Now that ePharma's 2017 conference in New York has wrapped, organizations across the industry look to be facing some common problems.

Industry players at Econsultancy's ePharma roundtable were able to sit down, share problems, discuss solutions, and brainstorm ways forward. All under the Chatham House rule, of course, so the conversation stayed honest, open and confidential.

Because of its nagging ever-presence, customer experience was a natural "first" on the docket of discussion. We began with a general inquiry into the problems facing pharma CX, corralling the discussion as we went along, and ranging over topics including content marketing, millennials (of course), and standards and metrics.

Below are a few of the issues and solutions touched on during the hour-long roundtable:

The customer experience

Social, unsurprisingly, was first on everyone's lips. To the chagrin of all, it was pointed out that several of the industry's top companies launched social campaigns for the first time only last year.

If the first step is admitting you have a problem, pharma appears finally to be on the road to social media normalcy.

On another note, pharma has discovered the value in using targeted community groups on social media to get the word out. One marketer involved in rare diseases conveyed that she found these groups to be particularly useful in building brand trust among patients and the wider caregiver community.

Also on the table's mind was the usefulness of chatter groups; letting customers lead these groups has yielded good results and strategic input.

On the bright side, it was noted that customer complaints out of chatter groups mostly revolved around product delivery, and not always the product itself.

All this makes sense. By its nature pharma can create some very opinionated customers, and there is broad agreement that feedback from them, good or bad, is too valuable a thing to waste.

Speaking of brand trust...

The table was able to agree on something positive – the age of fake news has spurred a new era in consumer faith in brands. We're not sure why this is, but we are sure it's a good thing. As one participant put it, we need to be producing as much content as possible while the good times last.

Of course, the murmur was that content strategy is hard. How do we know what to produce? Unfortunately, the answer to that is beyond the scope of this blog post.

One idea was put forth: marketers should look at legal not as an adversary, but as a partner to bring ideas forward.

Agencies out of control

Or, to put it in the milder terms of one participant, "brands need to get a grip on their agencies."

While there was a general consensus that agencies can offer good advice and are a good source of knowledge, most felt that they have gotten too expensive for the service they provide.

Millennials

Amidst lamenting the general state of the generation, it was agreed that millennials are the hardest group to market anything to. Their resilience to advertisement and tendency to make snap judgments make them a frustratingly elusive prize.

While they can still be better reached using programmatic, millennials are still accustomed to viewing ads as ignorable features of the content they want. The worst of these display methods is probably the banner ad, at the mention of which roundtable participants let out a giggle. Nobody clicks on those.

More short clip videos seem to be in order, but that won't be enough. Attendees felt a need for new KPIs for dealing with a unique generation.

Metrics

In the age of big data, few could say enough about the opportunities arising from arming marketing and sales with the latest technology to assist them in co-operating.

KPIs need to be better, though. When marketing believes they're good, it's often not believed by other teams, and therefore not actionable. This led one participant from a special disease company to remark that, for him, the most important KPI remains sales.

The call for more A/B testing and disciplined, monthly reports to brands offering actionable insights was popular. This would go a long way to refining troublesome KPIs.

As for technology on the A/B front, some around the table extolled the use of Adobe's Target Software.

Summary

The story of customer experience success in pharma today is attentiveness. Whether it's getting your organization attuned to the value of promoting brand loyalty within specialized social media groups or inviting your most vocal customers to chatter groups, being involved at the grassroots level is the name of the game.

And as millennials take over as the largest generation in the workforce, it's more important now than ever before to develop new KPIs and dispense with old, ineffectual methods of marketing.

Have any thoughts? Comments? Let us know where you think pharma's biggest problems are below.

Further reading:

Arliss Coates

Published 16 March, 2017 by Arliss Coates @ Econsultancy

Arliss is a Research Analyst at Econsultancy.

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