Planning customer-centric multi-channel marketing

In the first article of a three-part series looking at multi-channel marketing in the pharma industry, Quintiles focusses on how to effectively plan a successful multi-channel campaign that will deliver good outcomes for both pharma and its healthcare customers.

Multi-channel marketing is this year’s hot topic in the pharma industry, with its promise of improved productivity yielding bottom-line commercial benefit. However, the current challenge for the industry is as much about quality as quantity – delivering more personalised interaction with stakeholders that can drive mutually beneficial relationships. In that sense, multi-channel marketing might be the medicine that pharma needs to redefine its relationship with healthcare stakeholders – doctors, nurses, payers and patients.

“Multi-channel marketing might be the medicine that pharma needs to redefine its relationship with healthcare stakeholders”

Plan multi-channel marketing with your customer in mind

The focus has to start with your customer, by understanding what information they need and how to best deliver it to them. Welcome to a different view of multi-channel marketing – the ‘segment of one’, where integrated-channel solutions are able to deliver an experience that is personalised to each customer.

The key is blending online and offline engagement together in a synergistic way to deliver the right information in a manner (and at a time) that works for your target stakeholders. When implemented correctly, the result is deeper, more personalised and productive engagement that delivers beneficial results on both sides (figure 1).

Figure 1: The ‘segment of one’ approach evolves multi-channel marketing by personalising the customer interaction through the right channels and information.


A good starting point is therefore to think about the different potential components of a multi-channel campaign not solely as digital versus ‘offline’, but to consider their relative strengths in terms of how they meet customers’ needs around receipt of information. This is the essence of ‘pull’ marketing – allowing the customer to quickly receive the information they want on their terms.

Combine internal and external factors in the channel plan

So how is this applied in practice?

Before considering the specifics of the right approach the strategic fundamentals of good marketing should always be applied. Namely, to understand how valuable different groups of customers are to your business and to carefully consider what you are trying to achieve in your engagement with them (not always direct sales!).

Once that has been defined, there are some important internal and external considerations around the brand or portfolio and commercial capabilities that will shape the right multi-channel mix:

Therapy area and product: A key determinant of the right channel mix is the brand itself and the therapy area it resides in, as this dictates the target audience and how best to engage with them. A specialist niche product for a rare disease will inherently require a different marketing approach to a mass market primary care portfolio.

Stage of lifecycle: Multi-channel marketing is often perceived as an approach that is most useful beyond initial sales rep activity at launch, but it can be equally effective at every stage of the product lifecycle, if applied in the right way. For example, high reach digital channels can be used to deliver personalised information to valuable customers during launch that are not readily accessible to the rep.

Complexity of message: how complex the marketing message is, and the desired outcome from engagement, has a bearing on the right channels to use. Considerations here include the complexity of the therapeutic areas involved, types of stakeholders, disease burden, market competition, safety issues and level of existing awareness.

Implementation capabilities / skills: This factor cannot be underestimated, as many carefully planned strategic marketing programs fail due to incorrectly assuming the right skilled resource is available to implement them. Being realistic about what can be achieved should not be ignored –for example, trying to run edetailing campaigns using field-trained reps that have no experience in remote engagement is unlikely to provide the best results.


“The company is looking for the optimum strategy that aligns its messaging and available capabilities with how the customer wants to receive information”

Such considerations must then be blended with the individual customers’ needs, including their preferred routes for receiving and absorbing information, to form four key pillars underpinning the strategy, as outlined in figure 2.


Figure 2: The four pillars of building a solid customer-centric multi-channel marketing strategy, blending internal and external factors.


One caution though around preferential engagement routes – ask a thousand doctors how they like to receive information and they may well say ‘via an iPad®’ or ‘on my mobile’- but does this mean they actually engage better via those routes? Understanding what this means in providing engaging information is important here if you are to facilitate customer access to exactly what they need, when they need it, in a way that works for both sides. This will also change over time so the plan must be adaptable, which is something we explore further in the next piece.

In reality, the company is looking for the optimum strategy that aligns its messaging and available capabilities with how the customer wants to receive information.

Key considerations in multi-channel planning

Whilst there are often no ‘magic’ solutions to tell you what the ideal channel mix is, the following steps are critical in planning successful integrated-channel solutions:

1. Be customer-centric: Start by segmenting your customers to understand their information needs and appropriate engagement routes to personalise your campaign to reach the ‘segment of one’, making every customer feel the message is relevant for them. A good customer experience that also imparts the key marketing messages is likely to be successful.

2. Learn from prior campaigns: Understand what has worked for products in similar therapeutic areas and geographies, either by scrutinising earlier internal initiatives or drawing on external support and experience.

3. Tailor information to the channel: Simply taking a detail aid and transferring it to other channels will not work. Make sure you adapt how information is presented for each channel so that it can be effectively consumed. This may require more work at the start but will pay off over time.

4. Focus on skills: Understand the skills required for delivering messages via multiple, diverse channels. Without the right attributes and training, do not expect sales reps to efficiently deliver messages via online channels, so either invest in training or acquire skilled resource from outside.


“A good customer experience that also imparts the key marketing messages is likely to be commercially successful”

Finally, it is important that all involved in planning the multi-channel campaign, especially senior management, are aware that the activities will need adjusting over time. If you are to make your activities truly customer-centric, you need to be ready to adapt based on how they are received in the field.

After all, if you implement a truly customer-focussed multi-channel campaign that facilitates more productive two-way engagement you are also going to get useful feedback, which will only serve to strengthen those commercial relationships.

The next part of the series, looking at how to adapt multi-channel campaigns, can be viewed here .


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

How do you plan the right mix for multi-channel marketing?