Away from multi-channel to direct communication

Multi-channel is a must. You need a website, you need to create content, send emails, buy ads and post on social media. Or is that what you want?

Lately, I have been looking at the implications of multichannel marketing and how my pharmaceutical clients are trying to make a big idea a reality. I have found that multichannel is kind of an acronym for doing a lot, measuring a lot, but not really impacting the market the way it should. Sending emails, building websites, investing in content and search engine optimization, and buying ads all seem more like online fishing for customers instead of communicating with them about current problems and challenges like partners do. At worst, some of my clients measure the end results of their multichannel campaigns against their share-of-voice ranking position received from a third-party vendor and cheer that they are up a notch. However, another agency's report provides completely different results. You can improve the multi-channel process by automating it and then augmenting it with artificial intelligence or machine learning. You can also start using common customer data platforms to profile HCPs and send emails with much better targeting granularity. While this works great in e-commerce, it's more questionable in RX.

Slowly, the new approach is evolving.

The difference between e-commerce and RX is mainly in the numbers. We are not fishing for new customers and we are not looking for them. The list of HCPs to reach is limited. Once we know our customers, we perfect the direct approach with field reps. This golden standard ensures the highest level of engagement, knowledge transfer and results. The approach is simple. From unconscious to conscious with education, from conscious to action with reminders and arguments. And sales follow.

My personal take on this is that multichannel does not work without salespeople, which means it never delivers anywhere near the results of salesperson engagement. I have yet to see a solid report for RX products based on hard data that proves multichannel works great.

It's difficult to improve multichannel processes once they are in place, and thanks to the last 10 years, I have never met GM or a decision-maker who believes that digital multichannel marketing alone is worth an investment. But still, multi-channel is big and growing. 

Can we go beyond the multi-channel?

I believe we can digitize sales with new super capabilities. We all know these capabilities from our daily lives - we communicate with each other via SMS, chats, and short videos. The challenge was to implement these technologies into RX marketing and still be 100% compliant. We succeeded in doing that with Highp.

When you finally have reps empowered with Highp applications and great content, the real magic unfolds.

After 2-3 cycles, you can quickly get the top 10% of your reps generating 70-80% engagement and the bottom 10% generating 10-20%. If you look at the average, it could be 30-50%. But looking at the average is an old digital mindset. In multichannel, you assume that technology and content are the main drivers of communication. In our RCP operating model, it's all about a relationship (do I know the sender?), context (why am I receiving this message?), and value perception (is this message important to me, should I engage with it). Since Highp provides you with a feedback loop, you can start to improve your substitution skills, and as a result, you suddenly get an average engagement of 82%.

Why do you need such high engagement and performance? First, to add new products to an already busy visit schedule. Second, you need additional touchpoints with customers to ensure an even transfer of knowledge across the market. Third, you can differentiate your therapies from those of competitors by offering more attractive services Finally, you can think about expanding your target audience.

The transition process begins with why. Once you know why you need better digital performance, you can build your one-year plan to become a master of direct digital communications. The transition process requires a solid operating model like RCP from Highp. Training programs and the involvement of your team. Content must be developed in a new format. Multiple communication contexts must be discovered and included in the planning. Approvals need to be obtained. Choosing the right technology is key. Highp is a great example of an all-in-one platform that simplifies implementation and reduces implementation time from months to days.

At 82% digital engagement, you will cover most of your target audience and deliver promotion content once or twice a month successfully. This is solid and suistinable.

So which is better - multichannel or direct communication? I think we are in a transition phase, and for some brands and therapies, direct communication is the way to go. Improving your digital distribution capabilities, adopting a successful RCP operating model, and offering more video-first content can help you secure your future, expand your reach and get more products into advertising. 

Imagine what you could accomplish if you could reach your audience directly on demand. 


This article was written thanks to a number of my best friends and clients, both high-level decision-makers and healthcare professionals, who have spoken honestly about the state of marketing in 2022. Thank you!

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