Closed Loop(s) Marketing – It’s More Than Pharma Sales Rep Tablets

File under: Big Data, Global Pharma Marketing, Multi-Channel Marketing, Pharma innovation, Relationship Marketing

As I re-read a recent Gartner report on Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) in pharma, it struck me that while Gartner was very focused on the shortcomings of current tablet-based sales applications for closing the sales rep-physician loop, they missed two other equally important brand-customer loops.

closed loops editedI’d suggest that there are three “loops” that need to be closed. And closing them would provide a lot more effectiveness in marketing.

First, let’s briefly touch on the sales rep-physician loop that Gartner’s analyst Dale Hagemeyer focused on and that most brand teams and agencies think of when they talk about CLM.

The Sales Rep – Physician Loop
Gartner’s point is that sales forces are underutilizing tablet technology and that this major investment in mobile presentation devices has not resulted in any true brand differentiation. In fact, for most companies Gartner talked to there wasn’t even a good business case for investing in sales rep tablets. According to interviews with 63 pharma clients, Gartner was consistently told, “We don’t have a business case. We simply have to have them because everybody else is getting them.”

As a result of this non-strategic implementation of interactive detailing, it’s no surprise that the tablets are simply another show-and-tell device, and with 85% of sales forces now equipped with the technology, their use provides no competitive advantage. The real power in tablet technology is the ability to collect individual physician data for analysis and the generation of insights at both the individual and aggregate level. This is a major missed opportunity and is one reason why the ROI on CLM hardware investments has not lived up to its promise.

The Sales – Marketing Loop
There is second critical marketing loop that needs attention. The sales-marketing loop within the pharma organization itself needs to be re-evaluated and closed. This is the loop of communication, or lack thereof, between the marketing content creation team and the sales organization. The marketing team creates branded messages and hands them off to the sales team. But it’s seldom that marketing really understands the impact of the messages, or receives feedback on what messages are working or not working at the individual physician level.

The sales reps go out into the marketplace with their authorized marketing messages and sometimes the messages work, and sometimes they don’t. Sales team members may complain among themselves about the messages and the marketing team back at the home office, but they seldom relay specific information back to the marketers. And the data from the interactive sales platform is rarely funneled back to marketing in a structured way that can inform future content. The reality is that the marketing team may not understand what is happening on the ground level so that they can actually enhance or improve messages that aren’t effective.

If the software and platforms currently in the field were used to collect insight and intelligence on the sales rep-physician experience, then marketing could use that data to develop smarter, more effective messages for a rep’s next visit. With a trusted communication back channel in place, marketing would feel more confident integrating insight from other promotional tactics into the sales force automation system.

Closing the sales-marketing loop requires an important commitment between sales and marketing leadership to work together at every level in their respective organizations. Closing this loop has little to do with technology. This is a cultural change for many companies and may be the biggest barrier to improved sales effectiveness.

The Marketing – Physician Loop
Finally, there is a marketing-physician loop. More and more marketing is direct to the physician, often referred to as non-personal or multi-channel marketing. This direct-to-physician channel strategy is growing among most pharma brands, encompassing traditional channels like direct mail and conferences, and digital channels such as e-mail, websites, portals and e-learning sites.

But even non-personal promotion is still “marketing.” If the brand team simply follows the old playbook, then they’re using the same messages that were created for sales, only now it’s packaged in beautiful collateral or posted on a website. My complaint is that we’re generally not using this kind of direct marketing as a way to capture insights – to find out what’s working and what’s not working, or what doctors really consider valuable.

Multi-channel promotional tactics are generally created and managed by ad agencies. The first step in closing the marketing-physician loop is mandating that all agencies provide the brand team with a regular data feed on their tactics at the physician-level. This represents another cultural change that can be challenging but is necessary to close this loop.

The Role of Technology
All of these sales and marketing loops have an important technology component. In fact, it’s technology and the development of a comprehensive customer insight database that enables true relationship marketing. Relationship marketing not only allows for a scalable commitment to informed and respectful sales, but at a time when there is greater scrutiny on marketing budgets, it provides a path for increased marketing effectiveness, too. If we know what physicians care about at the individual doctor level, then we can be very focused on what we say, how we say it, and who we say it to.

While all this loop-closing sounds like a lot of work (read: expensive), there are important baby steps that can and should be taken now to build the customer insight database and build confidence in a strategic approach to marketing. Yes, there is technology involved, but the biggest challenge is cultural. And that takes leadership.

Let’s get started…

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