Part 2: Interview with Kevin Michels-Kim, digital strategist and ex multichannel marketing at Merck & Co
What do you see as the challenges in achieving a good multichannel engagement strategy for your customer base?
It is tempting to take the short-cut and push marketing messages through multiple channels. That approach will work for some customers, but it is hardly efficient marketing and not particularly engaging for the recipient. A more sustainable approach with long-term impact is going to require some fundamental changes. Pharma companies and multichannel teams, in particular, will need to transform themselves into content providers – sourcing, curating and disseminating interesting content around medicine, diseases, and therapies. At the same time, pharma will need to balance promotional content with non-promotional medical content, and perhaps foregoing sending promotional content in favor of contributing to scientific discussions completely unrelated to product indications. Why would you do this? Successful engagement strategies must be built on trust and transparency between pharma and its audiences. In many markets, pharma’s target customers rightfully suspect that all content from pharma is biased and motivated by product prescription metrics. If trust is not there, engagement will always be built on a superficial and temporary foundation.
You are running a workshop on integrating mobile and social media into a multichannel communication strategy – why do you think this is such an important topic for the pharma industry?
Until very recently, pharma hasn’t often struggled to have a voice in the health industry. Large, ubiquitous sales forces and significant marketing budgets have ensured that pharma’s messages could be delivered with sufficient reach and frequency. That dominance is declining with greater physician-imposed limitations on rep visits and the increasingly popularity of mobile and social media. The number of channels has multiplied and customers are segmented in very different ways than just a few years ago. Pharma communications strategy used to be optimized for one channel, the sales rep. Today, if you want to reach your target customers, communications strategy needs to be optimized and delivered across a whole variety of channels. The workshop will look at these channels through recent examples of real-world implementations. The goal is for participants to come away with an understanding of multichannel strategy and some specific ideas of what they could try in their own companies.
Who is ahead of the game in terms of their approach to mobile and social media for customer engagement?
Pharma has acquired the dubious reputation as a slow mover in the adoption of new technologies. I think this reputation is somewhat undeserved, particularly when you look at the industry over the last couple of years. There are companies out there building and launching mobile apps for disease awareness and management, physician engagement and diagnostic support, as well as patient health and wellness. Pfizer, for example, has partnered with ePocrates in the US for provision of medical information and recently launched the Pfizer-Engage initiative for medical conference attendees on mobile in Europe. Novartis, Novo Nordisk and many others are investing in mobility technologies for their sales forces. In social media, the success stories of Boehringer Ingelheim on Facebook and Twitter spring to mind. Boehringer is also venturing into online gamification with its eagerly awaited Syrum game. However, there are also a number of companies which have remained on the sidelines, preferring a wait-and-see approach. So, while there are plenty of success stories from individual innovators, the industry as a whole is not moving unanimously ahead in digital customer engagement.
Thanks Kevin, a really interesting insight into multichannel marketing.