by Aisha Fiagan and Paolo Mensitieri
With all of the noise in pharma sales and marketing channels today, life sciences organizations experience major challenges reaching and engaging with their intended customers. The traditional pharma commercial model is falling flat. In order to overcome these hurdles, life sciences organizations need to turn to innovative technology to reach customers in the unique channels they prefer. This means shifting operations to an omnichannel approach.
Adopting an omnichannel strategy requires a holistic approach that prioritizes recruiting talent, then structuring teams, and finally taking steps to ensure success. Developing an omnichannel business model takes time to complete, but adhering to these recommendations will set your organization up for long-term success and prevent businesses from needing to fix issues or exert a great deal of effort garnering support within the organization.
Recruiting the Right Talent
When seeking out the appropriate talent for an omnichannel foundation, two traits rise above all others: experience working within strict regulations and data science and artificial intelligence curiosity. The key to recruiting the best professionals to drive an omnichannel business model is thinking outside the box without getting too far outside of the box.
Recruiting out-of-the-box talent means refraining from becoming too singularly focused on candidates with extensive pharma backgrounds. Be warned, however, that professionals without experience working in regulated industries will have steeper learning curves than those with that experience.
In this case, getting outside of the box means looking towards other industries with similarly stringent regulatory standards. Talent with this background will comfortably adapt to an omnichannel approach without becoming hung up on barriers to access and information.
Omnichannel also requires talent interested in driving innovation and adopting digital tools in go-to-market strategies. Professionals coming from fintech or medical diagnostics organizations are particularly accustomed to using innovative tools in marketing and sales activities. When adopting an omnichannel program, prioritizing talent interested in identifying and utilizing innovative digital tools creates organizational buy-in and facilitates an easier transition.
The final required trait for any omnichannel leader is an understanding of and curiosity-driven passion for data science. A successful omnichannel program is dependent on thorough, quality data inputs. Artificial intelligence at the heart of omnichannel strategies can only be as useful as the data informing it. In order to advance the use of AI across your enterprise, creating a center of excellence composed of data scientists interested in promoting AI functions and data quality is absolutely critical.
Leading Effective Teams
The ideal omnichannel operation is customer-centric and features seamless integration between departments and channels. This presents a unique challenge for pharma companies that traditionally structure groups in siloed departments. Maintaining this standard structure preserves conflicting team motivations and prevents omnichannel from progressing and being successful in your organization. To overcome this challenge, organizations must create a global centralized role untethered to any legacy team to lead this initiative.
A centralized leader is your starting point for the structure of an omnichannel team. This person is tasked with driving digital transformation by providing clarity around strategy, roles of team members, and objectives. Keeping this role separated from legacy teams prevents the goals of any singular group from being promoted over others. For example, a Chief Digital Officer is a natural fit to lead omnichannel efforts. Without a deep tie to any singular line of business, she can readily integrate digital marketing, sales, IT, and data science and analytics into a holistic team with a common mission and goals.
In order to really promote digital transformation, an omnichannel team must be led by someone with broad commercial experience. Building an omnichannel strategy requires the blending of go-to-market and customer engagement approaches, so extensive knowledge of both is critical for a team leader.
Omnichannel’s ability to make a big difference depends on an organization’s knowledge of their customers and their capacity to personalize an approach that’s well-suited to a customer’s differentiated needs. An omnichannel leader crafting strategy must have this knowledge in order to execute.
This crucial trait is also why external parties frequently have difficulty developing omnichannel strategies for organizations. Without an in-depth understanding of an organization’s customers and go-to-market strategy, nuances are missed and approaches fall flat. The omnichannel strategic leader must be an internal expert to maximize opportunities for success.
Facilitating Team Success
While your omnichannel leader needs to have extensive sales strategy knowledge, they cannot be a one trick pony. In order to effectively lead a cross-functional team, your Chief Digital Officer, or whoever is selected as leader of an omnichannel team, needs to also understand how other groups in the organization function. The best way to do this is through immersion.
Immersion allows leaders to understand the key components of a business from a strategic, business, and technical point of view. Ideally, an omnichannel channel leader would spend multiple months immersed in each functional area of an organization. This guarantees they are able to learn critical context about each function’s role and gain credibility with professionals in each group. While an omnichannel approach is often driven by sales and marketing leaders, a technical understanding of your company’s offering is required to make the most of an omnichannel customer experience.
Beyond understanding all aspects of the business, leaders must also recognize that achieving success in omnichannel is found through trial and error. Drivers of this approach must be willing to test hypotheses, actively collect data, and iterate based on results. The best way to find a winning formula is through pilot programs. Successful leaders cannot be discouraged by underwhelming results or impatient with timetables for achieving results.
If there is one certainty about omnichannel, it is that no solution is one-size-fits-all. The omnichannel approach varies vastly depending on your organization’s go-to-market strategies and customer preferences. The only way to find what is right for your business is by committing to learning about what works for your business through trial and error.
Start with leveraging professionals in your organization curious about leveraging digital tools and excited about accelerating digital transformation. Pick a leader with extensive commercial experience whose primary interest is promoting a holistic omnichannel program and not achieving the goals of a singular internal team. Facilitate their engagement with the entire business and enable them to immerse themselves in all areas of the business.
Finally, give them the allowance to try new and innovative approaches. Overhauling a traditional commercial model doesn’t happen overnight, but businesses that buy-in to adopting an omnichannel is in the healthiest way ensure great success over time.
Looking for more resources to navigate the industry shift to intelligent and personalized omnichannel engagement? Download our new Frequently Asked Questions about Omnichannel guide.