This year’s eyeforpharma eMarketing conference took place in Zürich. Apart from Zürich being a wonderful place to be, the conference was well worth attending. It was particularly interesting to see how all of big pharma is getting prepared to cope with the challenges ahead, and what role eMarketing plays in the process.
A new model
Most presentations were oriented around the same general theme. The traditional pharma sales model is changing quickly and dramatically. Some US presenters even stated that it is about to collapse because many physicians don’t (want to) see reps anymore.
Less blockbuster drugs, shrinking product differentiation, and ageing product portfolios force companies to adjust their marketing approach, in particular:
- closing the loop,
- moving from push marketing to dialogue marketing,
- recognizing the value of the “long tail”.
Many of the marketing terms used during the conference reflected these trends. Here are some of them:
- Closed Loop Marketing (CLM)
- Relationship Marketing
- 360° view
- Multichannel marketing
The underlying concept for all these terms is the same. Doctors spend less time on listening to elaborate product detailing presented by sales reps. Instead, they prefer on-demand information tailored to their specific needs and presented to them at the time and place of their choosing. Online media in particular have enabled them to be in control of all important aspects of communication, the what, the how, the when, and the where. A recent Manhattan Research study shows that in the EU 85% of physicians want online product information. They prefer a mix of channels, including email, web, and traditional offline communication.
New marketing skills
All big pharma companies are in the process of adapting their marketing communication to their customer’s preferences. The online medium offers great tools to customize marketing communication for both doctors and marketers. eMarketing concepts and tools therefore are an integral part of pharma’s new marketing communication strategy. This also affects the brand marketer’s daily work. Offline-online marketing integration is essential. Understanding the Internet and how eMarketing can be added to the mix was identified as being a key skill for advanced pharma marketers. More and more job titles on the delegate lists of marketing conferences express this trend. Taken from this event’s list:
- Multi Channel Marketing Manager
- Director Integrated Business
- Marketing Excellence Manager
- CRM and eBusiness Manager
The delegate list also contained a large number of marketing roles without an “e”, so brand managers want to keep up.
Role of the sales force
Several presentations addressed the role of the sales force in this process. Reps are still considered a very important part of the relationship building process. They are needed for closing the loop, so they must support CRM. A successful sales force uses all available customer information to deliver the right messages, and they feed new insights back into the system. eMarketing tactics like email marketing or online meetings can be made more effective if sales reps participate.
|Sales force focus||eMarketing focus|
|Quality information||Simple interactions|
|Key customers||The long tail|
|Second line of support||First line of support|
|Use information||Collect information|
|Potential customers: closing the deal||Potential customers: initial contact|
|Customer acquisition and retention||Customer retention|
Conference take-home message
The pharma marketing model continues to transform from product-oriented “spray and pray” push marketing to integrated relationship marketing involving time and place shifting. Online communication tools have some unique features to support the new model, and therefore play an ever increasing role in this process.