Enabling a Customer Journey Pharma Could Use

Focusing on CX is taking marketing by storm across industries, and life sciences are no exception. But is it possible for pharma to adopt the general B2B customer journey approaches that are so efficient in, say, retail? Pharma HCP engagement is a complicated topic, laden with sensitive information, MLR constraints and tons of content to create and use. It turns out, the method is “transplantable”, but requires more focus on operational aspects. Here, we will look at our experience as a MarTech provider to see how that works – and how to choose a customer journey tool wisely.

What HCP Digital Engagement Requires

Compared with the “classical” go-to-market models of the last century, today’s landscape is increasingly fragmenting itself. Influencers are giving way to microinfluencers, market segments split into microsegments, and target audiences refuse to be handled as such. Instead, customers prefer (and now expect) to be treated as individuals.

Some may smirk and say “snowflakes”, but once the market stakeholders can afford catering to individual needs, they will. And it’s a good thing. No patient would like to be treated without considering their individual health condition. No HCP would like to be limited in treatment options just because a blockbuster drug has monopolized the market. Personalization is what matters now.

If you look at it from this angle, HCP engagement is no longer an enigma for pharma marketers and brand managers to solve. The “fashionable” concept of micromoments applies here: at any particular moment for the customer, are you as a brand there to help? According to Google, 69% consumers claim it’s the quality, timing, and relevance of brand message at that moment that influences their decision.

The need to keep track of such moments is what gave rise to the whole concept of customer journey. If the marketer is able to intervene at moments of awareness, consideration, etc. with relevant messages, they turn from a distraction to value bringer. This, of course, requires omnichannel communication and data handling. The rewards are multiple: for example, McKinsey confirms 10-20% more efficiency and at least 3-5% increase in HCP prescribers.

However, it is one thing to sell FMCG, and quite another – to work with healthcare professionals. The numbers above are from “pioneering” organizations, because simply transferring best practices will not work. Pharma needs to figure out its own customer journey methods.

You will never be like retail companies… And it’s good for you

For a company that sells, say, consumer goods, the layout of an omnichannel journey is a well-trodden path. This path crosses emotional triggers, on-the-spot decision making, the whims of the customer’s inner child – and vast fields of laziness we feel as entitled consumers. Needless to say, all of this does not apply to a highly responsible industry like healthcare. Accordingly, a customer journey for a practitioner will look nothing like that of someone willing to buy a T-shirt.

  • More information is needed to make a decision to prescribe than to buy a product. This increases the amount of content required along the journey from awareness to advocacy.
  • This information is much more specialized and scientific in tone. This means that the content produced for a pharma customer journey will inevitably be split into two categories: (a) the “invitation” content (like banner ads or messenger content), (b) full-scale content like eDetailing, landing pages, websites, and other aids.
  • More emphasis on privacy, consent, and sensitive information handling.
  • Compliance and MLR concerns.
  • Cost of transaction. A single HCP prescribing a product has much more impact than a customer buying a non-pharmaceutical product; but the cost of acquiring a lead is accordingly higher for the marketer.
  • Role of KOL (key opinion leaders).

Plainly speaking, as a pharma marketer, you will never be able to use a micromoment to create an impulse for decision. Fortunately so. On the other hands, you are able to do much greater things, ethically and responsibly. But to do so, it pays off to analyze the customer journey approach as such and see what it should look like in pharma.

Customer Journey approach 101: how to create a customer journey map

So what is a customer journey, exactly? Intuitively, we all have a notion of what a customer goes through when interacting with a brand – the process of choice, decision, purchase and so on. A full customer journey encompasses more than that, too – namely, the process of becoming a customer (and becoming a lead before that) – and, crucially, what happens after the purchase.

Regardless of industry, a journey is typically split into these stages:

Awareness Consideration Decision Service (support) Loyalty and advocacy
The customer is aware of the need that the brand solves, and the brand itself The customer is comparing competing brands and/or considering the purchase The customer is purchasing / ordering / prescribing The customer is experiencing the product or service, evaluating convenience, efficiency, support, etc. The customer remains loyal to the brand and is ready to recommend it to others

If you take these stages as a horizontal axis, you can think of how to create a customer journey map. This matrix allows to analyze what exactly to do to influence each stage of the journey. To do that, you create a vertical axis with aspects like:

  • Customer actions (e.g. encounters an ad, or talks to a sales rep)
  • Touchpoints (how you can reach the customer at this stage – the channel mix)
  • CX rating (analyzing the current state from satisfied to dissatisfied)
  • Goals and KPIs
  • Stakeholders and systems involved + process ownership

Since the target audience is now routinely segmented, such maps can be created for each segment. Additionally, the maps can be created not only for the general action of purchasing a product, but for more specific desired actions (like joining a community or subscribing to news feed). This allows to create goal-specific campaigns tied to personas and microsegments (i.e. segments defined for the specific goal of this campaign). The trick here is to tie together business goals and campaign goals.

From that stage on, you can use a customer journey tool to create automated journeys – algorithms that are triggered by, say, a prospect clicking an ad, and then lead communication along a programmed route according to the choices that the customer makes in the process.

