Episode Two: Omnichannel HCP Engagement With Melissa Fellner

LSVS 2 | HCP Engagement


Where do you start if you want to do omnichannel with HCP engagement? Assemble your salesforce team and map out the stages that your customers go through, from the beginning of their journey all the way to being a brand ambassador. Gaurav Kandhari’s guest, Melissa Fellner, an executive pharma marketer, is back to give you practical tips on implementing omnichannel for your business.

Start thinking about how to measure outcomes of customer engagement versus outcomes of sales. It’s not a diagnostic with click rates or engagements; it’s all about behavior change. If you want to know more about how to do omnichannel, this episode is for you. Tune in!

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Episode Two: Omnichannel HCP Engagement With Melissa Fellner

I would love to welcome Melissa Fellner again. Thanks for taking the time for doing episode 2 of the series on Omnichannel HCP Engagement in Pharma Industries. Very warm welcome.

Thanks. It’s great to be here again.

Like we discussed, we’ve covered what omnichannel is, “why” omnichannel, why omnichannel in pharma and what is the value of omnichannel to the HCP, to the rep and to the organization. We covered that part well. Today, we wanted to focus on how we do omnichannel. Where do we start if a company or if a pharma organization says, “I want to do omnichannel because I get the strategic vision around it but I don’t know where to start. How do I take it forward?”

We would probably love to cover a bit of that “how” in terms of the methodology and how you started, how you run it within the organization. It would be great if you could, from your experience and our experiences, bring out some of these critical success factors or the strategic work streams that need to be involved to make it happen and highlight some of the best practices that the audience can take away when they are doing something like that or while they are running these transformations. Is that a good summary?

That’s a great place to start. The “how” to do some of these things is of special interest to me because I learned a lot over the years.

Why don’t we jump in and ask you that question. Based on your experience, how does a marketing and medical affairs professional think about omnichannel and starting omnichannel?

There’s a lot of information out there. There are trainings, a lot of consulting groups that talk about and share with you what it is. You learn all this and you say, “That’s cool. I want to do that.” You start to do it and you’re like, “I’m totally overwhelmed.” There’s no roadmap. There’s not a lot of instruction on how you take this idea and make it a reality, especially in organizations where this is a little bit new.

When you start profiling your customers, you begin to understand how best to engage with them and what you can do to meet their needs. Click To Tweet

It might not be set up with the full operating model and skillset to implement things that work in new ways from a technology perspective, people work in new ways from a change management perspective, and measuring things differently than we ever have before. Those three factors are what I would say are the success factors for a successful omnichannel implementation.

It’s the change management aspect of teaching people and getting buy-in from everyone on how we’re going to do things a little bit differently and holding hands around that idea. It’s the implementation with a cross-functional team. Gaurav, I know we talked a lot about how it takes a village to get this done and to get it done right, to get the buy-in and knowledge sharing that you need to use the technology and to use the processes and people on that team in the right way to create that customer engagement model. That will allow for it to become an omnichannel model that creates that experience.

Everyone’s aligned on what that experience is and are supportive of participating in making that experience come to life. The third aspect is measurement. We need to start to think about how we measure outcomes of customer engagement versus outcomes of sales. It’s not a diagnostic with click rates or with an engagement metric of how many channels and how many engagements did we have. It’s an outcome of the engagement, which is behavior change, which is beliefs. Measuring that takes very special ways to do it that are different than what we do today.

To wrap all that in a pretty bow is sharing the success stories along the way so people become inspired by seeing successes, even small ones, by their peers. That can be very, very powerful. Many times, when you roll new things out, especially a marketer rolling something new out to field folks, they say, “They created all that ivory tower. That’s not something that I’m going to use, that’s not meaningful to me.” A lot of this is that village of co-creating and sharing their stories from their peers, hearing that it worked for them over there, “Maybe I will try that.” We’re bought into this idea.

To summarize the three key aspects: having the right design, having the right measurement and driving that well through robust team management that goes across, that involves the entire organization, not just the field force, is a great summary that you put together as critical success factors, Melissa. A couple of thoughts come to mind. One is “I’m a marketer. I understand all of it. Where do I start? Do I start with a blueprint or a playbook? How do I bring the cross-functional team together to make this happen? What is the level of co-creation that is pragmatic?”

