Staying on top of the marketing information stream can be difficult for your customers, but plans for a ‘holistic’ healthcare network could make relationships easier to manage.
2014 has started the way 2013 ended in the long and painful saga of pharma and Social media. In a January 21st post for Forbes, Ed Silverman reported that among the 50 largest pharmaceutical companies, half still do not use social media to engage consumers or patients.
Pharmalot quotes the same old reasons for pharma’s social media fail, “besides ongoing anxiety over regulatory compliance, drug makers confront a loss of content control, privacy concerns, a stubborn lack of familiarity with social media and difficulties in trying to quantify to a return on investment. And he’s very likely right that the FDA’s continued ‘piecemeal’ approach to guidance will do little to encourage the sector into the social space.
What if there was some way to manage online relationships better — a compliant network that removed The Fear? What if customers could access the information they wanted when they wanted it – an on-demand marketing solution where HCPs could search for information or ask if wasn’t immediately available? And what if there was a way to actually do business — an integrated e-commerce platform where prescribers could order what they need?
Richie Bavasso — a pioneer of digital detailing tools for pharma sales reps — is working on it.
Incorporated in October 2012 after three years’ of observation, market research, coding and patent applications, Bavasso’s Rimedio Inc. is piloting what it calls ‘the world’s first virtual eCommerce site for B2B pharmaceutical transactions.’
The platform, fully functional in the US, has several pilots in various stages of deployment, says Bavasso. “Two of our customers are planning to replicate the US pilots in the EU and an emerging market in 2014.”
Rimedios is partnering with Capgemini Consulting to bring the platform to life science manufacturers as part of the consulting firm’s “digital transformation”
efforts. Other partnerships support compliance efforts and sales agent alignment.
The long-term vision for Rimedio is a regulatory compliant, ‘meta-community’ bringing HCPs, payors, life sciences manufacturers and patient advocates together in a ‘privatized’ social network that integrates training, communication, and eCommerce tools.
The average pilot involves about 500 sales agents and 250 prescribers aligned against one or more brands with about 3,000 transactions per pilot. Manufacturers pay only for completed transactions validated and rated by the prescriber.
The initial focus is on life science manufacturers and their employed field forces, freelance sales agents, and targeted prescribers. “Payors will be integrated later in the year and patient advocates will be aligned on a disease state by disease state basis as we reach critical mass in those areas,” says Bavasso.
Central to Rimedio’s approach is a shift from “pushing” information to stakeholders towards an on-demand “pull” that lets customer focus only on relevant information, services, and products. Development was driven by observation of broader best practice. Bavasso says, “as we looked at other industries and their use of social utilities, we found some interesting trends that provide insight into where pharma must go to become relevant.”
Among the key trends identified was the increased importance of content marketing. This has created a requirement for high-quality content focused on satisfying information need rather than the more familiar “hard sell”. The spread of multimedia and visual storytelling was also leading companies to offer visually appealing information; for Pharma this means helping stakeholders understand “outcomes” says Bavasso. And, as more and more people interact and learn about brands through mobile devices, content must be increasingly mobile friendly.
Another important trend was the disintermediation of the field sales force. The “selling” process is giving way to the ‘buying’ process and reps need to be positioned to engage customers after they have sifted through content secured through other sources.
In this buyer-led environment, sales response time has become all important. “The Internet has sharpened desire for immediate gratification and this bleeds over to sales response time,” says Bavasso. “Much improvement is needed to address the slow marketing-to-sales handoff. The future belongs to the quick and nimble. Research shows that delaying follow-up call by a few hours has huge implications on close.”
As HCPs struggle increasingly with the challenges of integrating information from all the players necessary to do business — vendors, suppliers, reps, payors — pharma marketers should be thinking hard about what McKinsey has described as an on-demand future.
Integrated platforms like Rimedio, that bring together CRM, ecommerce, and learning management in a closed, compliant, professional social network will allow HCPs to control the information flow and marketers and reps to maintain relationships. “It’s not just always “on,” says Bavasso, “but also always relevant, responsive to the consumer’s desire for marketing that cuts through the noise.”