A long time ago in marketing years (which are like dog years) my agency built a website for BMW. Their response? "This is a great site to get people to re-lease their cars — now we can start shutting down our call center and save money." But it does not work that way – people want more 'channels' not fewer. This constant demand is the nature and challenge of operating a service model as a differentiator as well as a revenue driver.
When I think about these two components of great communciations, and especially the challenges of integrating them both into operations, I see two challenges that need to be conquered with equal focus, competence and budget: trust and the database. These two competencies require totally opposite talents to make them work — and to make them work together…? Well, that takes senior management that is really on the ball.
Let's start with the database, which is the backbone of every marketing company. Cost controls, generics, bioequivalency and other forces, are finally nudging pharma and biotech companies from manufacturers to marketers. For a pharma company, having a database that is actively used is a major change. You must, as the ads say, think different. For example, having a database means you need to know how you want to use it before you build it. (I've seen enterprise-wide database rebuilding, and it's ugly.)
And then, you bring in trust. The same pitiless rule of execution applies: really know the end you want in your patient communications before you start branding and writing headlines. In this market, at this time, patients are desperately looking for someone to trust. Translating that to real-world organizations, that means service, and from the patient's point of view, not yours. It has to work for them. That means, for starters, that phones and Web sites and social media and suppport CRM all work together.
And it really gets interesting when you combine the database and trust issues. The data you want to collect requires trust; you need to be able to score, profile, develop models and manage campaigns. To gather that level of information, you'd better have a strong value proposition and value exchange– a real, solid, credible reason for asking for all this stuff.
In a perverse stroke of luck for we marketers, patients have really low expectations — they're used to extraordinarily bad "service" from pharma companies. But nonetheless, building trust is the currency of loyalty and both initial and continued sales — acquisition and adherence. People's needs are real: they want someone to make it plain and simple to understand…and if you can knock a few bucks off, that's even better. They want services that help them with the paperwork and insurance. Or they want to ask a question as it arises; GSK has this at the bottom of every page offering immediate call center service.
As we all have heard a thousand times, trust is earned. That means your operations need to be patient-centric in both the human voice (easy) and database (hard) to make this work and set yourself on the way to be a brand standard. Even doctors see how well a company treats their patient (think aout MS, the most evolved patient support programs in existence).
So, even the BMW folks had their problem with "adherence." It's always starts with a good product, but it aleays ends on service — and the backbone (or the drivetrain, maybe) of serivce is a working healthy database.