Living the dream: CLM as it was meant to be

Paul Shawah

Veeva Systems

Feedback loops have long been part of engineering, psychology and medicine because they successfully improve performance — whether of equipment, human behaviour or organic functions. At last, with the adoption of the iPad in the field, the feedback loop can become an integral part of marketing practices within the biopharmaceutical industry.

An idea whose time has come

The concept of using feedback from the field to drive pharmaceutical marketing is not new, of course. When tablet PCs were first introduced to sales reps nearly 15 years ago, many foresaw that the devices could convey electronic feedback to marketing on the sales process (for example, what screens were shown to physicians and in what order) and how physicians responded. The term Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) was born, along with the promise of continuously honing the delivery of information to offer greater value to the customer.


“…the term CLM stuck, albeit as a synonym for digital, interactive detailing itself rather than the continuous feedback loop it was intended to describe.”


Yet that promise never materialised for several reasons. In some cases, the idea lacked sponsorship, and so there was no clear strategy for 1) designing content specifically for electronic delivery or 2) capturing and using data from the field. In other cases, the data collected was too much for marketing to digest and analyse. And very often, adoption in the field was poor because the device itself was insufficient and because users had to “switch” between two separate systems (one for CRM and another for CLM) creating a distraction and wasting precious time during the sales call. Even so, the term CLM stuck, albeit as a synonym for digital, interactive detailing itself rather than the continuous feedback loop it was intended to describe.

Today, the barriers to collecting and using feedback from customer interactions to ever improve marketing success have fallen away. Having CRM and digital detailing capabilities integrated into a single application on a much improved device – the iPad – creates a better user experience and therefore leads to higher adoption. It’s also easier to support and maintain. Thus, pharmacos can adopt CLM as originally intended, i.e., as a tool to continually enhance their customer interactions.

In fact, many predict that this will be the greatest enduring value of the iPad-enabled rep: capturing insights about the customer’s behaviours, preferences and needs so that they can be matched with what is delivered via any channel.


“Today, the barriers to collecting and using feedback from customer interactions to ever improve marketing success have fallen away.”


No more loopholes

When the “back end” of the iPad environment is configured with the right applications, interfaces and supporting internal processes, companies can continually anticipate what will best serve each physician in the moment. Thus, the rep will show up with something of value for the physician each and every time.

For reps to succeed at this, they need at-a-glance retrieval of information in the company’s CRM system, including:

• The physician’s prescribing history

• The practice profile

• A recap of the physician’s earlier questions and concerns

• An update on what has transpired since the last call – including contact made with the physician through other channels

• An expansive view of different direct and indirect influencers

They also must have a convenient way to contribute to the organisation’s collective knowledge on a customer and to be an active part in a true, customer-centric, multichannel marketing strategy. For example, a screen in the iPad can display a list of upcoming marketing campaigns with corresponding objectives and target physicians. Reps then have the ability to select or deselect physicians in their territory for inclusion in the campaign. Finally, sales has a direct line to influencing alternative communication channels to align with and augment their territory objectives.


“Simply furnishing reps with iPads is not sufficient to make CLM a reality.”


Making it real

Simply furnishing reps with iPads is not sufficient to make CLM a reality. To realise the full potential of the device in supporting CLM, companies must:

• Get started quickly. The beauty of the technology is that it allows one to react to what is / is not working. So, it’s better to begin experimenting at once than to spend too much time engineering “the perfect” solution.

• Accept that sales and marketing are part of the same equation. Both functions must agree on the goals for the sales force and how the iPad can be used to transform sales and marketing activities to become more customer centric.

• Provide the field force with the right tools and processes, such as an integrated CLM / CRM system designed for the iPad and collaboration tools that allow reps to share information and ideas with one another and with marketing teams.

• Ensure that all touch points with the customer are synchronised and coordinated (today’s advanced CRM platforms include channel integration as a standard capability).

• Consider what structural changes within the organisation are required to support true, multichannel campaign management. Having each channel managed separately by a different function without process or organizational integration, clearly poses a challenge for a synchronised and coordinated effort.

• Explore the value in, and uses of, the rich, customer-interaction data that can be gathered from across channels. There is no established “right” way to use CLM data, the best practices for your company will emerge as you begin experimenting with it.

The end result of true CLM is that the messaging and timing of all promotional channels will be more relevant. Both personal and non-personal channels can reinforce one another to improve the customer experience, strengthen the brand, and, ultimately, improve patient care.


About the author:

Paul is responsible for strategy and product marketing for Veeva CRM. Paul has spent the last 13 years in various product management, marketing, and sales leadership roles for enterprise software companies serving the life sciences industry.

Before Veeva, Paul ran the Life Sciences industry business unit at SAP. In that role, Paul had responsibility for product strategy and business development for SAP solutions globally.

Prior to SAP, Paul ran Product Marketing and Sales for Proscape, the then leader in Closed Loop Marketing. Paul is widely recognised as an early pioneer and evangelist in Closed Loop Marketing and is credited with selling and implementing some of the industry’s earliest CLM deployments.

Paul began his enterprise software career as one of the early product managers for Siebel Pharma helping to create the product that became the on-premise market leader in pharmaceutical CRM.

Paul received his MBA from the Harvard Business School and his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Bucknell University.

How is your organisation using closed loop marketing?