Omnichannel: Using Data and Channel Variance to Orchestrate Storytelling

Article Author
Steven Carickhoff
BioPharm Communications

Over the past decade, approaches to pharma marketing have made significant swings – from “content is king” and over-reliance on digital, to a scramble for “big data,” and the exclusion of effective channels because physician-level data (PLD) isn’t available. Despite these significant swings in approach, the need for true omnichannel marketing yielding the highest return has been a constant.

Marketing is a conversation aimed at changing knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. Omnichannel marketing accomplishes this. It uses data and channel variance to orchestrate storytelling focused on user experience. It aims to meet the user’s need for relevance and utility and, when executed appropriately, increases the overall impact and effectiveness of marketing efforts. In short, it drives behavior change and impacts prescribing.

Often, omnichannel plans can be too heavily weighted toward tactics that provide reach at low cost and return physician-level data (PLD). This makes sense as a digital strategy, where reach and engagement at low cost are important performance indicators. However, this hyper focus toward PLD and efficiency tends to omit proven channels which have greater impact that aren’t as easy to measure. As marketers, this “efficiency model” has pulled our focus to line-item channel performance as opposed to the overall impact of a campaign. We’ve been trained to look at the “parts” of a campaign – for example, open rates of an individual email – and use it as guidepost for campaign success rather than seeing the sum of the parts.

As marketers, it’s important we reset our beliefs on what good looks like.

No one channel can accomplish the reach and depth of engagement needed to deliver true impact for Brands. A well-designed omnichannel campaign should look a lot like a good investment portfolio: an effective and balanced mix designed to drive return and manage risk. No one stock (or channel) can accomplish on its own what a pooled set of resources (many channels) can together. Thinking of how healthcare providers engage with marketing in this way can help us understand the importance of mix. For example, some HCPs are high email engagers while others prefer print, and still others are heavy video and website users. In the same vein, some HCPs engage with sales representatives, and some do not.

With the channel landscape changing so dramatically, so quickly, it’s important to understand the value and limitation of each when building a channel mix:

No one channel can effectively deliver high engagement with all targets
Email Effective, data-rich, and cost-friendly Relying only on email leaves significant gaps in reachable audience
Delivers deep engagement with high breadth and depth of content Oversaturated, leading to declining deliverability and open rates
Print Delivers deep engagement with high breadth and depth of content Engagement measured by survey and projected to full audience vs. at target level
Enduring materials that engage targets multiple times, Nearly 100% reach Less efficient than digital channels on a cost-per-reach basis
Digital Display Non-endemic programmatic display can deliver broad reach, engaging HCPs where they
are online
Generally seen as light engagement
When PLD is tracked, can be used as an effective behavioral trigger tool Reach limited by Audience Identification matches
Impression and click counts can be set at individual levels  
Effective, long- or short-form engagement Fair balance requirements and placement can lead to significant drop off
Can deliver significant amounts of clinical content Brand vision /MLR guidelines often don’t align
When used with KOLs, can increase behavioral change  
Investment can be maximized by distribution across platforms  
Dynamic messaging based on real-time customer response Single largest cost, but lacks coordination with other channels
Allows for richer, personal relationships  
Effectively accounts for all stakeholders in an office setting
Real-time distribution of supporting marketing collateral and Rx drivers (samples
and copay cards

Channel variance is a critical component of omnichannel marketing. True omnichannel campaigns are designed using data to determine targeting, spend levels per target, message segmentation, and varied channels with coordinated delivery. Feeding promotional response data into client SFAs, like Veeva, to drive appropriate action by sales representatives truly integrates all channels. In fact, in a client-provided ROI study, it was clearly demonstrated that when an HCP engaged with non-personal promotion and had a personal-promotion follow up, the ROI of each promotional effort increased when compared to non-coordinated activities.

Finding examples outside our industry at best-in-class marketing organizations is often helpful since they tend to trend well ahead of pharma. Looking at the value of utilizing channel mix, including ones that can’t be measured at an individual engagement level, we can point to how a global hospitality and theme park company measured reservations retention. Guests plan vacations, but for a variety of reasons they are likely to cancel reservations prior to arrival. In this instance, for those guests targeted via email only, they were only 21% more likely to keep their reservations while guests who received email paired with direct mail were nearly 70% more likely. With the overall goal of impacting behavior change, channel variance here drove a higher than 3-fold increase in reservation retention with retention being the primary goal, not individual engagement, or measurability by channel. To further support the use of enduring channels, this Company increased their print spend by 86% when compared to budgets from five years ago. The learning for us as marketers is to not sacrifice impact for line-item measurement.

Creating an HCP Impact Score™

Measuring an omnichannel approach requires us, as marketers, to look past line-item channel performance. Campaign reporting should focus on the impact of promotional efforts against HCP behaviors (did they prescribe more?). Reporting and optimization organized in the form of an HCP Impact Score™ can help demonstrate the value of each tactic. To measure impact, an engagement value per tactic is assigned. This is based on type of content covered and depth of engagement. To build an effective score, you can look at the total number of HCPs reachable by channel, the number of tactics each HCP will be exposed to, and then the value of each possible engagement. This will provide a total available HCP Impact Score™. As the assets push into market and HCPs engage, each engagement is then scored and weighted. At the end of the campaign, the total value of engagements achieved is divided by the total targets to provide a percentage of impact achieved. Experience has demonstrated that higher HCP Impact Scores™ are an effective leading indicator of ROI.

As we work to address the need for more advanced omnichannel efforts, it’s important that we anchor on the concept of having meaningful conversations with HCPs that drive changes in behavior. As marketers, we can accomplish this by using data and channel variance to orchestrate storytelling and focus on user experience. Equally as important is breaking the habit of viewing the performance of a single channel as a success marker of our campaigns. We should be measuring the impact of the total campaign on the HCP, appropriately across all channels, with a focus on proving that we changed behavior. If this approach isn’t included in your plan, it might be time revisit your omnichannel strategy.


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