Only 52% of surveyed pharma executives say they are successfully optimizing engagement across HCP touchpoints, yet 98% say that it’s important to create and implement an omnichannel strategy.

What can we learn from the 52% about how to successfully integrate Next Best Action (NBA) programs in omnichannel strategies?

Alan Kalton, Senior Vice President, Global Sales at Aktana, and Mark Miller, Managing Director, Life Science Advertising, Marketing & Commerce at Deloitte Consulting, share their insights from their experiences in delivering NBA solutions to pharma customers in a webinar with Dario Safaric, Chairman of NEXT Pharma Summit.

Watch the full webinar here: 

Here is a summary of Alan’s and Mark’s remarks on how to link strategy to execution for success in deploying NBA solutions:

How are your customers successfully integrating NBA programs with their overall omnichannel strategies?

Alan Kalton: The clients that we’re working with who are making the most progress are starting with the landscape of the here and now, and focusing on creating that engagement and stimulating the behavioral change across sales, across marketing and medical teams. 

That really has an effect of not just validating that NBA is real and something they can accomplish, but it engages the organization, and then provides the right spotlight on prioritizing where investments need to happen to improve the data landscape, to improve the ability to generate insight through analytics, and does that from a results orientation. 

Mark Miller: I work with a lot of multinational clients, and NBA is the dominant initiative across every single client. It’s largely because of restricted ACP access, channel fragmentation, and the fact that all HCPs want more nuanced messaging. But accomplishing this requires that you align data, technology, analytics, strategy, and most importantly get sales and marketing to work together. That isn’t always easy. Getting capabilities to work in harmony but align to the business is critical. 

NBA isn’t always just about capabilities. Clients invariably have a lot of capabilities in place. It’s about how everything works together, and how you demonstrate to the brand and sales that it’s going to make their lives easier.

Over the last year or so, we have observed a big uptick in resource investment for internal insights and analytics teams. Where are your customers focusing their efforts?

Mark: It requires that companies think about the data layer, the analytics workbench, and how to integrate backend solutions with front-end applications like Veeva, or Marketing Cloud, or Adobe. So in big pharma, we’re seeing a massive, massive move towards bringing a lot of the NBA componentry in-house. And for mid-cap and small pharma, they want to be able to do what big pharma does, but within the constraints of their budgets. So the specific investment areas that we are privy to, not to say it’s a truth for all clients. There is a lot of focus on data strategy, data management, and a common data model to support multiple brands, multiple therapeutic areas, and the ability to scale globally. If the data layer is not in place, it’s going to be tough to engage in all downstream efforts.

Also a huge focus is on building data science teams in-house, but again, really understanding where it makes sense to bolt versus where it makes sense to rent. Because a lot of vendors out there have some very, very good data science algorithms and methodologies that should be weaved within a client’s environment. 

Another big area is around centers of excellence or universal service capability areas that support the brands, because you need to rethink the way brand planning is done from strategy design and execution to measurement.

The last big area is around closed-loop measurement, the ability to link scripts to specific tactics.

Alan: We’ve seen our clients placing significant resources and significant investments, and certainly improving the quality of data and the quality of data-management practices. Whether that’s related to efficiencies, or compliance, or just driving better connectivity from a global perspective, that’s certainly an area of real investment. And of course, the investment in data scientists. Looking for those unique algorithms, those differentiating capabilities that really shape potentially innovative ways of identifying new target segments, engaging with those segments, and understanding their preferences.

We’ve seen evolution to a very crucial role in the integration, orchestration, and optimization space. And recognizing it can’t really be an ivory-tower exercise, where either data management or the best analytical models are developed in isolation. 

What are some effective strategies you have seen to get the field on-board with intelligent engagement solutions? 

Alan: This is a partnership. This is a journey that you are going on where, like any other behavioral changes in life, it takes time to embed in the right new behaviors, to reinforce them and to build that in. That really applies to field representatives, to those responsible for sales and marketing strategy, and also for those involved in the medical affairs side of the business who are entering into understanding how NBA can affect how they execute and how they coordinate with their commercial colleagues.

We find that for customers who do this well, that transparency in engagement is involved upfront with having really good, sensible conversations with individual field representatives. This is understanding their pain points, understanding what matters to them, and what things are going to really help them to see value from an NBA solution upfront, while getting them involved in that requirements process and starting to build that trust.

Mark: Sales reps should be viewed and treated just as we do customers like HCPs. We have to make their lives easier. We have to instill a level of trust, meaning that we have to get them to buy into new ways of working. And any NBA solution rollout or environment has to involve the field, especially when field engagement and sales data is so critical to getting a more nuanced understanding of an account, or an HCP, or creating more informed, actionable next-best engagement recommendations. Simplicity is critical. We have to help reps make the right choice  and that it is an easy choice.

As you know, there’s been a long-standing firewall between commercial and medical affairs, but today’s HCPs expect a seamless customer experience, where both teams operate in much more coordinated, responsive ways. How are you seeing pharma companies adapting? 

Mark: Because I’m working across a number of pharma clients, and essentially four of them involve commercial and medical working together. There’s always going to be firewalls, but medical wants to embrace omnichannel solutions that have typically been the domain of their commercial counterparts. They want to embrace these solutions to have more informed conversations. 

There are constraints in the type of data you can use, there are constraints in the business rules you’re allowed to adopt, and there are going to be constraints in what you can and cannot measure. But the underlying data models, the data features, the data-science algorithms, the workflows, the integration with downstream applications, it’s all the same. So there are going to be firewalls in terms of how you work. But the underlying infrastructure absolutely can be shared with logical and physical firewalls. But the industry is moving in this direction, at least in the medical side. 

Alan: Medical affairs are really intrinsic to the HCP perception of the company and the portfolio that the company is promoting. So an omnichannel strategy cannot really exist without a recognition of how important medical engagement is, but also how important it is to the broader HCP experience. 

We’ve seen many companies investing more in medical affairs, and really looking to drive efficiency and effectiveness of those teams as they engage with HCPs in the right way. Of course, NBA can help to reinforce that, perhaps through not-direct recommendations, but perhaps through the insights around the relevant interest of the key opinion leaders they’re engaging with.

To learn more about how other top pharma leaders are integrating Next Best Action with their omnichannel strategy, read our report, researched in collaboration with the DHC Group, The State of Omnichannel Engagement in Pharma.