Last year, the life sciences industry rushed to make the transition to a fully digital engagement model overnight. As COVID-19 drove a shift to remote work, online channels became the primary way for the industry to stay connected with doctors.

Virtual meetings and emails increased more than fivefold and actually resulted in longer, more meaningful rep-to-doctor engagement. Rep-sent emails had an average open rate of 36% versus 3% for headquarter-sent emails, and remote meetings lasted 19 minutes on average—six times longer than in-person visits.1

Digital is quickly becoming the new way of doing business. Marketers face mounting pressure from the C-suite to amp up business value through personalized omnichannel experiences. At the same time, they must continuously improve productivity and speed. More field emails and longer virtual meetings require a healthy pipeline of relevant, compliant content.

All of these factors introduce compliance risk in medical legal regulatory (MLR) processes that often range from weeks to months. No company wants to make a trade-off between safety and speed. Thus, many commercial teams are looking for ways to accelerate the full content lifecycle from creation to compliant distribution.

Modular Content: The Next Driver of Commercial Efficiency

Modular content transforms how life sciences organizations produce, review, and distribute quality assets. It is the process of creating pre-approved content blocks (also known as “modules”) that marketers can quickly and easily recombine into a variety of polished assets. This helps commercial teams engage the right people at the right times—across every channel.

Morten Kruse Sørensen, Global Senior Director of Multichannel Excellence and Operations at Novo Nordisk, shared, “Modular content is an important element of our broader journey towards more meaningful and efficient customer engagements. To achieve that goal, we need to fully rethink how we work and push ourselves to deliver content that meets the individual needs of each customer.”

However, it’s important to note that there are various definitions of modular content. Many popular content strategies simply don’t work for life sciences organizations because they only solve part of the puzzle. Generalized approaches put too much emphasis on speed without thoughtfully addressing MLR workflows—a foundational requirement for any content in this industry.

Building a Technology Ecosystem for High-impact Modular Content

Life sciences organizations that want the fastest scale and greatest productivity impact use enterprise-wide technology solutions to streamline the management and measurement of their digital assets. But not all tools are created equal.

Ideally, content platforms should support all kinds of modules, regardless of the intended channel or content authoring tool. They should enable the grouping of product claims, copy, graphics, or logos with related content blocks that travel together through approvals and beyond. Modern solutions should also offer robust digital asset management (DAM) capabilities that support a centralized library where everyone can easily find, compile, and track modules.

“A good modular content ecosystem lets people maintain their creativity,” noted Sørensen. “For example, local affiliates can start at our brand content portal to find existing content modules from global or other affiliates. Then, they take that piece of content, localize it, and merge it with a predesigned template in the authoring platform.”

He added, “Having a flexible content platform makes it just like working with legos. People can play with their ideas and use the great content we already have in small bite-sized chunks to build their own masterpiece. When we send a final asset for promotional review, it’s faster because the reviewers can see that the component was approved before.”

Operational Considerations for Adopting Modular Content

Keep in mind that a modular content strategy fundamentally changes the way commercial teams work. Without a focus on driving adoption from the start, users will likely resist change and revert back to more comfortable—but slower—workflows.

Before simply “turning on” new applications and systems, project leaders should develop a detailed internal rollout plan. Aim to get early alignment across impacted functions, including commercial operations, IT, regulatory and compliance, and brand. Be sure to identify champions and advocates, and get buy-in from leaders, internal teams, and agency partners. Ask them to help demonstrate exactly how modular content will fuel new and easier ways of working.

Start small, learn fast, and scale rapidly through pilot projects. First, experiment with pre-approved content blocks that support a new brand, channel, or indication. This approach demonstrates initial success before reworking longstanding processes for mature products.

Finally, don’t forget to establish and communicate key performance indicators early on. These might include metrics such as the overall time-to-market for content assets, approval time, number of review cycles, volume of new content in the pipeline, content reuse, or HCP time spent consuming content.

Leverage industry benchmarks and technology usage stats to demonstrate progress over time. This helps teams spot and resolve any inefficiencies quickly, and cement ongoing leadership support for the new content strategy.

The New Digital Dilemma: Speeding Commercial Content at Scale

Once there’s a consistent modular content strategy across the entire organization, marketers can fast-track content creation and distribution workflows. Across Veeva’s customer base, the average days to approval is 212 and shrinking. A modular approach eliminates inefficiencies inherent in recreating (and re-approving) assets for each different region or business line, while adding the flexibility required to quickly produce personalized content.

One top 20 global pharmaceutical company recently increased its average speed-to-market by 28%, while reducing the cost of content creation by 19% and the number of review cycles by 22%. That’s only the beginning of the results they expect to see as they continue their modular content evolution.

Another benefit of highly efficient content development is that field reps gain quick access to accurate, reusable content. “Modular content addresses the customer engagement challenge because it helps our organization deliver one-size-fits-all content globally,” said Sørensen. “It answers our three biggest content requirements: it stays true to the brand, ensures local market fit, and unleashes creativity.”

This makes reps more agile and informs valuable conversations with physicians across every channel. In today’s digital world, this could mean using email to reconnect with a physician after an in-person visit—perhaps by sharing a piece of content that builds on the discussion and suggesting an online meeting as follow-up.

More rigorous content practices also reduce risk and help ensure patient safety, since go-to-market teams use only approved claims and messaging. Formal content governance fosters peace of mind by making it easier to maintain strict compliance if efficacy claims change.

When commercial teams properly balance speed with risk, the value of changing the content paradigm is undeniable. Forward-looking organizations that lead the industry in rapidly transitioning to novel content strategies will reap both bottom-line and top-line rewards.


1. 2020 Veeva Pulse data

2. Veeva Pulse data 2020

  • Pooja Ojala

    Pooja Ojala is Vice President Commercial Content at Veeva Systems. Pooja has more than 20 years of experience enabling life sciences organizations to establish and evolve their content businesses in highly complex environments. At Veeva, Pooja is responsible for commercial content strategy for their PromoMats and MedComms products.


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