Article: In a No-See World, Digital-First Tools Will Open Your Eyes - Sept 2020

Contributed by meltmedia

No-see rules now govern sales

For the protection of all, the healthcare world put up barriers blocking access to anyone who wasn’t in need of direct care. “No-see” rules now govern sales and educational interactions. As we emerge from the initial shock of this change, some new realities are becoming very clear. There’s no going back. And our most promising window of hope is to focus on a digital-first approach to launches, and, quite honestly, to all of our business communications.

Whether you market directly to patients or your primary target is healthcare professionals, the new reality of digital-first still applies. So, let’s unpack what digital-first means and how you can make your transition to the new normal.

What is digital-first?

Traditionally, a launch — be it a product launch, a campaign launch, a new indication approval, or something else — started with a print piece. Perhaps you’d create a new brochure or a new magazine ad. By necessity, your one core launch piece had to be broad in its messaging, speaking to multiple audiences. Once you nailed down your messaging in that initial piece, you’d move into other channels and derive the messaging for your website or sales presentation or email. In this scenario, your print piece was out the door day 1 and everything else followed — sometimes within days, but more likely weeks or months later.

“Digital-first upends that process,” explains Ron Barry, co-founder and vice president of Business Development at digital agency meltmedia. “You have to think about immediate electronic delivery of your message. What digital tools do you need ready day 1 to do what traditional print pieces did in the past? How are you going to train your sales organization to use these digital tools to establish or maintain strong relationships with your customers? Your success will be determined by how well you answer these questions.”

Just for clarity, digital tools can be as simple as automated PDFs and as complex as multi-level websites with embedded forms and complex branch logic. In between are tools like rep-triggered emails, banner ads, interactive visual aids, virtual trade show booths, custom mobile apps, and online loyalty programs (rebates, free trials, copay programs).

Critical Success Factors for digital-first

Based on client experiences, Robin Fossen, vice president of Program Management at meltmedia, describes some key elements of a successful digital-first plan.

“First and foremost, you have to have an omnichannel strategy,” she notes, “And there are two parts to that — omnichannel, meaning you have to think about consistently connecting multiple methods of delivery AND strategy, meaning you can’t just think about a bunch of separate tactics, but rather about a full interrelated plan of attack.”

Another aspect of a successful digital-first approach is clearly defining and talking specifically to your different market segments. “Digital formats expand your ability to customize language directly to your target segments,” Robin continues. “For example, within your website, you may have different pages for patients, for physicians, for nurses, or for caregivers, and you can alter your writing for each. Likewise, different sections of an interactive visual aid may target HCPs, lab personnel, pharmacists, and patient advocates. Your salespeople can then adapt messaging appropriate to the audience.”

One final success factor that can’t be overlooked is training your sales organization to see the world from a different perspective. Under the traditional launch model, the first piece would get a lot of attention and become the safety net for relaying information. That’s no less true in a digital-first model, but the tools themselves are different and some training will be required for the most effective usage.

Digital-first delivers unique benefits

Change is hard. Introducing a new way to do something — especially something as big as a launch — involves a number of challenges. But it’s not all bad (or even all difficult). In a digital-first approach, you also get to reap some significant benefits.

“Think about the value of having actionable data for more timely decision-making,” Ron observes. “Analytic tools can be built into digital formats from the get-go. That means you can track who is using the sales tools as well as how often. You can track this data alongside actual sales data and see if the successful reps are those that are using the tools.”

Likewise, you can track customer engagement with your tools. See which areas (and messaging) on your websites are hot zones. Count the number of times a customer clicks through an email to get more information. Track how many forms get completed and submitted. Then track those leads through your funnel.

“Digital tools give you the ability to try new things and get real-time data to determine if your programs are achieving the intended goals. You don’t have to wait for a quarterly or bi-annual analysis. You have immediate and on-going access to improve your decision-making. Once our customers get a taste of this, they become insatiable for more,” Ron adds.

So what’s next with digital-first?

Ron and Robin agree that there are some trends in the use of digital tools. Here are the areas where they see growth in the coming year:

Self-service websites — this could be for fulfillment of marketing materials or for getting information normally found in a traditional brochure

Trade show options — from 3D walk-throughs to expanding live online networking and sale interactions (via chat and video)

Interactive visual aids (IVAs) — exploring creative new ways to trigger customer engagement in electronic interpretations of traditional brochures, including providing self-service access to the IVA contents in lieu of a traditional office visit

Expanded email programs — triggering on-going touchpoints with customers with focused, single-message emails driven by specific behaviors or events

Loyalty programs — maintaining and rewarding consistent contact with targeted customer segments

Custom apps for patients — driving retention, tracking symptoms, reporting to HCPs, providing caregiver support, tracking therapy compliance

Full-blown analytics programs — thinking about and building in deeper metrics for gathering and analyzing data, allowing for iterative improvement of marketing tactics

Bottom line? Digital-first is your opportunity to visualize your future from a whole new perspective. So, rip off those blinders and let’s get started.
To read more of meltmedia’s insights, read their blog.

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