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Ashfield spoke to pharmaphorum about how deploying a multichannel approach to marketing, backed by advanced analytics, could help pharma evolve and secure a successful future…

Julian Tompkins says the world is changing but some pharma companies are still not seeing the danger of sitting still. Big pharma is notoriously slow to respond to industry trends, but it can no longer be content with maintaining the status quo.

Having started his career as the tea boy at Glaxo and moved up through the organisation in sales and marketing roles – starting at the same time as former CEO Andrew Witty – Tompkins is well qualified to know how the industry works and the challenges it faces. At GSK he was involved in implementing the company’s move towards customer-centric marketing and he has taken that valuable experience forward.

Nowadays he is on the outsourcing side with global outsourced healthcare services provider, Ashfield. This gives him a rounded view of the issues – and some solutions for how to tackle them.

So what is the current status of the industry and what are the critical trends that need to be addressed? Tompkins notes how the world is changing: there are more stakeholders whose needs must be met; it is harder to prove the value of treatments, and patient-centricity is increasingly important for engaging users and demonstrating real-world effectiveness.

Pharma reaped big rewards from R&D in the 1990s, but returns declined in the 2000s. In the last few years, though, investments have started to pay off again, helped by consolidation in the market place. Tompkins sees the industry returning to grass roots in its portfolios, terminating less promising R&D lines and focusing on products with the most potential. Among these, he thinks speciality, including orphan products, will account for over 50% of prescription spend in the next five years, and this trend makes patients’ influence even more significant.

“Now it is really about the power of the patient and how companies are grappling with patient centricity,” Tompkins asserts. “Twenty years ago, it was a lot less about the patient and more about share of voice and piling on more and more promotional effort. These days that model is being redefined and the patient is becoming much more central to the growth of, and prospects for, a brand. Companies are having to orientate their strategies and promotional mix much more around the patient.

At the same time, digital disruption is influencing every aspect of business and companies are investigating ways to exploit it to gain a competitive edge.

“In healthcare, this is shown by how patients are engaging with HCPs through various apps and consulting doctors over the web through video links. Technology is being used by healthcare providers to engage with patients via wearables and devices to help manage different diseases. Digital is also influencing how companies engage with doctors. They are using it to harness scientific content and make it relevant and digestible for target audiences.

“We are living in a multichannel environment. Look at any other industry. The analogy I draw is with going to buy a car. What influences which brand you buy? You are influenced by your personal circumstances, and where you are in your own lifecycle. You may be influenced by the salesperson at the showroom; you may have seen traditional brochures, seen adverts in the newspaper or magazines, on TV, or you may have had digital engagement through push email or social media channels. All of that multichannel engagement is coming to pharma and is an important component of how pharma engages with customers to get its message across.

One strand of this is seen in the evolution of the traditional relationship rep from the 1990s. “Now, there is more of a personal relationship with Key Account Management (KAM) and reps not only have to understand and deliver the scientific data, but must also have the cost, economic and value arguments to support the brand, in order to present arguments in a compelling way to payers,” Tompkins explains.

“When we survey customers, they still want personal promotion. They want to talk to somebody, but they want a more meaningful conversation and the data required for that meaningful conversation is broader, deeper and more complex than it was 20 years ago.”

Beyond personal promotion, he says there is a place for remote engagement too, using digital and web-based channels. Regional preferences need to be accommodated, with different channels popular in different countries. For example, in China WeChat is widely used for promotion and engagement, while in Japan, the M3 portal is popular for push communications to doctors. Other options include email, phone and video detailing. “A key question for pharma is how it can help health care professionals engage better with patients to educate them and improve adherence and uptake.”

Click here to read the full article (article 5) originally published by pharmaphorum.

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