October 12, 2020

6 Keys to Post-Pandemic Success: Highlights from the “Pharma Marketing USA” Conference

Zoom conference call on laptop next to mug

The Pharma Marketing USA conference was held recently (virtually, of course) and comprised two days of programming on “ensuring transformation continues after COVID-19.” Speakers came from throughout industry, including Abbott, AstraZeneca, Biogen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Salesforce, SurveyMonkey and more.

Interestingly, while the conference was positioned as a U.S. event, a majority of the speakers were actually from different countries or represented a worldwide point of view due to their role. This speaks to the ever-more global nature of our industry, and the increasing impossibility of geographic siloing.

We found that six themes resounded across the sessions:

The next wave of pharma marketing needs to focus on personalized, relevant, orchestrated messaging and experiences.

As Brian Hilberdink (SVP, Commercial (Diabetes), Novo Nordisk) said in his fireside chat, we’ve discovered that we can do things virtually … we just need to get better at it. CRM tools – and all digital tools – need to be optimized so that we can do our best work in support of HCPs.

The New Sales Rep
The role of the sales rep is not going away, but the way that we view the sales rep will. Their role is being reimagined as consultants and concierges to HCPs – what information can they provide to HCPs that they can’t already get on their own?

As Salesforce representatives pointed out in “5 Ways HCP Engagement Strategies Are Changing Commercial Operations,” HCPs need their communication from reps to be more coordinated, more cohesive, more relevant, and perhaps most importantly, more valuable. They offered data demonstrating that while 78% of HCPs are maintaining their contact with pharma, 71% expect real-time communications, and 77% of sales reps find that digital transformation has been accelerated.

Marketing to patients, versus just to HCPs, remains a big opportunity for pharma.

Empathy here is vital, in DTC advertising as in so much else. Maital Rasmussen (Head of Global Marketing, Diagnostics Information Solutions, NAVIFY, Roche) pointed out pandemic ads from Uber and Mattel (“thank you for NOT riding Uber,” and “playing never cancelled” respectively) that were timely, understanding, and sensitive.

Marketing needs to be relevant and flexible to provide value to patients, HCPs, etc. in an evolving landscape.

As Hilberdink pointed out, flexibility and agility is the ideal model for success.

Rasmussen agreed with that need, pointing out that resilience is key to agility, and agility is key to relevance. The three-step process they recommended was to reprioritize activities, adapt to the new customer mindset, and shift accordingly.

Reprioritize activities, adapt to the new customer mindset, and shift accordingly.

Digital Success
Pharma marketing needs to move beyond just tactics and focus on HOW we’re driving tactics – that’s the key to digital success.

Leela Srinivasan, CMO of SurveyMonkey, presented data saying that 42% of marketers have had their budgets decreased in the pandemic, and 52% are expected to stretch budgets to do more than normal.

It’s not enough to have a goal in mind – we need a smart plan to get there.

Continual Catch-up
Pharma remains – as ever – a laggard in marketing compared with other industries.

We need to look at what others are doing, to learn from them and to rethink our own approaches.

For example, in CPG or retail, sales associates (or chatbots) greet you when you enter, and ask how they can help. Sales reps should do the same with HCP engagement and tailor their approach accordingly.

Do you see these themes reflected in your work? We certainly do.