by Jan Keuppens
“Omnichannel strategist / head of Marketing” @ Across health

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You wouldn’t attempt to fly a plane without first understanding all the controls and the context required for using them. Yet, as the pharma industry approaches the critical runway of annual brand planning, that’s exactly the approach that many marketers take to planning their multichannel marketing (MCM). It’s a risky business. Their plans may get off the ground, but they’re likely to encounter turbulence. And when the wind changes direction, they’ll almost certainly be blown off course. For a pleasant long-haul journey and a successful landing, it pays to have a clear flight path, a good navigation system and an agile toolbox that helps you fly safely in and out of the jet stream. The question is: how?

First let’s look at the drivers. Everyone in pharma knows that MCM is a crucial direction of travel. Why? Because as digital establishes itself as the ‘new normal’ and digital native HCPs become the rule rather than the exception, doctors are increasingly closing their doors to traditional sales reps and companies are needing to find better ways of engaging customers. Digital not only allows companies to reach customers at speed and scale, it enables them to personalise content and build customer experiences that drive loyalty. It’s no surprise that MCM in pharma its slowly taking off. But there are flight warnings everywhere.

Our 2019 Multichannel Maturometer shows that, after 8 years of stable investment and 3 consecutive years of strong growth, pharma’s digital marketing budgets have fallen back to 2017 levels. Despite this, 87% of marketers think the companies they work for are some distance away from being the ideal digital organisation – with 57% of companies allocating less than 15% of their budget to digital. There are five key hurdles to progress; beyond compliance issues, organisations don’t believe they have the skills, the people or the overarching digital strategy to succeed. And they don’t know how to measure the return. These challenges are driving a widespread reluctance to invest more in MCM.

Where do we go from here? MCM isn’t going to go away, but the opportunity may slip if brand teams don’t adopt a more proactive approach. We see many examples of companies that don’t plan appropriately for the multichannel world. Some fall foul of ‘shiny toy syndrome’, rushing towards the latest tech without first understanding customer needs. Others pilot new innovations, only to head for the emergency exit when it quickly emerges that their ROI metrics don’t align with market realities.

So here’s the thing: multichannel success is not about tools and technologies – it’s about insight, planning, methodology and measurement. And it’s not about moment-in-time decision-making, it’s about having the awareness, agility and ability to continually monitor the flight path – and re-route as conditions change. Fundamentally, customers and contexts fluctuate like thermal winds. You therefore need a toolbox that equips you for the long haul. However, as our 2019 Maturometer research indicates, it’s a toolbox that’s absent for many.

At Across Health, we’ve developed an ‘all-weather’ toolbox for MCM planning. Our approach is built around a framework that focuses on establishing six core elements; Strategic Imperatives, Strategic Proxies, Conversion Points, Tactics, Prioritization and Planning, and Measurement. These elements must be underpinned and informed by agile insights, robust modelling and constant evaluation. Together they’re the essence of an agile toolbox that pharma marketers need if their brand plans are to work in a multichannel world.

This month we’ll be unlocking the toolbox and sharing our learnings from successful MCM campaigns. Our one-time-only campaign, The Missing Toolbox, will teach you the six-step approach to agile mix planning, guide you on how to reach the right HCP with the right content at the right time, and show you how you can simulate your MCM campaigns before they leave your desk. We’ll also share best practice examples from the industry’s high flyers.

As pharma’s brand planning season prepares for take-off, MCM planning could be the difference between a smooth flight and a journey from hell. The boarding gate is open, but there’s still time to upgrade your customers to the first class experience they deserve.

Access our missing toolbox for MCM planning here

The 2019 Maturometer research