How to Turn “Lots of Data” into “Big Data” for Pharma

File under: Global Pharma Marketing, Pharma innovation, Relationship Marketing

Pharmaceutical firms, like most large sophisticated marketing organizations, spend a lot of money in promotion and branding. Individual brands will use multiple sales and marketing channels to reach their customers, including sales reps, traditional direct mail, drug samples, journal advertising, websites and edetailing, conferences and symposia and small dinner meetings. It’s not unusual for a brand to use six or more different ways to reach and impact their target doctors.

The Lack of Integrated Campaigns

While each of these tactics may be implemented by best-of-breed agencies, there is generally little coordination or sophisticated strategy that enables the whole effort to be greater than the sum of the parts. Unlike in other industries where marketers have learned how to build multi-channel programs, pharma has continued to use its traditional silo approach.

For example, in pharma you rarely see integrated campaigns in which one tactic, say direct mail, launches a chain of touch points by presenting a call to action to go to a website, where there is a prompt to opt-in to an email newsletter program or register for a conference.

Why is integrated marketing so important? There are two reasons why a more sophisticated approach to marketing is beneficial for both the brand and physicians.

Two Reasons Why Integration Is Important

Integrated marketing acknowledges the fact that there is an adoption path over which all of us travel during the process of becoming aware, considering, evaluating and eventually making a purchase decision. An integrated marketing program understands what types of information and presentation formats are most helpful at each stage in the decision making process.

Secondly, an integrated multi-channel approach respects that fact that individuals use and respond to different marketing media. Some physicians prefer sales reps, while others insist that they receive their information digitally. Some professionals need clinical documentation while others want to hear from a colleague…

For many pharma brands, the traditional approach to determining the effective marketing messages and media strategy is to use focus group market research. While this is helpful at a macro level, it overlooks the fact that we still need to understand the issues and interest at the individual customer level. And this is where big data comes in.

dataCapturing Data Should Be the First Step

There is lots of data on physician behavior, but it’s stuck in individual marketing silos and in the offices of the brand’s ad agencies, residing in Excel spreadsheets or on a website database. Even now, most agencies don’t report back at a physician level. They will typically report back at an aggregate level.

“We had a 5% click through.” “We had 2% response rate on the BRC card.”

No one is looking holistically at the detailed data at the physician level. No one is tying it all together to learn things about the customers at the individual level. Which channels do they actually respond to? Which channels do they ignore? What types of content do they respond to? Are there ways that we can actually increase a lift on different channels by coordinating them better?

Turning Lots of Data into Big Data

The first step in building an integrated marketing strategy is to work on turning lots of disparate data into structured data where it can be analyzed and used more efficiently. This starts by capturing data from every physician interaction. From each agency, the brand team needs individual physician data on:

  • Who did they target?
  • When did they target them?
  • What was the content?
  • What was the response?

Once this data is tied together and compiled into a single dashboard that actually tells the brand team who we are talking to, what we are saying, and how much we are spending on them, we have the foundation for smart marketing decision making.

Automation is the Next Step

Once the value of this data has been proved, then it’s time to help the various agencies develop APIs, or interface software that will automate the collection of this data from the various sources.

Once the data is flowing in from the various agency partners in a regular and sustained way, it’s possible to take a serious look at marketing effectiveness and make changes and choices that are now based on evidence and not hunch.

Integrated marketing can be a reality for pharma. It just requires capturing all the data that’s out there and turning it into “big data” that can be turned into marketing insight.

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