PharmExec Blog

Closed-Loop Marketing: What Comes Next?

By Morten Hjemlsoe.

One of the questions I’m increasingly being asked at conferences is, “What’s next after CLM?” That’s actually rather nice to hear. To me, the question is like those delightful birds, the swallows, whose appearance announces that spring is on its way: it signifies that we’re ready for things to change.

Morten Hjelmsoe

Morten Hjelmsoe

I’ve been preaching the gospel of closed-loop marketing for many years. In that time, there have been really major changes in the way that we in the life science industry communicate with our customers, particularly with regard to how digital technologies have been adopted. As an industry we’ve been on a digital journey, with each step opening up new possibilities to go further.

We started by extending our CRM technologies: digitizing our paper materials and placing them on mobile devices — first laptops, then iPads. Moving from ‘paper to glass’ meant things got more efficient and so there were cost savings as it was cheaper to update, localize and distribute materials.

Yet, while CRM-plus brought some benefits, it didn’t really get us much further. After all, it was the same approach that we’d tried for years, only now our materials were digital rather than paper. We were still trying to push messages at our customers, hoping that some of them would stick. So we got some savings but fundamentally nothing had really changed at all. It was the next step that was really revolutionary

Closed-loop marketing enabled us to change how we thought about communication. Instead of firing out our messages and hoping that we had guessed correctly, CLM gave us a dynamic process in which we were able to understand their reactions. It was like switching on a light. Everything was right there in the data: he was really interested in ‘X’ but paid no attention to ‘Y’. She spent ages reviewing ‘Y’, was somewhat interested in ‘X’ but asked for more information on ‘P’.

So, with CLM, we kept the efficiency benefits from CRM-plus but gained far better data. For the first time we could capture what was important for each customer. And that opened up the potential to move away from ‘one message for all’ because we now could much better see what each customer needed.

Closed-loop marketing is state-of-the-art right now. Many companies have integrated CLM into their communications or are planning to soon. So, to repeat the question that I’m repeatedly hearing, “What’s next?”

To answer that, we first have to understand what’s not working with CLM. Put bluntly, that’s our inability to respond effectively to the data that we’re getting.

Just consider the standard CLM process: we begin by engaging with our customers, we then are able to understand their reactions, and so start to adapt what we are doing. This then leads naturally to a new cycle of engage, understand, adapt, engage, and so forth.

Yet up to now, ‘adapt’ has meant a better message for everyone. So we get nice rich data on personal interests and preferences but then switch back to mass messaging. It’s like taking careful note of each guest’s personal orders in a restaurant and then coming back with exactly the same meal for everyone.

So, with CLM, we have the right methodology in place. We just need to activate it and ensure that we respond on an individual level to the data that we are getting. This is the next big challenge for the industry: to personalize our response, providing not only individualized communications (here’s what you need to know) but also personalized services (here’s how we can help you).

As with the move from CRM-plus to closed-loop marketing, this is a major step. CLM activation is another revolution, one that promises not only a much better service for our customers but dramatically improves the effectiveness of our engagement as we get the benefits of more relevant communications. The good news is that the technology is getting better all the time and will be there to help us. And, with the fact that so many people are asking, “What’s next?”, I’m confident that it’s a step that we’ll all be taking very soon.

Morten Hjelmsoe is the founder and CEO of Agnitio.

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