eyeforpharma Barcelona day three summary

Concluding his live blogging and tweeting from eyeforpharma Barcelona, Paul Tunnah summarises the final thoughts from the third day of the event covering sales excellence, multichannel marketing and value partnerships, held on the 20th March.

View the full commentary from day three here

Well, that’s it for another year with eyeforpharma Barcelona, with just the half-day session before lunch on Thursday rounding off the multiple track sessions focussed on pharma commercial activities. Despite attendees looking slightly weary from (over)enjoying the nightlife on offer by this Spanish metropolis, some interesting additional points came out during the closing sessions.


“He was sceptical about digital multichannel solutions that aimed to help him manage his patients”


The power of listening

The theme of ‘listen to your customers and give them what they want’, already raised during the first two days, was once again high on the agenda during the final presentations. Here, some people elaborated in a bit more detail around the whole social media listening / big data aspects of this.

Although Jesus Cardenas, from Shire, was one of the later speakers, his presentation set the scene for why big data is becoming more and more important. As if the usual stats about how many billions of bits of information are shared on the internet every minute were not enough, he highlighted the trend towards wearable technology, which is now collecting real-time health data, amongst other things, from patients and yet to be patients.

Haider Alleg presented information on specifically how Gideon Richter is using social media listening to harness the power of big data in customer interactions. The technology is now available to facilitate this kind of data mining on a grand scale, with the outputs being not just data, but also clever network maps showing influencers and how they are connected. In his view, doing this is the easy bit, but the fear of uncovering things you don’t want to see is the barrier (i.e. adverse events). In reality though, the volume of these is not that great (see this recent white paper by IMS Health) and the compliance processes can be easily managed with the right technology. In short, the benefits outweigh the regulatory process burden so pharma needs to utilise this vast array of open information to understand its customers better.

Engage your customers in the planning stage

Just to spice things up, Stephanie Tortell and David Moore from KnowledgePoint360, went a little bit further than online lurking and listening, bringing a real live doctor (cunningly disguised by not wearing a stethoscope or white coat) with them to the event to tell pharma what he really needs.


“The principle of customer research panels driving product design seems to be underused in pharma multichannel”


The messages from Dr Miravitlles about information needs may not be revolutionary, with the main points being that pharma should focus on CME / education and guidelines rather than just their product information, but some further points were more revolutionary. For one, he was sceptical about digital multichannel solutions that aimed to help him manage his patients, because he has seen these have the opposite effect as technology gets in the way of the doctor-patient relationship.

But the most important point he made was about the timing of interaction with pharma. He sees it as all well and good getting his feedback on a new multichannel initiative that has been rolled out, but it’s a little bit late by then and he felt that all pharma wanted was validation. Why not come to him before developing new multichannel engagement tools and get his views on what they should look like? The principle of customer research panels driving product design seems to be underused in pharma multichannel activities, it seems.

Is sales a marketing channel?

The Chairman hinted that Andreas Claus-Kistner, from Roche, is known for getting to the point and he certainly had some direct, and potentially in some quarters unpopular, messages for pharma sales and marketing personnel. For him, multichannel marketing is not something new driven by the digital revolution, but a renaming of what was called integrated marketing before the online world took off.

A main observation he made was that true multichannel engagement cannot really happen unless commercial personnel are really empowered to act on customer needs. This does not mean giving sales reps iPads or, as he neatly dismissed the use of flash technology without purpose, “an Apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

Slightly more controversially, he argues that for multichannel engagement to truly encompass all touch points with the customer then the sales team needs to become one channel in the marketing mix. Most definitely a message of marketing leading sales, with sales managers looking worried at this point. He then said that, for some products, in some disease areas and markets, the sales rep is not an effective channel and should be culled. Cue sales managers looking extremely worried at this point.


“For some products the sales rep is not an effective channel and should be culled”


Relief came with his closing comments, that actually the role of the sales rep should be as the main orchestrator of all other multichannel activities, responding and adapting engagement around individual doctor’s needs. Phew – so the sales rep does have a future, but they might need to stop acting like ‘lone rangers’.

So change is the order of the day, which neatly brings us to the conclusion from the overall event. Push marketing is dead, pharma basically knows that it needs to give each and every doctor what they need, not what it wants to tell them (and the technology is now available to do this) and sales and marketing models need to adapt accordingly.

But change management has also been a recurring theme alongside technology. The tools are there, the knowledge of how to change is there, but the pharma industry needs more leaders to now drive the change and empower / upskill others to embrace it.

For links to other outputs from eyeforpharma Barcelona, including live blogs, please visit:




About the author:

Paul Tunnah is CEO & Founder of pharmaphorum media, which connects thought leaders and ideas across healthcare to support the pharmaceutical industry in delivering innovative medical solutions. It combines industry-leading strategic and tactical media services with the globally recognised news, information and insight portal pharmaphorum.com, working with pharmaceutical companies, service providers and broader healthcare organisations to help communicate their thought leadership and connect them with relevant stakeholders.

For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

Closing thought: Where does sales fit into pharma multichannel?