Would your client engagement strategy pass the Darwin test during these extraordinary times?

Jamie Denison-Pender, CEO

Jamie Denison-Pender, CEO

Charles Darwin would have been fascinated to sit back and observe how our society evolves to cope with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Areas of change that would have taken a generation to achieve are now being realized in under a month. We suddenly have hugely different priorities that we are being forced to find radical solutions for. We live in a world where Darwinism is being played out in fast-forward.

Moving from a digital evolution to a virtual revolution

Biopharma companies have long been striving to achieve a digital transformation in how they engage with their customers. For over a decade, doctors, nurses, formularies and pharmacists have been saying no to the volume rep-based engagement model of the nineties and early noughties. They do not want to be sold to. They look for value-adding partners who help them stay informed and who prioritize patient outcomes over short-term financial gain. Slowly but surely, following advances in technology and changes in mindset, value-adding and digitally-enhanced detailing, education and communication started to gain traction.

Then along came COVID-19 – the catalyst of all catalysts – forcing the biopharma industry to design and embed a largely virtual go-to-market model overnight. Digital engagement solutions are no longer a nice to have – they are all you have. Those companies and brands that evolve optimally will not only perform best during this crisis but will also thrive the most over the long term. Survival of the fittest? Maybe. Flourishing of the most valuable? Definitely.

Managing your inner chimp

Our evolutionary ancestors live strong in all of us. COVID-19 has certainly activated the fight-or-flight reaction within the biopharma industry. Luckily for us all, fight is winning out, resulting in herculean efforts and astounding progress. Whilst we all want to feel productive and valuable working from our home offices, we must prioritize business over busyness. Over the past four weeks, there has been a mad dash by biopharma companies to engage with their customers virtually. So much so, in fact, that HCPs are already commenting that they are being bombarded more than ever. Bored representatives sitting at home and firing off emails detailing this product and that are creating a white noise that is difficult to decipher, manage and act on.

So, whilst quick is good, valuable is even better (excuse me for switching from my Darwin to my Orwell!). How can your product, value proposition and brand stand out in this virtual environment? Why will you be perceived as the partner that is helping HCPs, payers and policy makers do their jobs in these very challenging times? Why will customers accept your call, respond to your emails and engage with your digital content more than those of your competitors? These are the business-critical questions I’m sure you and your colleagues are seeking answers to as I type.

Focusing on what’s really important

A wise client of ours, often asks: “What would the market really miss if our brand and company suddenly disappeared?” When assessing how to best engage with a market, he challenges his team to forensically dissect both the buying process and patient journey required for his brand to get prescribed. Who are the key decision makers and what are the opportunities for intervention? What drives their decision-making behavior? How well are his competitors meeting their needs? What attributes of his brand’s value proposition are going to make the biggest impact and why? Only once he has understood all of this at a market-by-market level, does he turn his attention to prioritizing which evidence, claims and value-added services he will message and the optimal channels and technology he will deploy to ensure they are heard by and resonate with the target audience. His aim is to hardwire a positive response from his customers as they always associate his brand with value. As a result, if his brand and his company did suddenly disappear, the market would immediately feel the resultant void.

Your role in the process of natural selection

At no other time in recent history has it been more critical that you understand how your situation analysis is evolving, the resultant implications for your marketed brands and the actions required to differentiate, resonate and drive uptake in a virtual environment. Are you currently ensuring your engagement strategy passes the Darwin test by answering these ten critical questions?

  1. Who are the key decision makers that will influence the success of my brand in a virtual market?
  2. What are their current needs and how will they evolve in this fast-changing environment?
  3. How well are the competitors positioned to meet these rapidly evolving customer needs?
  4. What are the resultant opportunities for us to offer differentiated value to various decision makers?
  5. What key evidence and messages will best communicate this differentiated value?
  6. Which virtual channels and technology will optimally deliver our key value messages?
  7. What is the current best practice by virtual channel and technology, and what further opportunities are there for us to innovate?
  8. What start/stop/continue investment decisions do we need to make to optimally execute our virtual communication and uptake strategy?
  9. How can we best train and incentivize our MSLs, representatives and KAMs to operate effectively within our new virtual strategy?
  10. What are the KPIs we should be continually tracking to ensure our virtual strategy is working and will deliver the desired outcomes and results?

By proactively embracing the natural selection process at a country-by-country level, you will be optimally positioned to both co-create your global virtual engagement strategy and help your affiliates customize and execute their local plans.

As the great Darwin himself said, “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too), those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

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