Everyone is doing their day jobs and this is almost seen as a separate initiative or a project that we will do when it is not. Can you just throw some light on those couple of aspects as to where do I start? How do I make this real so that people can see, touch and feel? I have another question that, we’ll talk about interim success, but let’s cover these two aspects.

You have to make some assumptions to answer that question. I’m assuming we’re in a company that doesn’t have a strategy for omnichannel, hasn’t implemented an operating model and support model for that and hasn’t created the training or resources for how to implement it. I’m starting from scratch here.

Let’s start there. That’s a fair one because I’m sure there are a few folks who have not ventured into that space.

LSVS 2 | HCP Engagement
HCP Engagement: We need to start to think about how we measure outcomes of customer engagement versus outcomes of sales. Measuring that takes very special ways to do it that are different than what we do now.


What I would do and suggest folks to do to get started from scratch is to bring together around the table: marketing, sales, medical, compliance, regulatory, IT, if you have a person in a digital role and also anyone with information about insights and analytics. Sometimes there’s a commercial excellence type of role at companies or a salesforce management type of role (salesforce excellence) that is looking at your targets and your resources that you’re applying against folks that you’re trying to engage and reach.

Those are all the types of roles that you want to bring around the table. What you want to accomplish and you can do this on any kind of document – Word, PowerPoint, a whiteboard -is to map out the stages that your customers go through, from the beginning of their journey all the way through being what you might call a brand ambassador or advocate.

You could do this first – for patients to look at everything that they experience, then look at their care team, who is on their care team that supports that patient along their journey from experiencing their first symptom all the way through being a real advocate for your brand. Those care team members might change, but they’re all part of who you want to engage to best support that patient through this experience that you want to create.

Once you have that, you want to set that against the stages of what’s important – becoming aware, awareness of the disease, awareness of your brands. What are they doing? Are they taking action? How are they taking action to help more and more people, more and more patients and are they becoming an advocate or ambassador of your brand? Thinking of it from that kind of continuum as the adoption journey, it is very brand-specific. It’s what is typically used in pharma to take it a level above. You can start to look at within those customer groups – what are they really trying to accomplish and how do we help them?

That ties into creating personas. You take that and that’s how you start. You start to map out within the people, those groups, within those kinds of adoption steps. Who are they? How do you understand how to group them in terms of attributes that they might have that are similar, ways they approach patient treatment? If they’re very science-focused, if they’re very patient-centric focused and how they engage and what they need.

Start to map out how you provide value from your company, from your teams, from each team, from each channel, from the story that you want to tell to help that patient that they’re supporting along the way. That becomes your experience that you start to create for each of them. You start to take that into implementation.

You make your list of, “These are all the things that came out of our experience that we created.” Let’s prioritize what to start with and iterate and learn from starting small and then continue to grow that experience. Add more people and more channels and more to it to grow it into a full omnichannel program.

Think big, start small, ensure that it works through a proof of concept or a minimum viable product, whatever you call it, but do not try to boil the ocean on day one, even when you have a good design in place. I love the way you closed that. The other part, what I was referring to that came out of your initial summary, was success.

One is success in absolute tongues and then the second is executive management and even the salesforce get very impatient. It’s like, “ We’ve been doing omnichannel for the past six months, the sales are still the same. The prescription is still the same. How is it helping?” My question to you is, do you want to highlight a few areas of that interim success that we can track by doing good measurement on omnichannel? What are three or four areas where we can see interim success and we can showcase and share that success with the organization?

Having a vision of what you want to create is important. Click To Tweet

A couple of examples of early successes or success stories that are relevant to shaping that narrative with executives and helping to also create that excitement across the organization with embracing a change in this customer-centric direction, is first having that experience designed. That’s not standard. It’s not something everybody does, but you do it with a cross-functional team.

You have IT sitting with sales saying, “This is what we want our customers to experience.” That’s a great milestone to have that knocked out. That’s one of the first steps to this and is a success story to share. To say, “We have knocked out exactly what we want to create for our customers. We’re on our way to getting that to come to life.”

Another area is when you do launch parts of this, you might want to start with profiling your customers to understand all the attributes that will help you understand how best to engage with them and what you can do to meet their needs. What’s most valuable to them that does meet their needs? Doing that research and/or validation with teams with technology, there are many ways to do it. It will create another great milestone and great success to say, “We have profiled all of the target customers that we have that we want to engage with this experience.” We now know what they need and we’re preparing for how we’re going to engage with them in this way. That’s another success story.

