Turning Mountains into Molehills: Distilling Big Data for Bigger Impact

It goes without saying that pharma marketers love data. We invest in scores of data sources, pore over analytics, and scrutinize customer response—all in the name of optimizing strategy and driving customer impact. But ultimately, it’s the field force, not headquarters, tasked with turning insight into action every day. As it currently stands, the influx of information has soundly outpaced our time and ability to put it to best use. Nevertheless, we continue to pile on the data sources—and the expectations—despite the risk of pushing overwhelmed employees to the point of disengagement. If we allow that risk to become a reality, even our most valuable investments will be functionally worthless.

In order for data investments to deliver real value, information by itself is not enough. Key to success is synthesizing only the most important data in a format that’s easy to digest and understand. Unsummarized and out of context, a master spreadsheet of script volumes is of little benefit to the rep with 10 minutes of pre­-call planning before the next detail. Alternatively, imagine if the same rep received a clear recommendation to discuss recent safety findings during today’s visit—one supported by relevant insights about self-­initiated safety inquiries and script writing behavior pertaining only to that HCP. Which scenario sounds more helpful? Your sales force is responsible for delivering the message, but it’s your job to distill it. Luckily, the technology to drive this synthesis exists in a tool you and your reps already use: The CRM.

Create Strategic Suggestions with Smart Synthesis

In response to big data’s big challenges, leading CRM providers have enlisted data science partners to help translate this mountain of unprocessed data into concise, actionable suggestions for the sales force in the field. Highlighting only what is most relevant at the time, suggestions identify data­-driven insights within the context of brand strategy and HCP preference to provide moment-­to-­moment sales guidance—and a more coordinated customer experience. As the number of communication channels continues to grow, having the perspective to maintain seamless continuity from one interaction to the next has never been more critical.

Faced with decreased HCP access and greater market complexity, it makes sense that today’s pharma marketing teams must rely heavily on multichannel marketing (MCM) to get their messages across. Too often, however, the responsibility of overseeing these channels falls to the reps. In addition to executing the call plan, they’re also charged with triggering approved emails and managing other channels as needed. If coordinated well, the one-two punch of well-timed personal and non-personal communication can be extremely effective. However, if the messaging is redundant and the pacing is off, HCP engagement can take a nosedive.

When success depends on triggering the right message on the right channel at the right moment, every customer touch point must be considered. For multichannel strategies that are truly integrated, reps need to know when alternate channel activity should impact their decisions and when to initiate alternate channel activity of their own. Fortunately, CRM suggestions can be configured to recommend specific timing and messages for reps to use, across whatever channels they control, based on any activity occurring via other channels.

With brand strategy as a constant backdrop, channel mix, cadence, and topic can (and should) be customized to meet your customer’s individual preference for unique communication strategies that resonate with each HCP.

Build a Successful Sales Strategy

If customization is one major pillar of a successful sales strategy, efficiency is the other. In fact, it’s the main reason why a tool like marketing automation has rapidly become a marketing must-have for our industry. Indeed, today’s pharma companies can even integrate their marketing automation platforms directly into the CRM.

As a result, marketing can not only guide the rep to send approved email sequences, but also trigger complementary rep actions using CRM suggestions. It’s a major advancement in delivering a truly coordinated experience, but synthesis is still necessary for reps to derive maximum value.
In addition to aggregating important insights, synthesis also breaks down silos between multiple channels to eliminate suggestions that are contradictory or repetitive.

For example, if an automated email covering the efficacy of Drug X was just sent, we wouldn’t want your rep to squander critical one­-on-­one time rehashing the same material. To further eliminate uncertainty, data synthesis prioritizes all suggestions into one list, ensuring reps tackle the most urgent tasks first across all channels.

Regardless of the medium, synthesis is an essential part of delivering the consistent, coherent messaging that a truly customer­-centric experience demands. Despite the industry’s growing reliance on digital channels, engagement data confirms that personalization still matters. In our own case studies, we’ve seen that physicians are three times more likely to open an email sent by a rep than HQ—even when content is identical.

Keep Your Sales Reps in Tune

At the same time, we also know that today’s physicians are busier than ever and more judicious in how they spend their time. Therefore, it’s imperative that pharma companies do whatever they can to keep reps in tune and up-to­-date with HCP attitudes, concerns, and behaviors.

Beyond highlighting topical interests, suggestions can also point out what channels HCPs prefer, when they’re historically available, and any recent interactions, to arm reps with the right tools to engage with HCPs in a highly specialized—and highly impactful—way.

Without question, the data deluge is transforming how the pharma industry thinks and behaves. It’s easy to be enticed by the promise of more information, but to truly take advantage of it, we need to adapt our approach.

If you take one thing away from this article, I hope it’s this: Synthesis is vital to unlocking the full value of the data and analytic sources in which you’re already invested.

The potential payoff is huge, but only if the insights derived resonate with those who must ultimately act on them. Thankfully, the technology to do so is already here. We just need to put it to work.

  • Derek Choy

    Derek is a Founder and the Vice President of Products at Aktana, a provider of decision support technology to seven of the top 15 global pharmaceutical companies. He is an expert in product strategy and is passionate about improving the way in which sales and marketing work together.

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