine how this can even work with Doctors’ requests for some information or a sample and how far it can take them with the competitive advantage it can provide. In a cut-throat market any slight differentiation towards better support to the field sales force creates a good distinction resulting in huge success.

Feedback through voice calls

Imagine if the representatives can just give their feedback taken from the doctors by voice calls. These can be submitted online immediately through the phone and will be available to the management almost on real-time. Evaluate such a feedback on the merits of its quality, timeliness and also relevance of being acted upon. It could apply in such a way that that one of the three or all the three could be of use in any given situation.  I am sure the field sales force people will be highly motivated to use such a system and also the results will be much more realistic feedback with better quality and will be timely too.

The system of voice call feedback that I am referring to is being used today by other industries for taking “customer feedback” in an audio form and there is enough proof to say that the feedbacks are getting better going by the number of customers who opt for such systems. I am not even suggesting that Pharma take a leap and start with such systems for “adverse reaction reporting” or for other patient feedback, which needs to be seen through the eyes of regulatory and legal departments in Pharma. But they can sure use it with their representatives for market feedback, which will stand them in good stead and allow them to learn a lot to fine-tune their market strategies.

There are quite a number of options available within these systems and everything is customizable. One can use just a phone for the voice call or through Internet or through APPS or through a smartphone APP with Internet. So it will fit many situations in many ways.

Incremental efforts yet effective results

Pharma has to think of new systems in the coming years to reduce the barriers of reporting and equip their field sales forces in a better manner in this digital age.  Many such systems are simple, yet effective and can offer solutions for many of Pharma’s pain points today.  Pharma can take incremental steps to try out newer ways and solutions towards a better future.

Feel free to post your comments on what you think.

Social Business Company

I had worked with good companies that had great culture and encouraged networking as a way of work. To give you a context, this was much before email was used for business.

The companies encouraged as many “meets” as possible (read the term “meets” in the sense of “assemble” or “convene”). Team meets, Brand meets, Company meets, Distributor meets and Customer meets. It would look like the companies were inventing a reason to make everyone meet. While some companies considered these meetings a waste of time and money, the companies which got sold on this way of work encouraged these meetings by all means and spent quite a budget to make it happen.

The beauty of such meetings is people who are participants of these meets made the meetings happen and shared a lot of work and strived to create more value from their side. Everyone tried to excel with their contribution and tried to show-off by adding value.

Let me tell you a simple example of a team meeting. It involved a hotel conference room, good food, timely snacks and coffee during intervals, drinking water during the meeting, projectors and mikes, stationery, paper work, logistics of personnel and a great deal of communication.  Each activity was done by a participant by volunteering or by assignment.  Since if something went wrong it would be seen as inefficiency of that person for the assigned(mostly volunteered) task, everybody did it well to prove and also get praised. Each individual contributions used to look manageable and small but viewed in the context of the meeting, it would have simply made the meeting wonderful. The meetings involved each individual presenting on his markets and the rest of team questioning/commenting on it to exchange ideas and adding value.

Take another example of customer meets. Company will sketch out the objectives and framework to operate. Employees will add the variations for the meets depending on the area. The distributors will localize it and also involve top customers. The whole team of company executives, employees, distributors and customers will make the meet a grand success and look like a festival for the brand. Visibility, more customers and growth are the results achieved.

When people got transferred from one team to another, they carried those practices and learnt new ones and over time, people followed the best practices everywhere in the organization. We had many instances of small teams bringing in major changes within the company.

Not only team meetings with company employees, all above said “meets” happened the same way including business partners(distributors) and even customers. We had witnessed many occasions where customers used to participate as if they owned the brand and were involved as if its their own function at home. As a result, both their value and the value of the company they represented grew.

Such a way of work was possible because the company believed everyone could contribute. Such a open networking way of work taught people good lessons and improved average productivity, efficiency and learning. It also promoted competitiveness and leaders emerged from such situations. These companies were market leaders and had strong brands, ever increasing market shares, low attrition rates, ever expanding markets and never had to look out for leaders of future outside of their companies. They promoted from within.

While some companies were struggling to understand such ways of work and had highly restrictive practices, practising companies used to wonder “how-else can you function?”. This looks amazingly easy or extremely tough. It depends on the understanding and practicing of the basic fundamentals of how business happens and creating a culture to nurture the same. The companies I worked did everything to nurture such a healthy system.

The beauty of this is the fact it works amazingly and produces the best results possible from employees, partners and customers. These companies made Business a way of life for everyone involved.

Cut to Present….

Today the available tools and technologies can make such an ecosystem not only work better but also the scale at which this can be done are enormous.

