Virtual Engagement Is Here to Stay: Maximizing Sales Force Effectiveness Through Personalized Marketing

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Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, many life sciences sales teams continue to struggle to visit physicians in person. The “new normal” ushered in by the pandemic forced sales reps to get comfortable with a large amount of digital promotion. The “new normal” also forced multiple commercial teams to work more closely together to service customers in a more tailored manner. And it’s unlikely this digital-first world is going away anytime soon. Just as patients and physicians will likely continue to have virtual appointments post-pandemic, we expect digital promotion to remain a significant part of a life sciences company’s commercial efforts, even as opportunities for in-person engagement return.

This hybrid reality will impact the makeup of a company’s sales team. To maximize sales force effectiveness in this environment, a company needs to assess its current sales force structure and look for opportunities to optimize the mix of sales professionals and their deployment across target markets. For example, commercial teams must determine the appropriate mix of virtual and field reps needed to improve the effectiveness of outreach to physicians. Commercial teams must leverage and optimize all of their engagement tools to reach customers where and how they prefer to be reached.

Once a company optimizes its sales force structure, it can work to implement more personalized and agile marketing efforts that cater to the consumption preferences of each target physician. After all, there’s nothing “non-personal” about digital promotion in 2021. Instead, it should complement in-person engagement and be customized to the individual customer.

It is crucial for life sciences companies to adopt an omnichannel perspective that includes all relevant channels, tactics, and messages. Then, leverage advanced analytics to determine the most effective way to reach and engage with each customer. Life sciences companies can segment data – by specialty or geography, for instance – and use sophisticated analytics methods to uncover insights that help them improve the impact of their sales and marketing efforts.

To successfully implement personalized marketing and transition into a post-COVID-19 world, life sciences companies should apply three strategies:

(1) Collect and measure – Life sciences companies should build the infrastructures needed to more frequently collect and process customer-centric data. The goal should be to generate actionable insights several times a year. This effort will allow a company to capture changes in customer response and preferences. Increased measurement allows companies to generate more actionable insights and implement a more agile promotional strategy.

(2) Apply predictive analytics – By applying predictive analytics to the data it collects, life sciences companies can better understand the reality “on the ground” and prompt the “next best action” in promotional efforts. For example, by frequently measuring and analyzing promotional activity data, a commercial team can better understand its customers’ preferences. The team can then use a predictive model to customize tactics or messages to maximize customer engagement.

(3) Unify commercial efforts – The idea of breaking down organizational silos is nothing new. But it’s crucial to enabling personalized marketing in the life sciences industry. Companies must bring together marketing professionals, sales teams, digital teams, commercial analytics groups, and operations professionals via a unified technology infrastructure. These group should have visibility into relevant customer data and insights so they can collaborate to optimize promotional planning and execution.

Even as the vaccine rollout continues and the world continues to reopen, virtual engagement is likely to remain a significant part of life sciences companies’ promotional efforts. The marketing mix will vary across brands and customers, but life sciences companies that build the data and technology infrastructures to facilitate more personalized marketing – with an appropriate blend of virtual and traditional sales efforts – will chart a path toward commercial effectiveness in a post-COVID-19 world.

Authors

David Laros

David Laros is vice president of digital strategy, analytics, and insights at Beghou Consulting. He works in the firm’s Princeton, New Jersey office.

Kevin Frymire

Kevin Frymire is a partner at Beghou Consulting. He works in the firm’s Boston office.