October 11, 2017/Aktana/Big Data

PharmaForce is an annual conference uniquely focused on improving how sales and marketing teams can collaboratively address the complex challenges facing our changing industry. This was our first year attending, and we were fortunate to both participate on a panel and host an informational luncheon in addition to exhibiting at our booth. If you were able to attend, we hope you heard Eric Redline, our VP of Customer Success, speak about the opportunities created by new tech for deconstructing the traditional sales and marketing silos that stand in the way of greater commercial success. Like Eric’s, many talks focused on transforming marketing insights into more strategic sales activities and driving customer engagement across the changing digital landscape. Here are a few other key takeaways our three days in Austin:

As Sales Models Continue to Evolve, Digital Channels Dominate

New sales models are being deployed to better reflect today’s go-to-market challenges. While relationship selling is still key, the challenger model is gaining some adoption, and doing so with a high degree of success. Conversely, the reach and frequency sales model is becoming less effective.

As physicians increasingly turn to social media and other digital channels to access information and network with peers, reps will need to adjust their communication strategies accordingly. The data agrees, showing that reps who actively engage on the social media channels used by HCPs perform much better than those who don’t.

According to several research data points referenced during PharmaForce:

  • 24 percent of doctors use social media at least once a day to post or seek information, and 60 percent of doctors believe social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients.
  • Many patients are joining online health forums, and about one-third trust these health influencers.
  • Spending on digital video by the healthcare and pharma industries is rapidly increasing. In particular, shorter videos (e.g. 15 seconds vs. 30 seconds) on platforms like Twitter and Facebook are quite effective.
  • Remote engagement and KOL webinars are among the best channels for reaching HCPs.

For today’s pharma marketers, these insights indicate a need to get beyond paid and promoted content through useful owned content across the appropriate social channels. At the same time, they also reveal a unique opportunity for marketers to drive brand value by providing content that demonstrates domain expertise, helps patients manage their diseases and strengthens patient/HCP relationships.

Commercial Success Requires Sales and Marketing Alignment

It takes work and lots of change management, but sales and marketing must play nice together. Ultimately, if each side can see the other as an opportunity instead of a challenge, the resulting outcomes will be better for the perception of the pharma industry, patient care delivery and customer engagement. In terms of organizational alignment, creating a cross-functional field advisory board and deploying technology-based solutions that facilitate collaboration between both teams can help.

Demand Continues for Big Data and Advanced Analytics

Talk of data and analytics came up time and again. As one speaker said, “disrupt with analytics or be disrupted.” From healthcare data vendors to technology partners leveraging data to draw actionable insights, PharmaForce had a data and analytics presence that accurately reflected  its attendees’ interest in the subject. A survey of PharmaForce participants found the following:

  • 58 percent will invest in data analytics and business intelligence
  • 48 percent will invest in data integration

Although AI did not command the same degree of presenter focus, it was still top-of-mind for many attendees. But despite the exciting promise that AI holds for improved health outcomes, many in pharma are unclear how AI can help them.

During our luncheon discussion, we broke down the myths and realities of AI today and explored how machine learning in particular can help sales and marketing improve engagement with HCPs. For example, machine learning can optimize message sequences by using data models to predict initial “best” message sequences, then dynamically adjust based on HCP response (or lack thereof) at each level. In the questions and conversations that followed, one thing became clear: the pharmaceutical industry presents a unique set of challenges, and any AI solution that endeavors to address them must be developed with domain expertise.

PharmaForce 2018 | September 26-28 in Boston, MA

We had a great time at PharmaForce this year. It’s both refreshing and exciting to participate in an event that recognizes and embraces the important role that sales and marketing alignment plays in overall commercial success.