If you are open, encourage participation for value creation with employees, business partners and customers to achieve your business objectives with today’s tools and technologies in a massive scale, you have a new name: Social Business Company.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Where Pharma Can Start With Social Media

When people talk of “Pharma and Social Media” they think of replacing in-house reps. They think “out-of-the-box”.  My idea of pharma and social media is completely different.
Introduction
I am using the term “doctors” to denote medical practitioners in this post. In the Indian context, pharma generally refers to them as Doctors. Doctors include all kinds of medical practitioners. The general practitioners, physicians, surgeons, all specialists (including dentists) and super-specialists. In short, anyone who can legally prescribe your medicine to the patient. 
How Pharma Sells
In pharmaceutical sales, the most important customer is the doctor. Though patients buy and use the medicines, it is the doctor who prescribes it and hence doctors are their customers. Pharma companies try and visit as many doctors as possible through their representatives. In general, the numbers of visits to such doctors determine the results. Top-of-mind-brand-recall means more prescriptions. Hence they also try as many numbers of visits as possible to doctors. The whole of pharma strives to increase the time they spend with doctors who wield a lot of power in prescribing their brands.
Quality Time With Doctors
Some doctors see reps every day, any time during their practice hours. Some see on specified time every day. Some see on specified time on specified days. Some do everything to avoid meeting reps. The amount of time that reps get to spend with doctors is severely limited today. So there is an ever-shortening of the time that you get to spend with doctors to influence their prescriptions.  I don’t know how many companies have a record of the average time spent inside the doctor’s cabin by their reps. We used to have such parameters long back. This was used to plan the length of the detailing story and also the number of products to be promoted. Even patients, the paying customers, don’t get to spend quality time with their doctors. 
Challenges
Pharma faces major challenges with their sales forces today. I already wrote about what plagues the industry. Reps today are not able to manage even the normal list of activities that makes the job.  Unless your reps are extremely smart in spending quality time with the doctors and influence them, you have no chance of winning in the crowded market place today. 
My Prescription
You have to fundamentally change how you sell your products in the future. The model of tens of thousands of reps meeting doctors will not go away over-night but greatly reduce in the future. Find out how much time doctors spend online. You will be surprised it is much more than the time they spend with representatives. Go where your customers go. Online. Its not a quick fix for growth. But the way to the future. 
It is high time that the companies learn to use Social Media tools to supplement and strengthen what they already have through their reps. Pharma can use social media tools and do the following to start with
  • Opening more doctors doors
  • To gain valuable time of doctors (supplementing visit time of reps)
  • Relevant exchange of information with quality conversations (share more clinical and informative data surrounding your products)
  • Strengthen your rep-doctor relationships (because of SM activities the prescription push will become more effective and also the time spent will stretch during visits)
  • Build meaningful relationships
  • Train your reps better
  • Improve productivity of reps

This list is only indicative. We are working on a list of objectives, tools and actionable items and possibly a pilot program soon. 
What Next
Using new age tools with old strategies is a sure recipe for disaster. So you need to learn new ways of doing things to use social media tools. I believe Pharma is capable of bringing about “game changing” practices. It just needs to dedicate more time, energy and money. 
My thoughts have been shaping up well for actionable results. You can keep a track of it here http://blog.varadh.com/search/label/Pharma
 Feel free to comment. Call me and I will be happy to talk to you. 
Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Will Social Media Transform Your Business?

courtesy: fb share
To understand this question, you should not start with social media tools or the technologies behind them. You should start with primary functions of your business and see what business metrics you need to achieve as results. 
Repeatedly I get the question if social media will help achieve the next month’s target. Sadly it is a “no”.
To understand Social Media and use it well for your business, think about the following:
How your business gets done–has it changed? I mean the nature of your business and how your industry/sector has changed. List out the changes.
How you do business-has it changed? With respect to your own customers, what are the changes in your activities that have been implemented or to be implemented? List out the changes. 
How you run your organization-has it changed? What are the organizational changes that you have brought in or needs to be brought in? List out the changes. Is it in sync with the above two changes?
Most importantly, what has been driving these changes? 
This will be a good starting point to understand what changes have happened and what you should change. This is the hardest part. Understanding this change. Once you realize this change, you will easily understand it has three parts: cultural, technological and operational. The first and hardest part would be the cultural change. Rest two can be done relatively easier. The first change i.e. cultural change will help you implement operational changes. You will also realize that any one individual in one of the functions cannot bring about such changes in an isolated way. It has to be across the board. The organization as a whole has to change to get the results. 
Forget the tools initially. Appreciate the basic ideas behind them and how it can be useful with respect to your business functions. This will help you understand the tools that you need. 
Now look at what kind of social media tools will fit.  You will start understanding how social media tools can fit your business. There is no one single answer. Last few years the answers have been changing. The impacts of tools are dynamically changing. Keeping track of things and catching up has been hard.
Depending on your engagement, social media tools will help you in all-round development of your business. This will include sales, better customer satisfaction, market intelligence and productivity of your employers. The list is only indicative. You can decide how Social Media will transform your business. 
Try this method. Let me know what you arrive at. Want to talk specific about your business? Just buzz me. I will be happy to talk to you.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

What Next After Email?

