Implementing effective customer-centric multi-channel campaigns

Concluding a three part series on multi-channel marketing, Quintiles summarises the critical success factors around implementing effective integrated-channel solutions that deliver meaningful results for both customers and pharma companies.

(Continued from “Adapting multi-channel around your customers“)

In the first two parts of this series we have explored the theme of the ‘segment of one’ approach to multi-channel marketing, where the emphasis is on providing the right information to customers in ways and via channels that work for them. This necessitates a different way of strategically thinking about multi-channel marketing, in addition to measuring the right customer-centric metrics that allow adaptation over time.

However, even with the right planning and dynamic adaptation, effective implementation is often the major determinant of success. Getting this right encompasses taking account of potential blocks in the strategic planning phase and understanding areas of risk out in the field.

In concluding this series, here are what we define as the critical success factors for delivering effective integrated-channel solutions that resonate with customers and yield commercial results.

“The fundamental building block of successfully engaging with your customers is to put yourself in their position”

Think like your customers

The fundamental building block of successfully engaging with your customers through a multi-channel approach is to put yourself in their position. Think about what information they need, how it is best received (at what time, through what channels, etc.) from their perspective and how they can procure additional information, when required.

Focus on providing the customer – whether they are doctors, nurses, specialists, payers or patients – with what helps them make decisions and you will find that levels of engagement are higher, information is more readily taken on board and prescribing behaviours are changed more quickly, plus you are building stronger relationships for the future.

Define clear objectives

As with the simplest single-channel marketing programme, the starting point for any multi-channel activity is to define clear objectives around what needs to be achieved. This is the foundation for building both a strong strategic plan encompassing customer segmentation, messaging and channel mix / resourcing and also for providing an overarching reference point for whether the campaign is delivering. It might sound contrary to the next point around planning for change, but objectives can be amended over time only if they are clearly defined in the first place, e.g. engaging with 10% more target customers, improving engagement time by 50% or increasing market share by 2%.

Plan for change

As outlined in the first two parts of this series, the complexities and newness of multi-channel campaigns in pharma, combined with the fact that every brand and market is unique in some aspect, mean that the ‘perfect’ plan is unlikely to ever be developed on data alone. Instead, experience and market data can provide just an educated starting point.

Setting up your activity to be able to measure key indicators of success right from the start, and being nimble enough to adapt based on those indicators, will quickly become the major determinant of success as the initial plan is adapted. Conversely, inability to change could result in being stuck doing the wrong things.

“Adaptability is key and small ‘failures’ are acceptable, provided they inform future activity”

Secure management support

Multi-channel marketing requires a different way of thinking, especially around the fact that adaptability is key and small ‘failures’ are acceptable, provided they inform future activity. However, in the large corporate environment even such small failures that allow campaign adaptation can be perceived badly if expectations of senior management are not managed upfront. In addition, sufficient resource, investment and training must be procured to give any multi-channel campaign the chance for success and cross-functional working is critical, which is much easier with high level endorsement.

Focus on message delivery, not the channel

A really good example of failing to take account of this factor has been seen with the recent excitement over new technology such as the Apple iPad®. When new channels, or communication enablers (such as mobile tablets) emerge, the tendency is to focus on the channel itself and forget that any channel is simply there to enable communication.

Where this is forgotten and insufficient attention is paid to how a message is being delivered through a channel the result can be counter-productive. For example, whilst some see the iPad® completely replacing the paper detail aid, without the right information being presented in the right way to a customer via such mobile devices (and with personnel who are appropriately trained in using them to enhance the detail) the results are unlikely to be positive. The technology may get the blame, but it is the approach that is wrong.

“Effective multi-channel marketing is really about bringing it back to the individual needs of the customer”

Encourage collaboration

Healthy competition is productive within the corporate environment, but ensuring the right mentality and incentives to drive collaboration is necessary for cross-channel activity to be conducted in a synergistic way. Although some pharma companies have developed specialised personnel for working across silos to drive multi-channel activity, all commercial managers must take responsibility and plan for such coordinated team working.

Identify and react to skills gaps

In addition to new skills around collaborative working, different channels require different skills and it is important that any gaps, either within teams or more broadly in relation to particular channels, are identified and addressed early. As illustrated in the first article, delivering remote engagement through mechanisms such as edetailing is a different environment to face-to-face meetings with a doctor. Assuming transferability of sales and marketing skills in such instances could be detrimental to the outcome. As such, additional training may be required or sourcing of new skills externally.

Bringing multi-channel implementation back to the ‘segment of one’

Ultimately, the very terminology around multi-channel marketing can lend itself to a misconception that it is about just pushing information out to customers through multiple routes, effectively maximising the level of noise for the available budget.


Figure 1: ‘Segment of one’ multi-channel marketing factors the customer into every stage.

However, effective multi-channel marketing is really about bringing it back to the individual needs of the customer to provide deeper, more personalised engagement through efficient delivery of the right information in the right way. In doing so, the customers each become a ‘segment of one’ (figure 1) that have a strong relationship with the brand and whose behaviours will be shaped by that interaction, as indeed they shape the engagement routes themselves.

In summary, customer-centric ‘segment of one’ multi-channel marketing is about:

• Planning with the customer in mind, in addition to external market factors and internal capabilities.

• Adapting to account for changes in the internal and external environment, especially changing customer preferences around engagement.

• Implementing effectively through recognising and accounting for critical success factors, both at the planning and adaptation stages.

Done incorrectly, multi-channel marketing can be a resource- and budget- draining beast that delivers limited value. But the reward for those pharma organisations that get it right, by focussing on the ‘segment of one’ , through an integrated channel approach, will be improved customer relationships and better communication of brand messages, leading to mutually beneficial outcomes.


About the authors:

Liz Murray is Multi-Channel Director, EMEA for Quintiles,. She has prior experience working both within large pharma at Pfizer, where she held a variety of commercial roles, and within the NHS. Liz has an MBA from Manchester Business School.

Matthew McCarty is Senior Director for Quintiles Communications and joined the organisation after 11 years of experience running a business which delivered multi-channel communications solutions for customers across a number of industries including healthcare.

For more information on how Quintiles can provide integrated-channel solutions please visit

What are the critical success factors for multi-channel marketing?