COVID-19 has shown many life sciences companies how important it is to be more agile. Assessing the data from this spring, they’ve realized several truths: Changes in the way reps interact with targets will likely continue throughout the year, and possibly extend even after the COVID-19 crisis passes; the degree to which rep interactions changed varied by geography; and it’s likely to remain volatile over time.
Disruption of face-to-face promotion has become real, acute and ongoing. While there may be many questions moving forward, it’s clear reps could benefit from guidance in this unchartered territory. Commercial teams, who have the ability to track learnings from across the nation, could help field forces prioritize the right channels for the right customers at the right time—like when new patients gradually reach out to doctors again.
The concepts of field suggestions, omnichannel and dynamic targeting have been around for a while, and have always been relevant in disruptive market conditions such as brand launch, competitive launches, evolving payer access and changing physician preferences. But highly volatile physician preferences on how, when and about what they want to interact with reps, has made dynamic targeting more relevant than ever.
Dynamic targeting is a customer centric, proactive process that has evolved from the slower, more reactive call planning. It requires perpetually up-to-date analytics and insights, which are used to identify simple, timely, next-best actions for reps. Each week, dynamic targeting helps reps decide:
- Which doctors to contact, driven by doctor ratings, past interactions and performance trends
- When to contact them, driven by actual and anticipated changes in office closings, openings and rep-visit policies
- Why contact them now, driven by the patients resuming visits, requests for samples or product, promotion material and doctor questions
- How to interact, driven by doctors’ historical and recent preferences across channels like face-to-face, virtual, phone, email and webinar
It can seem like a daunting change for many companies, but it’s important to remember that dynamic targeting is not an all-or-nothing proposition. When its capabilities are fully implemented, dynamic targeting offers a 360-degree view of customers that integrates their profile, promotion, patient dynamics and payer access—but companies can take incremental steps toward this ideal.
Life sciences companies can leverage existing data lakes or data warehouses, but they need an analytical engine to evaluate the latest data to generate weekly guidance based on brand priorities, customer needs, the current state of execution and market dynamics. Brand segments, resource allocation and traditional call planning inform this engine, and the diagnostics are updated continuously to ensure alignment with brand goals. Of course, field feedback is important. Thanks to machine learning and optimization, this data helps inform the dynamic plan to actively adapt to both the market conditions as well as the rep’s local knowledge.
The dynamic plan can be made available to the field on their platform of choice, whether it’s Veeva, email, an Excel report or a dynamic targeting product.
COVID-19 has forced even those commercial teams and field forces that have been relatively comfortable with traditional call planning, despite technological, data and analytics advances that made dynamic targeting feasible, to become more agile.
For now, most life sciences companies are content to enable additional channels for reps, and let them figure out how to prioritize these channels for each doctor. Commercial teams planning for the long term, however, should consider an appropriate agile setup that is optimized across rep channels, similar to how face-to-face has historically been optimized, so they are never again blindsided by an event like COVID-19.
An agile setup could also become a significant competitive advantage over time—and brand teams can start small by focusing on low-hanging fruit. This could be as simple as adding rapidly growing new targets that are clearly eligible for rep attention without waiting for the next annual segmentation exercise.
With dynamic targeting, reps can be sure the behavioral segment of a doctor is always accurate, helping to build credibility in the field. Changes in payer access are also a great opportunity to either pull-through a payer win or proactively alert the rep to manage risk via copay cards, reimbursement support or other patient services. The agile nature of dynamic targeting can even help with call plan adherence and better overall execution, and enable cross-channel and cross-team collaboration. Reps can see what doctors are asking, visits planned or made by other reps targeting the doctor.
Within a year or two, the change pays for itself with better engagement, and fewer missed opportunities or wasted efforts—while preparing companies for the future.