Uncovering the hidden value in CLM

Jacky Law reports on why so many companies are struggling to activate closed-loop marketing and how content management systems can help.

The thinking behind closed-loop marketing (CLM) was always deceptively simple. The assumptions underpinning it were that digital technologies would generate a wealth of insights about individual healthcare practitioners enabling ever more profitable marketing operations in a virtuous cycle of experimentation and reward.

Predictably, pharma started equipping its sales forces with tablet technology to start harnessing such benefits. But reaping the rewards, in the sense of collecting new data from customers and combining that with what is already known about their interests, attitudes and motivation to drive deeper engagement has largely not happened. This is confirmed in a recent report from technology consultants Gartner, which predicts that “by 2016, the ability to drive practitioner interactions based on insights drawn from past causal data will be the single most important sales effectiveness factor.”1

“Instead of using these devices to generate truly customer-focused communications, they have become largely a means of delivering content… with metrics tracking who saw what and when”


One problem has been that, instead of using these devices to generate truly customer-focused communications, they have become largely a means of delivering content, in digital rather than paper formats, with metrics tracking who saw what and when. The central issue, according to Morten Hjelmsoe, founder and CEO of Agnitio, is that there is no loop to close if companies just push messages as they have always done and fail to engage with customers to bring in new insights. “Companies have focussed on digitalisation and saved a lot of money in print and distribution costs in the process but their investment in iPads and other tablets has largely been to track what their reps do rather than how the doctors are responding,” he says.

Another problem, according to Florian Leschinsky, a manager in Accenture Life Sciences’ Germany office with extensive experience of working on sales forces effectiveness, is that reps are not always using the technology correctly. “It is hard to get the basics right,” he says. “It may be that the sales force cannot cope with the different channels. The healthcare practitioner cannot give feedback if the sales force is not using the channels he or she prefers. Or it may be they are not entering all the feedback data or not entering it correctly because it must be entered manually. Even if they have got the basics right, their focus is often 90 per cent on selling and 10 per cent on the reaction data. They must be trained on a continual basis to appreciate the value of the feedback.

“Companies that are able to close the loop have been able to convince the sales force of the superiority of the new technologies and how it can help them do their job by closing the gap between input activity, which is what the sales reps are doing to sell the product, and output activity, which is what the company gets back and what it is doing with it. Often, it is the case that feedback comes in but it is not clear what activities that relates to.”

At the same time, the novelty value of tablets is wearing thin. Doctors, like everyone else in a digital age, have become much more discerning about how they receive information and, if the content of presentations is not timely, relevant and engaging for them, anecdotal evidence suggests they are turning away from digital presentations.

Knowing what doctors want and providing that are two entirely different, but equally essential, capabilities. As a first step, Hjelmsoe suggests focussing on individualising the content of the presentations based on what is known about a particular doctor in terms of their interests and the channels via which they prefer to receive information. Relevant and timely communications drive good conversations and good conversations drive insights, which can be used drive better communications in the original spirit of CLM.

Customizing content in this way requires new ways of working. There are also compliance requirements to consider and the need to ensure consistency in messages delivered around the globe. Content systems such as Agnitio’s Rainmaker – which includes CLM capabilities – help to resolve these issues with master content that is infinitely flexible in terms of what is delivered in individual presentations and also the preferred channels for dissemination.

“All content is stored in the cloud and then rules can be assigned centrally to control how it is accessed and used at regional and local levels,” says Hjelmsoe. “From the reps’ point of view, they now have the opportunity to leverage their customer knowledge to improve the service delivery. The reps can take, say, five slides and then refine further by asking the customer what is most relevant. Data is automatically collected by the pages they click. This might reveal, for example, that a doctor is interested in helping patients adhere to medication. Information tailored to patients can be downloaded there and then – in keeping with a general industry trend to move from pushing product features to being more of a service partner. The point is to make your information as relevant as possible to their needs. It doesn’t obviate the need for a good information strategy, but building packages of information opens conversations and deepens the engagement.”

“The reps must be able to see a connection between what they put in and what they get out. This is not possible at the moment”


Leschinsky believes technological solutions are good but they can only go so far. “The combination of CRM [customer-relationship management] hardware, CLM software, e-detailing apps and other technology is not working as seamlessly as managers might think. The reps must be able to see a connection between what they put in and what they get out. This is not possible at the moment.”

The challenges of implementing CLM are the same for every company but the rewards for those who can get the basics right, in a human as well as technological sense, are rising all the time. As Gartner predicts, closing the loop could become the single biggest sales effectiveness factor by 2016.

Morten Hjelmsoe and Florian Leschinsky hosted an expert webinar on this subject on 4 February, entitled: ‘New HCP Expectations: How to respond to declining CLM engagement with true 21st century digital communication’. Click here for more information and to view the recorded webcast.


1September 2013. Closed loop marketing in pharma has yet to close the loop. Gartner.

About the author:

Jacky Law has been writing about pharmaceuticals since joining Scrip Magazine in 1998, before becoming a regular columnist for Pharmaceutical Executive. From 2010 to 2013 she wrote industry reports for FirstWord.

At pharmaphorum Jacky leads the production of unique and insightful research reports and features covering the key issues impacting the global pharmaceutical industry.

You can follow her on Twitter here.

Read more on this subject from Agnitio:

Applying closed loop marketing in pharma