iStock foto
Email has transformed the way you do business. Email has transformed the way we live our lives. Email on mobile has made it instantaneous.
Have you gone beyond this? If not, what is next?
In Email, access to past information becomes a big pain. How do you access information in email or instant messaging? They tend to be like private conversations and lost. How does the organization access this information? How can this necessary information be made available to those who need them, when they need them and where they need them?
If you have moved to CRM or ERP like applications, do you have access to those information in real-time?
Personally are you using Facebook and/or twitter? Have you thought of Facebook-like or twitter-like applications customized to your business process and work-flow? 
Easy micro-blogging tools are available for enterprises today. You can share information, build teamwork and can have real-time notifications. You can still get notified by email and reply by email. When you want to find information you can find them well organized in one place. Such tools can help locate answers and/or relevant people within the group.
Attractive real-time collaboration platforms are available. You can integrate all your applications. 
Some of the information you may need in real-time. Not all information are needed in real-time. People mistake real-time collaboration with relay of information. Relay of information in real-time leads to information overload. Hence you need to carefully select and build your business processes and work-flow into these real-time activities.
Interact. Collaborate. Improve your business performance. 
Feel free to comment or share. 

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

How Are You Served By Cloud Computing?

foto courtesy: fb share

Cloud computing has already moved a lot of stuff from desktop to cloud. For example, most of your applications and documents have moved to the cloud. Now the desktop is not very important to you. Web has taken that place. How does Cloud Computing serve your business? You dont need to know much about the architecture or the infrastructure part of the cloud. As a user, how are you served by Cloud Computing? 
Advantages
Computers that are high-priced and high-powered are not needed. Not much traditional software is used and not much backup is done on the computer. Nothing to save and nothing to load. In your office, even CD and DVD slots in your computers become unnecessary or  optional. You can use low-cost computers.
Improved performance of the computer as the computer is not clogged with unnecessary programs. 
No loss of data if your computer crashes. Cloud keeps data safe. 
Lower costs due to less investments, maintenance work load(both hardware and software) for your IT department. No peak load worries. Hence no idle resources. No software costs. Either they are free or rental is far lower than software costs. No software updates. Happens automatically with Cloud. No obsolete software.
Increased computing power. 
Unlimited storage capacity.
Operating systems do not matter when you share. 
No format incompatibilities for your documents.
The Biggest For Businesses
You can access your applications and documents from anywhere through the web. This relieves you from your physical constraints and not necessarily you are tied to your office as you can access these via web. Since anyone in your office can do the same (i.e. all of you can access the same document,when shared), this also allows group members to collaborate and work from being in different places. No need to wait for sequential work through email. Updates are instantaneous and can work simultaneously to co-create. Latest version is available to all. 
You can change devices. You can go mobile. Your documents and applications follow you. Work seamlessly without worrying about specific formats with specific devices. 
Many businesses need people working together to reach a common goal. Right information at the right time to the right people serves to make a right decision. Collaboration is more than communication. It is how people function together. Cloud helps you do that better. 
Go Cloud. 
Be well informed. Take speedy decisions. Get work done. 
What impacts have cloud computing played on your business? How has it transformed your business? Feel free to share.
Got Questions? Feel free to ask.  

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Bridge Your Business Objectives And Social Media

You have understood what is Social Media. You know a lot now. You know the reasons why you should consider Social Media. You still have questions.  Where and how do you start and go about using all that information for your business?
Let me share a framework I use with my clients.
Objectives
Start with an objective. Examples of objectives are Increasing Sales, Customer Support, HR, Market Intelligence, PR etc. Pick your business objectives. Pick that priority business objective(s) for which you would like to test the social tools and would like to build a strategy. 
If you have an on-going business, the business objectives are already there for your business. You are not going to set a separate business objective for-social-media-sake. If you are looking at 100 new customers for your business, dont say you want to “reach” 1000 people or want to have “a lot of followers” when you think Social Media. So start with the business objective and go forward to link every activity of yours to it as you will do in traditional methods. 
Targets
Once you have the business objective/goal in front of you, set the targets. For example, if your business objective is “increasing sales” then your target could be a specific number within a timeline. If your objective/goal is “customer support”, your target could be “reducing costs by %” or “better serviced customer ratios”, with a time frame.
You now have objectives and targets. 
Strategies
Now comes the Social Media part into discussion. Now think of strategies. If your goal is sales, then your strategy could be “x number of new customers”, “developing existing customers”, “more transactions per customer” or “more value per transaction” etc. Evaluate which tools are right for the chosen strategy. What are the methods that can be used with these tools(example online discussions, forums etc…) towards that objective. What are the metrics applicable to the tools that can be measured and reviewed to achieve the objectives. Learn what are the best practices to be followed. Implement. 
Identify people who can implement. My advise is to use qualified people within your organisation. For example if you are implementing social media strategy for customer support, then use a person who is qualified to do customer support and train them on social media tools. Avoid hiring social media experts and training them in customer support or with your domain knowledge. 
What do you think? What is your framework?  Feel free to comment. I will be happy to have a customized talk with you for your business. Call me anytime. 
Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com