What? Building an ecosystem? Is this seriously what a digital agency is supposed to do, as opposed to just running the project received/delivered cycle? After all, ecosystems are perceived as something involving multiple semi-independent parts; let the customer company’s brand managers act here, juggling the multivendor collaboration options. Right?
Not in areas like pharma, it turns out. As the major players in the industry are taking a more serious, globally-led approach to content, the requirements tend to grow to such extents that sporadic collaborations just can’t fill the bill anymore . While about 70% consider themselves to be “content-driven”, whatever this means to each of them, no one is actually one hundred percent happy with what the content itself is.
As agencies are in charge of the content supplied, they have to “play along” to be successful (i.e. contracted on a regular basis). The problem is, there exists no single script to play along to. For content management and distribution, some pharmas use Veeva, some use IQVIA, some use other systems, so what difference is it to agencies? In an earlier article, we have tried to outline how the fusion of marketing strategy and content production typically looks like from the marketing point of view – now, is there anything agencies could do to establish long-lasting relationships with these customers?
Benefits for pharmas are obvious but…
Life sciences companies’ motivations to creating digital ecosystems are rather predictable. These are rooted in two major factors:
- Amount of content to be produced and time-to market concerns;
- Quality and compliance.
When it comes to the first problem, name of the game is find the optimal ratio and not blow the budget (because 61% pharmas are planning to raise marketing budgeting already). The typical solution is to devote more effort (and time!) to content management, and content-related processes, i.e. the operational details: arranging how this or that presentation/email/app is created (modified, localized), stored, distributed, reviewed and approved, and then given over to the field force. Today, more time is spent by 82% pharmas precisely on such operational details than 2 years ago! Moreover, the tendency is expected to persist. This is, by the way, the reason for the popularity of Veeva systems – covering these processes on the cloud basis is a good way to optimize them.
What about us the content makers?
However, naturally as the pharma marketers are more focused on digital assets management than they are on actually creating these assets, the platforms they use tend to provide exactly that sort of functionality: they are practically unbeatable when it comes to storing, ordering, final reviews/validations and distribution. Now marketers are able to say:
We’ve got what we wanted, now let the agencies conform – and if they want their own, production-related ecosystem, let that one conform, as well.
This is why certified agencies now cost noticeably more than their yesterday’s peers. However, the ability to fuse into the customer’s existing ecosystem is not the only aspect of success here. Agencies are entitled to a platform that could also cover the specific needs of content creation, reuse, adaptation, etc. Plugging this into a harmonious ecosystem with the customer company would grant the following benefits to the agency itself:
- There is less misunderstanding between the two parties. How often does it happen when a project fails (or almost fails) to meet the deadlines, simply because the end result was not exactly what the customer wanted? By providing a way for the customer to peep into the content that’s being created, the agency actually saves time and effort.
- Validation concerns are flattened out. On the top level (think final validation), the content observed should already be kind of perfect. This reflects the current organizational trends in pharma. For example, regulatory is starting to automate the variation management process and exchange information with quality teams. The same tendency can be observed in content – final validation is about legal and other things, not visual design, sliders and charts. This means that for issues related to the digital side, there should be an “inner” approval possibility. In this way, the work flow is evenly controlled.
- Assets reuse, and thus, more projects at hand. The principle is simple: by adopting a well-functioning scheme to interact with the customer’s system of existing digital assets (templates and files of various formats), the agency can work more effectively. Reusing the already existing (and approved) content to create new things takes less time than building from scratch, so the agency can afford having many more different projects at any given moment of time.
Oh, and, of course, brand consistency. When the agency is fully integrated, the tone of message fits perfectly. That’s why pharmas generally prefer long-term collaborations now.
Who should make the first step, then?
Is it pharma or the agency that should make the step towards closer collaboration? As practice shows, the most successful cases are when both sides are taking an active approach. The agency can’t just sit there and expect their potential customers to act, of course, so here is what can be done straight away:
- Ensuring the necessary integrations and certificates are in place (Veeva, IQVIA);
- Embracing platforms that allow content reuse (including the more sophisticated types of content, interactive apps, etc.);
- Becoming flexible enough in terms of communication (ideally, the platform used should provide the customer an opportunity to communicate about the content).
To fill the agency side of the content spectrum with a powerful, integrated solution, the agency can consider the platform that provides all of these opportunities, available as a demo. The most important thing is, when the dots are joined and communication gaps bridged, it is both the customer and the agency that obtain long-term benefits.