What it looks like in HCP marketing engagement

Experts at Viseven have analyzed numerous projects in pharma to come up with observations about industry-specific issues that many tend to overlook. On the highest level possible, the HCP journey map may look not dissimilar to other industries. Substitute purchase for prescription, add pharma channels like eDetailing and KOL-led webinars to the awareness and consideration stage, and beyond-the-pill value to the service stage and so on.

However, there are several nuances that are important:

  1. The “weight” of the service/support stage is much bigger, as reputation and consistent communication help at all other stages (e.g. an HCP is more likely to advocate for a drug that comes with handy dosing calculators, patient materials, etc.)
  2. It is usually necessary to combine materials for each persona at the finest level to achieve the perfect mix of decision-influencing information. In other words, for one HCP, the necessary combination is efficacy + label + guidelines + convenience, for another – security + efficacy + CME + patient quality of life impact, and so on
  3. The materials needed are, by nature, bulkier than in other industries, so many of the assets distributed along the journey duplicate each other by varying degrees but present different combinations (you cannot tell about a drug exclusively in short messages)
  4. MLR and compliance concerns can be a major constraint when launching a journey – and need to be dealt with by optimizing the process
  5. It is best to program any journey toward a very specific segment and a very specific target action – blanket coverage does not work.

Where to look once you’re implementing it

The role of content (and fast content production) is extremely important in HCP journey creation. Accordingly, when implementing this approach in any journey-based campaign, it is necessary to look at both implementing the approach itself (switching from cycle-based mindset to journey-based one) and how it is tied to content. Otherwise the journey will fall back to the traditional model once all the engaged omnichannel experts relax even a little bit.

Here are some tips:

Give the proper workspace to foster the mindset

Cultivating the digital mindset is essential to sustain the transformation. No amount of reminders will suffice if the workspace itself does not encourage to work in the new way. Choose an HCP engagement platform that connects the necessary tools and functionalities together – at least journey planning, marketing automation, and analytics. We highly recommend content processes are included, too. The platform should make all the relevant information easily identifiable: campaign goals, competitors, SWOT analyses, assets and materials, segments, etc.

Split the journey by operations (to avoid sliding back)

Perhaps the most valuable line in any customer journey map is the one describing process ownership. At a more detailed level, each process should be split by operations with clear roles and responsibilities. This is an incarnation of the age-old management strategy: splitting the Big Scary Task into smaller, manageable chunks. For example, in a journey aimed at getting HCPs register for an event, the consideration part may involve email invitations. Each of the email templates directed at a microsegment will prove the event is worth the time from different angles. Someone will be responsible for constructing the email concepts and CTAs, someone will take on the sending and setup part, and so on. In this way, the processes will be clear enough to prevent everyone going back to the old ways.

Calendarize and Kanban-ize the execution

To further develop the roles and responsibilities plan, it is a good idea to have clear deadlines for campaigning – and content production. Interdependences between tasks are well tracked on a Kanban-like board that agencies can be onboarded to be part of.

Link content creation to journey logics

A highly-requested for functionality is, among others, the possibility to order (or even create) content directly from journey schemes. Suppose you are looking at a journey, and see that after a message is sent, depending on the HCPs’ reactions, you will need to give them different materials to persuade them – let’s call them Material A and Material B. Material B is non-existent, but you know exactly what it should look like. Having a “magic bell” to ring from the journey layout is invaluable here.

Envelop all phases of content lifecycle

To be able to track the execution of the campaign strategy, now linked to the journey, you will need full control over content planning. This means the different stages of content lifecycle – briefing, building, testing, MLR review, publishing, distribution, and retirement – need to be reflected in the toolset you are using.

Solutions: choosing a customer journey tool

Talking about technology to use, there are two main possibilities. These base off how exactly you choose to align journey planning with content planning, and what your organization will find better in terms of convenience and scaling.

  • Solution #1 – Marketing Automation System + Content Platform + intense onboarding. The value of full-fledged marketing automation systems, notably Salesforce Marketing Cloud, is undisputed. Many of these offer vast ranges of functionalities, including very advanced ones, with AI capacities plugged in to determine next actions, and so on. Naturally, these also require expert involvement to start using. The only caveat is the content part: you will need extra assistance to link content planning and production to journey building, and this typically requires change management and onboarding for al the stakeholders until the workflows are established and become corporate traditions.
  • Solution #2 – Approach journey planning from content authoring. This suggests using a content authoring platform that offers journey planning functionalities. These functionalities will cover the essentials of digital customer engagement, like building journeys and assigning content to use in them – and even functionalities to distribute the content plus analytics at times. The most advanced features are, of course, still reserved to pure MAS systems, but you have content firmly connected to the journey-related processes – solving the main problem for pharma.
  • Combining #1 and #2. For those starting out, it is sometimes sensible to start with solution #2, and plug in #1 later on, as the in-house digital culture is mature enough to think omnichannel – while integrating both solutions: content and automation.

This is why we at Viseven have added a set of journey- and content-planning functionalities to eWizard content authoring platform. This development allows to link modular content capacities with omnichannel distribution, and enables pharmaceutical companies to get a full grasp on customer journey implementation essentials before going to the most advanced fields. Most importantly, this allows to link content with campaigning in a reasonably intimate way, fostering healthy practices in the long term. You can learn more about eWizard here.