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Digital commercial transformation in life sciences often gets caught in the ‘shiny object’ trap. Undoubtedly any new technology or trend to hit the market will, within a period of months, make its way into some consultant’s slide deck or on the agenda of an industry event with bold claims of ‘how this new thing will fundamentally disrupt pharma’s commercial model.’ In my personal experience, ‘transformation’ is more often about consistently delivering on a new set of fundamentals rather than aimlessly searching for a competitive advantage through a singular technology or initiative. These fundamentals, much like a healthy diet or exercise regime, are often difficult to initiate, but overtime become routine and results start to show. While not an exhaustive list, here are three fundamentals to follow to ensure that real value can be obtained from digital commercial transformation efforts.
‘Relationship first’—Any go-to-market approach should always be grounded in building strong customer relationships, this is what sales representatives have done so successfully for decades. In digital, this is easily lost as marketers look to ‘blast e-Mails to target lists’ or ‘optimise their conversion funnels using advanced cloud-based technology’. We should learn from other sectors whotruly think ‘relationship first.’ Utilise digital approaches to build stronger customer relationships through personalised self-service approaches or by providing a truly ‘omnichannel’ experiencefor product promotion. Done-well these approaches both provide a more efficient commercial model and improve the overall customer relationship. Before initiating any new digital initiative or technology investment, ask the question ‘will this build a stronger relationship between our brand and thecustomer?’ If the answer is unsure, you might want to head back to the whiteboard.
‘Follow The 4-Es’—‘Content is king/queen’ is one of the most repeated best practices in digitalengagement; what this phrase doesn’t share however is exactly how to ‘coronate’ your content. A fundamental to follow here is to remember the 4-E’s: engaging,
emotional, entertaining, and educational. Pharma teams, rightfully so, are complete experts in producing educational content, however in the digital world, if your content or service doesn’t at least tick one of the other ‘E’s’, you’ll quickly lose your customer’s attention; technology solutions should only serve to enable this.
‘Think future back’—it’s easy in the standard planning cycles of major corporations to get stuck only looking at near-term opportunities without projecting longer-term valuecreation from digital transformation efforts. A way to avoid this is to use a bit of ‘futurist’ thinking: analyse current trends in customer behavior and technology, look 3-5 years ahead and create a ‘preferred’ viewon how your company should ‘win’ in future customer engagement, take into account the first two fundamentals and then decide what needs to be done tomorrow to achieve this future. Notably, this should provide a very simple ‘decision-making criteria’ to avoid the aforementioned ‘shiny object trap’ for all future investments or experiments.
While advancements in commercial technology have had a profound impact on go-to-market models this past decade, given all the dramatic events of 2020, this impact will undoubtedly only grow more significant in the years ahead. With that in mind, it’s more important than ever to discern what digital transformation activities drive real customer value and competitive advantage and what are simply more ‘shiny objects.’