The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed the pharma marketing and sales environment—accelerating a trend towards digital engagement that was already in motion. I recently sat down with António Pregueiro, VP Life Sciences, and Practice Lead at IQVIA, to discuss the trajectory of a virtual shift in engagement, what constitutes the “good data” required for successful multichannel campaigns, and how life sciences companies can optimize opportunities for both their sales and marketing teams.
The full text of our conversation is below.
Edith Hodkinson: Virtual interactions and multi-channel outreach by sales reps are the new norm. Why is it of value to understand Healthcare Providers’ (HCPs) preferences for engagement (e.g. virtual, publications, emails, webinars, websites, etc.)?
António Pregueiro: The trend towards remote, multichannel engagement in recent years has been swiftly accelerated by the practice of social distancing driven by COVID-19. Physical separation also makes it much easier for an HCP to ignore or refuse a meeting with a pharma rep. It’s a lot harder to say “no” when they’re waiting outside your office. This means that the most impactful, longest-standing, traditional channel for life science companies to engage HCPs directly—the face-to-face channel—has and is going to have to be replaced. It is essential to understand where else HCPs are looking for and finding information about diseases and treatments to develop their own medical practice. Will they consult information around dosing on the brand website? Are they interested in long term safety studies, and if so, will they want to read the publication or listen to an opinion leader talk about it? Efficacy information needs to be contextualized within a specific type of patient profile they’re interested in. Do they find this information on Google, their specialty association website, or a CME course? The value in studying their preferences is precisely so a company can understand how, where, and when it is best to supply each HCP with content that will differentiate their brands.
EH: How does the universe of HCPs factor into determining that “how, where, and when”?
AP: You have to remember engagement is a two-way street. Reps push content to HCPs, and sometimes collect their reactions and responses to that content, the data, or the messages they hear from other companies. Other forms of delivering content to HCPs can be more reliable and can, in turn, reflect more up-to-date information about what those HCPs are thinking. This can be tremendously valuable in terms of understanding how, when, and where to deliver the next pieces of content to those same specific HCPs. This is how you can guide them towards the adoption ladder you’ve carefully built for your brands, and adapt the assumptions that support that ladder as you learn more about your customers.
EH: Can you talk about the value a good data source provides when planning an orchestrated, multi-channel (MC) campaign?
AP: A good data source is only the start of getting good information. Good, useful information is what you really need to make MC campaigns successful. First, let’s define what “good data” is at a high level:
- representative of the situation you’re trying to understand (e.g., your customer’s opinions, their experience, your patients’ symptoms, and prior treatments, etc.)
- accurate, with a well-defined error rate, so you can understand the value of the information you derive from it and whether you need more data to inform your decisions
- up-to-date—otherwise accuracy will vanish with time and you may be making decisions based on incorrect information
In a perfect world, your orchestrated MC engagements would target customers based on what they know, what they believe in, and how they feel about a disease, their patients, and the treatment options. You would also know when they’re most receptive to receiving the information and suggestions you want them to believe in, where they seek out that information, or how you can draw them into your channel. Finally, you would be able to track their level of belief in what you’ve shared with them, how this compares with the beliefs they have with regards to competitor treatments, and how the totality of their beliefs can and/or will influence their actual behaviors. If you knew this, you could then pursue specific engagement investments to move the customers targeted by the orchestrated campaign in the intended direction. In the real world, there is no perfect information, so your campaigns have to be informed by imperfect, but good, data sources that can help you understand the beliefs and behaviors of your customers, and how they’ve been shaped. That is how you start to understand how to influence new beliefs and behaviors that support your brands.
So, what is the value of a good data source? It’s the basis of all orchestrated engagement.
EH: Can you expand a bit on that idea of orchestration? Why is it so important?
AP: Orchestration relies on informed planning and coordinated execution. Informed planning has to be based on properly analyzed data that reflects customer needs, preferences, beliefs, and behaviors. This clearly illustrates the need for imperfect data to, nevertheless, be representative and accurate. Coordinated execution demands that the information obtained from that data be turned into the right directives to the customer-facing teams, automated marketing activities, etc. This will provide customers with the resources, connections, or experiences that drive the desired behavior and build engagement over time. For this to happen, you have to track that execution and response of customers to the multiple points of interaction. This illustrates the need for a good data source to be accurate and up-to-date. I hope this also clarifies that the value of a good data source is essential for orchestrated customer engagement.
EH: What are some questions a good data source allows you to ask?