A third example is rolling out this to sales teams or to field teams/medical teams and having that adoption, their testimonials back saying, “This is new. This is something I support. This is something I’m finding useful and is helping me.” Even if you don’t directly see an uptick in sales right away, they might feel more confident in their customer engagement. They might be working a little bit more with their cross-functional teams from an account management perspective.

They are ready to counter-sell when a doctor says, “I prefer your competitor for this patient type.” These are the moments when this kind of initiative matters. That’s a very big success. Your confidence in the folks in the field is incredibly important to the success of a brand. If this helps them have that confidence and they see a bit more about the customer and understand more how they can engage with them in the right way, that’s also a really big success.

That follows the better opt-ins from your customers. Minimizing the opt-outs from your channels leads to a better share of voice because at least your customer is listening to you and listening to what they want to listen to, versus what we want them to listen to.. In the ideal world, any customer would opt out for a reason.

I think we forget that the reason is that we are not giving them what they want as a channel or a piece of content or the science that we want to share with them.

If it isn’t valuable, I don’t want it.

Those decreased opt-outs, increased opt-ins and leading the share of voice also could be tracked as an interim success before we get to improved prescription drug sales.

I would call those outcomes of those engagements that we had talked about, that the ways to look at engagement beyond clicks and visits but it’s what are people doing with that engagement. Are they opting in to get more information? Are you minimizing your opt-out rate? Are they requesting to see your MSLs or sales team members, for example?

You and I can keep going all day, but we have a couple of minutes left. I’m just wondering, can we put a bow on this? Any words of wisdom in terms of a few things that you would highlight for people who are jumping into this for the first time? Maybe a summary of what we have covered on the two episodes. What are 2 or 3 things that you want folks to take away so that they can get started on this journey?

LSVS 2 | HCP Engagement
HCP Engagement: Don’t just focus on sales. Share your success stories along the way because they help keep the excitement up as the implementation starts.


You don’t need $1 million to do omnichannel. There are many technology stacks and there are many ways to do and create that experience that works for your customers, even with basic CRM programs. Having a vision of what you want to create is important. It’s important to get your resources onboard to convince your executive team. It is difficult to create a lot of change in an organization bottom-up. Having senior executives bought into a transformation is important and can help support you in your endeavors with doing that.

The second part is to know what outcomes you’re looking for and what you want. One of the things I’ve learned transitioning from a US role into a global role is that outside of the US, a lot of people don’t do a lot of digital. There’s a lot of skillsets that need to be developed sometimes to help people understand how that process works, how you set up that process or those materials in a digital way. Put things on them like tags so that you can see what happens and understand more about your customer engagement.

Understanding what you want to achieve with the outcomes of adoption and what those skillsets or that training and how to support that might be needed – it could be a critical factor. The last one is about measurement. As we’ve talked a little bit about, you want to have a measurement plan that helps you share success stories along the way and is not only focused on sales. You’re going to need that in order to get adoption along the way and to keep that excitement up as people are starting to implement these.

It starts to feel a little bit heavy as you get into some of the bigger implementations. It also shows people that you can be successful with this in the steps that you take to create that full omnichannel experience. These small wins and these milestones along the way might be even more important at the end of the day than the sales that your executives might be looking for.

It doesn’t take $1 million. I have heard that from you a couple of times and that’s important because that is the biggest myth when pharma industry professionals start feeling “It would only be possible if we had Amazon or Google budget machinery.” That is a big myth. It is making sure that we are personalizing the experience for the customer through initial steps that we can take in that direction.

The measurement aspect that you had also mentioned sometimes is blown out of proportion because people start feeling, “We need fancy dashboards and everything needs to be covered.” We have seen, working together on some of these initiatives, very small, simple dashboards capturing those different channels. Making those connections can show a lot of magic.

It’s so many outcomes you’re trying to achieve, all the diagnostic stuff. Your story and your success is the outcome.

I love the two-episode conversation here. We can keep going. We know that, but this is good enough for people to at least understand what is omnichannel? Why should we do omnichannel? How it has to be done? What are the critical success factors? I’m sure they will reach out to us if they have a question or if they want to challenge us on some of these. Thanks again, Melissa, for taking the time. Any final words?

I’m always happy to connect and to have a challenging discussion on these things. It’s something that I’m very passionate about and love chatting about. Thanks for having me, Gaurav.

Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time. Take care.


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