A More Intelligent Approach to Simplifying Omnichannel Activation

In efforts to remain relevant to their core audiences, many pharmaceutical brand teams began the year with the goal of introducing or expanding their omnichannel activation capabilities. However, across, or even within, organizations, there are likely disparate levels of clarity on what this may mean, as well as varying degrees of readiness to execute. As a result, many marketers remain mired in challenges that inhibit their ability to achieve these goals, including:

  • The absence of alignment on the time and resource investments required
  • Deficient data (or the lack of a cohesive data strategy) needed to establish effective audience planning and campaign measurement
  • And finally, the required technology that can support it all

In far too many instances, this confusion leads to another year of “business as usual” that unfortunately gives rise to siloed, non-personalized experiences, and messages that are too broad and fail to give the brand a chance to be impactful. In an era where our customers expect a more bespoke approach, it is not surprising then that this alienates these customers at the key moments in which they most crave relevant information.

As proof, a recent survey by IQVIA found that 38% of healthcare professionals (HCPs) feel that the market is over-saturated with digital content and 35% stated that brand messaging is not relevant to their practice. This is coupled with many in the industry predicting that it is even more pertinent in 2023 and beyond for brands to be seen as authentic and that value-driven messaging is table stakes if they want to interact successfully with their patients.

How then as a marketer can one make meaningful progress towards a data-driven omnichannel strategy that delivers smart, customer-first experiences? We believe success is achieved by driving intelligent engagement with your audience in order to produce exceptional brand experiences. What does this mean?

  • Intelligent engagement is built on the effective integration and activation of insights rooted in engagement and preference data, as well as real-world behaviors and signals (e.g., digital medical research behaviors, script metrics, referrals)
  • It uses these data points to power, deliver, and coordinate messaging that provides remarkable and impactful provider and patient journeys
  • The net benefit is that it drives better quality of care and improved patient outcomes

Will it drive efficiency? Will it lead to better ROI? Our experience has affirmed this to be the case but our focus here is on decisions you can make now to improve customer experiences and alleviate your operational pain points at the same time.

Planning and Activation

From: Disconnected and Broadcast

To: Harmonized and Personalized

Intelligent engagement is iterative and drives continuous campaign improvements over time but begins with better planning and activation. You need to know where your audience members are interacting with content, when they are doing so, and their channel preferences. This is how you can be assured your brand is delivering customer-focused, timely, targeted, and meaningful interactions.

Brands that are currently using outcomes-based data (e.g., audience quality, brand impact, etc.) are positioned well here but the additional layer of online behavioral data is becoming more paramount to success. Let’s use an HCP journey as an example.

Dr. Smith goes to her favorite health endemic site to research a new therapeutic option for one of her patients who continues to struggle with symptoms. As a brand team or agency, your hope is to reach Dr. Smith at this decision-influencing moment with an efficacy-focused digital message. What you and your team will do next is where true omnichannel activation begins.

If you know Dr. Smith interacted with this content and you know her channel preferences from behavioral data, you can sequence future contextually relevant messaging (email, social, digital, etc.) at a time when it is most impactful for her. It is also possible to add this information to your customer relationship management (CRM) efforts, triggering an alert to a representative or a medical science liaison (MSL) enabling them to maximize message relevancy and effectiveness. You could also integrate the behavioral and engagement data of your HCP and patient audiences of interest to help elevate the value of future targeted communications for both, and ultimately improve their experiences as well.

This approach is not just the art of possible but is in all actuality how innovative brands are executing today. With this level of personalized messaging, however, additional details must be considered and consent is foremost among them. Messaging in this way without the authorization and consented opt-in of the target audience is adding to the clutter and represents a “business as usual” messaging strategy. It’s best to build a clear privacy framework requiring first party opt-in to ensure regulatory compliance. This way brand audiences can receive the timely, appropriate messaging they desire.

This is only the beginning. The resulting data acquired not only helps to understand customer engagement and subsequent behavior change, but it will also fuel the refinement process of these campaigns to meet audiences where they are in their journey.

Measurement and Optimization

From: Periodic and Retrospective

To: Continuous, Adaptive, and in Real Time

As with anything, this process is only as powerful as the data and technology it is built upon. Brands simply cannot afford to rely on closed systems and black boxes using modeled results with questionable methodologies: an open data ecosystem inclusive of all of these datasets is crucial to one’s ability to react and execute at the speed of business. We mentioned two key datasets above that are used as part of the planning and activation process: outcomes-based data and behavioral data. These also play a key role in measurement and optimization.

Outcomes-based (or clinical) data has gone from new and novel a decade ago to an essential pillar in determining success—and it remains integral today for all brands that hope to excel at intelligent engagement. The ability to directly tie marketing efforts to positive impacts on the brand through patient conversion and physician activation is critical. While this is a great foundation, the ability to execute a true omnichannel strategy requires the ability to couple this seamlessly with additional datasets to fuel the optimization process.

Perhaps most important among these are the behavioral data points that help us understand the preferences of our audience. Understanding not only where someone is online (audience quality) but knowing what content they interacted with (engagement) and then having the ability to reach them with subsequent messaging via a preferred channel within 24 hours (behavioral) represents an exceptional omnichannel experience delivered by your brand. This not only helps improve key performance indicators (KPIs) such as brand lift or Rx impact by driving education with customers but also brings the opportunity to iterate on strategic planning, engagement and content/channel strategies, and customer target segmentation.

If your brand has these datasets and supporting systems in place already, then you have established a strong foundation. Where most brands fall short, however, is timing as data is most powerful when its timely leveraged. In the example of Dr. Smith above, if irregular measurement deep dives are all that’s available, you may know eventually what Dr. Smith prescribed her patient. However, you lost the chance to know whether the brand experience was aptly timed and missed the opportunity to make this and future interactions most impactful.

Readying Your Brand to Enrich Customer Experiences

Admittedly, much of this is uncomfortable, but it should be! Brands stuck in the rut of “business as usual” run the risk of falling behind as their competitors work to fit seamlessly into the lives of their audiences. As digital consumers, we all know what a good experience feels like. Why shouldn’t physicians and patients experience the same from the brands that can have—and are having—a direct impact on their health?

The industry has evolved to the point where platforms that plan, activate, measure, and optimize campaigns across all channels are now housed within singular operating systems. This end-to-end approach will clearly illustrate how every digital touchpoint becomes part of a physician or patient journey and how that journey assists in improved outcomes.

These developments will flatten the learning curve for adoption and help brands move briskly towards the best practices stated above. For those who feel hampered by the sheer scope of bringing this all together, combining best-in-class, timely data and the most up-to-date technology will allow you to focus on being a marketer foremost—and not also a data expert, project manager, etc.

Ultimately, this means marketers can take a more active and intelligent role in how they interact with their audiences. The benefit to said audiences is providing them with the exceptional experiences they demand while improving both health outcomes and brand performance as a result. Now is the time for a significant step forward to modernize healthcare communications, and this starts with a commitment to intelligent engagement as the foundation for future-ready HCP and direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing.

  • Andrew Burkus

    Andrew Burkus is Senior Principal, Omnichannel Marketing at IQVIA. Within IQVIA’s Omnichannel Center of Excellence, Andrew is an expert in DTC and HCP promotional targeting, predictive modeling, and campaign measurement and optimization with over 12 years of health and wellness industry experience.


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