AP: I like how your question is phrased. Most people think about a good data source as one that gives you answers. But, in fact, a good data source gives you answers and pushes you to start asking new, better, and more informed questions about the issues you’re trying to address. I think the most important questions in the life sciences are centered around how impactful a disease is, treatment options, which healthcare professionals need to be engaged to optimize the treatment of disease, and which patients can benefit most from each treatment. A good data source can help you ask and answer these questions. From a promotional perspective, good data can also answer what your customers are interested in, where they’re looking for information, how they find it, and how they perceive it. A good data source can also help you understand what comes next. If this is what customers are thinking now, how will they feel about something related to it in the near future? How will their opinions be shaped and evolve? For me, good data sources basically answer your questions and give hints as to why those questions might deserve more attention. But, most interestingly, they also help you discover questions you hadn’t considered before you started looking at the data.
EH: How do triggered opportunities work to benefit sales teams?
AP: Sales teams nowadays have to juggle a lot. In addition to the promotional content they must share with customers, they need to map out the decision processes within complex accounts, engage with different types of stakeholders (with often different, and sometimes competing, interests), and more recently, adopt technology to adapt their engagement approaches. A few years ago, you wouldn’t be expected to do much more than see HCPs face-to-face—following a customer on Twitter or corresponding via email were already considered “digitally advanced.” That approach has now radically changed. In addition to today’s remote interactions—which are fairly easy for most reps to conduct if the platform they use is geared towards HCP adoption—what is really driving complexity is the multitude of channels that HCPs themselves use to access information and participate in initiatives.
The source of this complexity isn’t just the need to engage with HCPs in those same channels, since this task is best addressed through talented brand teams and automated marketing programs. The larger issue is the amount of data about HCPs coming through those channels that inform their preferences, their interests, and even the evolution in their search for information. The type and volume of data lend itself to automated analyses, but traditional commercial analytics tends to produce single-variable descriptions rather than multivariate projection analyses. The output of these analyses can drive improvements in the timing of the next engagement by the sales team, the optimization of a geographically- or availability-distributed set of customers, or the message and content that is best shared with the customer at each stage of adoption. This is the benefit of triggered opportunities to sales teams: the optimization of their engagement efforts without overwhelming the capacity to plan and execute activities.
EH: Have you seen a trend where pharma marketers are coordinating traditional multichannel marketing with salesforce outreach and non-personal promotion?
AP: There is no doubt that there is an interest from pharma marketers in carrying out omnichannel campaigns that include both customer-facing teams and non-personal promotion. There has also been more investment in doing this. Where we see more limited success is precisely in coordinating these different aspects of engagement. This is due in part to insufficient clarity of the importance of informed planning, and on the ability to coordinate the execution. There is still insufficient focus on understanding the points of interaction along a customer journey that should be mined for information, which is effectively the points of influence, and how to use different content and channels to maximize impact.
Over the last few years, many life sciences companies brought onboard digital marketers to drive app launches, social media monitoring, etc., creating a sense of joining the digital revolution. Unfortunately, however, the overall planning and execution didn’t change tremendously. Marketing focuses primarily on building brand equity, sales on growing revenue, IT on the technology, and analysts on creating a lot of reports that illustrate data. You need to borrow expertise from psychology, project management, and social physics to understand how to deliver orchestrated engagement. Only then can you integrate analysis with a brand strategy—and deliver it using the right teams and technology—to grow revenue while doing the best you can for patients.
About António Pregueiro, IQVIA
Dr. António Pregueiro is a leader in IQVIA’s Customer Engagement Center of Excellence. António’s experience spans both pharma and consulting, having worked in strategic marketing, commercial operations, and analytics.
Most recently, he was Vice President for Life Sciences and Senior Solution Lead for Commercial and Marketing Excellence at HighPoint Solutions in Europe.
Previously, he was the head of a Gastroenterology business unit at Takeda, launching the IBD biologic Entyvio. While at Takeda, he launched several new transformation initiatives including the company’s new customer engagement platform and its digital marketing function. Under his leadership, his team conducted a companywide re-evaluation of the primary and specialty care portfolio, supporting the full commitment of the company to oncology and gastroenterology, redesigning the key account management approach, the first closed-loop marketing program, and a new launch excellence program to support oncology.
Prior to Takeda, he was a senior manager for business planning and analytics at Amgen, supporting among others, the launch of the company’s first primary care drug Prolia, for female osteoporosis, and Xgeva for bone metastases across tumor types.
He received a dual honors BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry from the University of Sheffield in the UK and a Ph.D. in Genetics from Dartmouth in the US. He is the author of several peer-reviewed scientific publications, including cover articles in Science and PNAS.