6 ways to digitise your business at pace

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, can your business survive without face-to-face customer contact? For decades, I have seen healthcare and pharma companies prioritise face to face contact over digital channels – now is the time to realise the multi-channel opportunity.

March and April 2020 have delivered extraordinary challenges to business owners and workforces globally thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting lockdowns across the world. Leaders have been asked to make complex daily decisions to keep employees, customers, and communities safe, while also ensuring they protect jobs and keep businesses moving forwards.

Healthcare and pharma companies who have historically favoured face-to-face (F2F) contact (rep visits to physicians, congresses, and events) have faced, almost overnight, the removal of these core tactics. The challenge to deliver business-as-usual without these long-standing, relied-upon tactics is unprecedented. But what if the toolkit for delivering business-as-usual were more multichannel?

Customers have already moved to a multichannel approach. Patients, KOLs, physicians intuitively seek information they need via digital channels and in general run their lives in a multichannel way.

Our customers are also just people. They expect communications from pharma and healthcare organisations to be delivered in the same intuitive way that they shop online for groceries, book their holidays, or buy insurance. Brands are expected to deliver content that is personalised, timely, useful, and relevant. Websites need to answer customer needs and be simple to navigate. Tools and apps must offer services to aid simpler, better outcomes and disease support.

Industries outside pharma and healthcare have adapted to a multichannel approach too, removing the reliance on F2F. A tangible example of this is the financial services sector (specifically banking). The sector has seen a huge online switch with 73% of consumers globally opting to use an online banking channel at least once every 30 days1, carrying out banking tasks on their mobile devices, through social and many other digital touchpoints. While the adjustment may be less significant, I am certainly seeing change in the pharma industry – but there is lots more that companies can do to provide innovative ways to serve their increasingly digital native physician and patient population.

In these difficult times, initial responses are to provision staff with digital tools that enable remote working and collaboration. However, beyond this unprecedented period, how do you build up business resilience to deliver more engaged customers, more opportunity for success, build in business efficiencies globally, all whilst fostering more connected and empowered teams?

Tools, technology, multi-channel frameworks and best practices are available, not just for now, but to support the future ways we work. How? Here I outline six practical, quick wins, to ‘get digitally fit’ and develop a multi-channel approach at pace for long-term growth.

1. Enable your field force for remote engagement

How do you enable your field force and ensure they can maintain a level of customer engagement at these challenging times for their customers?

Proactive sales meetings at this time will no longer be appropriate, given the critical roles customers are playing in the fight against COVID-19, however pharma should still be on point to respond to the professional questions and needs of HCPs. Upskill field-based reps with remote meeting software so that reps can reactively respond to customers’ requests at the point of need. Rep-led email solutions can also prove invaluable connection points for sharing content needed by HCPs.

Brands also need to consider how they evolve their strategies to support changing customer needs, firmly putting customer centricity at the heart of any approach. Customers should become participants rather than recipients, meaning reps and supporting teams (marketing, leadership, brand/product) need to think differently, ensuring they are supporting and serving customers rather than simply sharing promotional or product content.

2. When a symposium becomes a webinar

Congress cancelled? Do you have important scientific evidence you want to share with your customers?

Webinars may provide an interim solution and can take several forms, including presentations, workshops, lectures, or seminars. Customers confirm that they prefer to access online webinar content in an ‘on demand’ format so it is important, especially now, that HCPs can consume content when they choose to do so, via personalised email links for consenting HCPs or via credible company websites.

Consider leveraging this channel to share new science related to your products or disease areas including study designs, efficacy and safety data and breaking news and remember that, especially at the moment, customers are most likely to spend the time only if the content adds incremental value to their roles and enables and supports them professionally.

3. Keep in touch (email)

We are aware of the importance of email for us and our customers professionally. Now more than ever this need is polarised by email’s ability to reach customers at their point of need, via a channel they use throughout their working day.

If pharma uses email appropriately – i.e. linking to the resources, webinars, remote calls, and content they need to serve customers – this can be a quick and trusted way to reach HCPs. However, brand marketers must think carefully around tactics for email design and creation, considerably reducing the frequency sent and actively pulling back on email for those physicians we know will be at the front-line of the fight against COVID-19. In turn, creation of tailored content, served via rep channels or appropriate and relevant newsletter content can still provide value for HCPs in other specialities if done well. Email can lead customers to useful company owned resources for future content needs, adding value and helping them serve their patients more effectively.

4. Get your house in order and get visible (websites and search)

What content can you make available via the channels that have most impact and reach with your customers? Customers without time for meetings will still be using websites to answer their clinical questions.

Owned brand, educational and patient focused websites are a great way to support HCPs – a one-stop-shop for all content, services, and support. For physicians, as for everyone else in the world, search is the number one go-to channel. Do not underestimate the power of having your content available to them. 99% of physicians use search engines (primarily Google in Europe) to find information about drug products, 90% of them at least weekly.

5. Join the social conversation

Do not be afraid to embrace digital channels that previously might have been ‘nice to have’ rather than essential parts of your marketing mix. In a rapidly changing environment, channels like Twitter have become essential for many HCPs to keep on top of the latest news.

Consider how you can encourage confidence in social channels, especially professional groups where HCPs can connect with peers or KOLs. Can you help HCPs support their patients by providing high-quality content for patient groups to share in their social spaces, especially Facebook and YouTube, at a time when access to healthcare services might be restricted?

Develop your social listening strategies to understand the narrative around your therapy areas and brands, in order to help develop a content strategy to answer customers’ questions and concerns. This content, or signposts to it, can be distributed in social channels as well as on your own website.

6.  Change management: digital training

While acknowledging that technology and channels referenced here represent a tangible opportunity for pharma to reinvent the way it engages customers and maintains brand loyalty, success is tied inextricably to the ability to embed long term change. To foster change, strong leadership empowered by digital expertise is required.

Ultimately it is critical to not just ‘stand-up’ a new technology or digital channel but also ensure ongoing, in market support and training – especially as learnings, channel insights and experience evolves.

While face-to-face training sessions may not be available, teams can connect via eLearning modules, and customised channel-focused webinars to improve capability, inspire change and outline best practice. Follow these up with playbooks and on-the-job ‘how-to’ guides. Appoint digital ambassadors and subject matter experts who can share expertise, give encouragement to and mentor peers, supporting ongoing excellence.

If you found this article of interest or want to know more about the quick wins to ‘get digitally fit’ and develop a multi-channel approach at pace come join our webinars starting Tuesday 2 June 2020.
A full list of webinars and timings can be found at: www.kangahealth.com/webinar-sign-up/

Or contact Kanga Health at: www.kangahealth.com/get-in-touch/

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About the author

Kay Wesley

Kay Wesley is CEO of Kanga Health. Kay is a thought leader in global healthcare digital communications with 20 years’ experience across the pharmaceutical industry, as well as non-pharma digital business leadership experience as a ‘dot com’ leader in the 1990s. She created and led AstraZeneca’s award-winning global digital marketing team for 5 years and built McCann Health’s digital agency, before founding Kanga Health.

This article features additional contributions from Kellie Sharp and Audrey Gent.

About Kanga Health Ltd

Kanga Health is a global digital agency, providing end-to-end services to help health and pharma organisations with successful digital transformation. ​From strategy to development, implementation and beyond, our experts guide pharma teams and customers every step of the way to deliver projects that are always value-driven, on time and excellence derived.​


1. Deloitte 2018 Banking Survey

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