Pharma Leaders Discuss Future of Digital Marketing and Go-to-Market Strategies and Commercial Excellence for 2024
September 22, 2023
Last week, pharma industry executives came together for a webinar focused on commercial excellence and go-to-market strategies. Moderated by Ritesh Patel of FINN Partners, the panel consisted of Sierra Towers, Vice President of Go To Market & Operations at Boehringer Ingelheim; Florent Edouard, SVP, Global Head of Commercial Excellence at Grünenthal Group; Ray Gomez, Vice President, Worldwide Omni-Channel Capabilities at BMS; and Sunil Karnawat, Vice President of Marketing & Sales at Ultragenyx.
We covered key trends shaping marketing in the healthcare and life sciences sector.
Data, Content and Channels Still Crucial
The panelists agreed that data, content and channel selection remain fundamental to effective marketing. However, the focus is shifting to meeting customers where they want to engage rather than just pushing content out.
Sierra Towers of Boehringer Ingelheim noted that strategies should be driven by customer journeys more than internal goals now. Ray Gomez of Bristol Myers Squibb is aggregating data to deliver relevant content and channels tailored to behavioral responses.
Customer Experience is Critical
All of the panelists emphasized the rising importance of customer experience, especially post-COVID. According to Florent Edouard of Grünenthal, “The road of push marketing is closed.” Companies must deliver value on physicians’ and patients’ terms.
Sunil Karnawat of Ultragenyx shared how they approach integrated communications by creating targeted email campaigns to assess doctor interest and have sales reps follow up at the optimal time when engagement is high.
Digital Adoption Accelerated But Work Remains
COVID-19 increased digital marketing adoption out of necessity. But sustaining momentum remains challenging due to mindset shifts required in sales teams and leadership, said Ray Gomez of BMS. Sierra Towers of Boehringer Ingelheim noted bringing people along is their biggest risk, not the technology itself.
AI Not a Silver Bullet Yet
The panel concurred that AI is still early stage. It should accelerate processes versus serve as an end goal. Ray Gomez of Bristol Myers Squibb advised thinking big but starting small and scaling quickly. Ethics also need to guide AI experimentation to avoid dangerous missteps.
As Edouard of Grünenthal put it, “We are 1 million miles away from real artificial intelligence.” But micro AI applications can marginally improve operations for now.
Omni-Channel Shows Promise
Karnawat praised omni-channel pilots that connect digital campaigns with field reps to identify and engage interested physicians. But he cautioned that change management is difficult, given regulatory requirements in pharma.
Key Takeaways from the Webinar:
- Data, content and channels are crucial, but making decisions based on data and meeting customers where they want to engage is equally important. Don’t just push content.
- Customer experience and journey mapping should inform strategies rather than internal goals. Put the physician/patient at the center.
- COVID-19 accelerated digital adoption, but maintaining it and changing mindsets is challenging. People and change management are the biggest risks.
- AI/Machine Learning is still nascent. Focus on micro use cases that improve processes vs. a silver bullet. But pair it with digital ethics.
- The ideal CRM doesn’t exist yet. Current ones are disjointed systems. Data structure and cleanliness remains a huge challenge.
- Omni-channel pilots that connect digital with field reps show promise for rare disease marketing. Meet the HCP where they are in their journey.
- Guidance for 2024: Focus on rationalizing, simplifying and optimizing (Ray); ensure it benefits the end customer (Florent); and keep innovating in omni-channel (Sunil).
In summary, data-driven digital marketing is growing but pharma’s customer experience and change management capabilities must evolve to fully capitalize on the opportunity. The panel will reconnect in March to track progress on this pressing industry transition.