eyeforpharma Barcelona day two summary

After continuing his live blogging and tweeting from day two of eyeforpharma Barcelona, Paul Tunnah summarises the further themes to emerge from the event on the 19th March around pharma sales excellence, multichannel marketing and partnership.

View the full commentary from day two here

The second day of eyeforpharma Barcelona again followed the triple themes of value partnerships, sales excellence and multichannel marketing, with the following areas rising to the fore to support the ground already covered in day one.

Give doctors what they really want

Multichannel marketing, or indeed any old marketing, works best when it connects well with the customers by giving them what they really want, when they want it. This notion is not new, and was firmly reinforced by several speakers, but it seems some pharma companies remain intent on inefficient push promotion around just delivering their message instead.

“A word cloud on how doctors view pharma showed ‘money’ and ‘profit’ in big, bold letters”

Dr Tim Ringrose, from M3 Europe, is always close to the pulse of doctors, and shared some interesting feedback, along with his colleagues, around their frustrations. A word cloud on how doctors view pharma showed ‘money’ and ‘profit’ in big, bold letters, so the issue of trust surfaces again. But pharma can win this trust back by engaging on the doctors’ own terms, and with doctors spending 20 hours a week online and 89% using physician portals there does seem a disparity with the lowly 5-6% of pharma promotional budgets spent on digital.

Ragnar Gaseby, from Merck, also demonstrated how delivering useful information (branded and non-branded content) to physicians online, for him via the Univadis doctor portal, can build strong relationships. A customer journey must be built that starts by listening to what they want, then engaging around those needs and via channels that suit them, before adapting in line with feedback. Simple, yes?

Multichannel is not multipronged attack

Within an event with a key focus on multichannel marketing, it would be interesting to have conducted a survey on what people really think multichannel is. A number of presentations supported the notion that it is about adapting the channels used to deliver information in a way that suits particular segments of doctors. However, the reality is that multichannel often means bombarding doctors with promotion via multiple channels at the same time. These two are very different things!

The excuse that the level of segmentation required by the former is too difficult seems to be wearing thin. A number of organisations present at the event were unveiling technology solutions that facilitate highly targeted closed-loop, and multichannel, marketing without significant cost. For example, Kabir Shahani, from IMS Health, explained how the customer journey is really a series of sequential interactions between pharma and doctors, each tailored based on previous interaction and background information, which lead to a buying decision. So multichannel is not just about reacting to physician needs and preferred channels, but also about smartly coordinating multiple channel engagement over time. Too tough to do? Client case studies presented from real world examples would suggest otherwise and it all starts to resemble the kind of real life buying process we personally go through every day as consumers.

“The customer journey is really a series of sequential interactions between pharma and doctors”

Pharma can do social

Good old John Pugh, from Boehringer Ingelheim (actually he’s not that old, it’s more a term of endearment) – he’s been evangelising about the power of social engagement by pharma for a long time and I think people might actually be starting to believe him.

Clearly buoyed by a recent trip to SXSW and also being awarded the eyeforpharma innovator award the night before, John covered some ground around how different pharma companies are effectively using social media, including Boehringer’s own activity on channels such as Twitter and Facebook. His caution came around how to measure the success of such metrics, as it comes down to engagement, not volume of followers, neatly illustrated by him hiring an offshore marketer to find him 10,000 extra Twitter followers in just 10 weeks!

But there is real substance in these examples and figures that will make even the staunchest advocate of traditional financial ROI sit up and listen. For example, using Facebook and Twitter promotion, Boehringer has gathered relevant physicians into specific Facebook groups, leading to further direct engagement. The average acquisition cost, through using such promoted social media, works out at around £8 per doctor, which is just a little bit cheaper than a sales rep call.

Don’t ignore the patient opinion leaders (POLs)

Skipping out of sales and marketing for a brief period, the message from the patient panel in the value partnerships track was that the empowered patients are coming…and pharma had better start paying attention. The depth of the trust problem was highlighted by epatient Virgil Simons, who quoted how 72% of internet users look for health information online, but only 11% feel pharma is trustworthy. He is leading some interesting collaboration with The Prostate Net and sees a future where pharma, healthcare providers and patients do work more cohesively.

“Empowered patients are coming…and pharma had better start paying attention”

But should pharma really worry about patient power? Some further stats from Andrew Schorr, a two-time cancer survivor, suggest the answer is ‘yes’. In his survey of just under 1,300 cancer patients, 85% of those trawling online information said they were likely to discuss it with their doctors and, of these, 22% of the time this generated dialogue with their doctor around whether they were on the right medicine, leading to a possible switch. Pharma lightbulbs flashed to life at this point.

Hannah Gagen, sitting in both camps with experience as a patient herself but also leading a number of patient advocacy initiatives for Boehringer Ingelheim, defended the industry in saying that patient engagement is happening, but acknowledged that more needs to be done.

So the common theme across all these strands is to listen to all healthcare stakeholders, use that listening to engage with them where, when and how is most appropriate for them and to keep adapting the approach based on feedback.

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: What is the role for patients in pharma multichannel marketing?