Personalization Via CRM: The Right Prescription for Pharma's Move to More Individualized Treatments


Personalization Via CRM: The Right Prescription for Pharma's Move to More Individualized Treatments

By Special Guest
Paul Shawah, Vice President of product marketing, Veeva Systems
  |  December 29, 2015

Since the mapping of the human genome more than a decade ago, pharmaceutical companies have been working on innovative ways to apply genomics to drug development. A classic example of success is the blood thinner Warfarin. Patients vary widely in their required Warfarin dose, and in the past this meant that initial doses for some patients were too high or too low, which led to negative side effects. However, by reading individual genetic markers, physicians can now accurately determine the best starting dose for each patient, potentially saving lives.

What’s more, with the rise of genomics, pharmaceutical companies are moving away from the old model of developing a single blockbuster drug that addresses the largest patient population possible.

The problem with this approach is that the drug may be more efficacious for some people, less so for others. And, in the new world of health care, in which doctors and hospital groups are rewarded and reimbursed based on the efficacy of their treatments, they are demanding drugs that will work better and produce more reliable patient outcomes.

The beauty of genomics is that it allows pharmaceutical companies to develop more specialized, more effective drugs targeted to smaller patient populations. Suddenly one or two drugs for high cholesterol become many different drugs based on the genetic variables of a particular patient population.

But while highly specialized drugs produce better outcomes for patients, they present a tougher challenge for marketers. Pharmaceutical companies must effectively communicate the value of their new drugs to regulators to get approval. They also must convince both payers and health care providers that their genomic drugs not only produce better outcomes but reduce the total cost of treatment.

Of course, marketing challenges are not new to the pharmaceutical business. But the development of genomic drugs makes drug marketing more complex because there is an increasing number of specialized drugs targeted at many more patient populations. From a marketing standpoint, the education and messaging required to communicate the value of targeted drugs is exponentially more complex.

In the past, when it was a one-drug-fits-all world, pharma would deliver one marketing message to a mass audience. The mission was to repeat that marketing message as frequently as possible to as many people as possible.

This approach won’t work in the new world of genomic drug development. Pharma must now deliver tailored information to health care providers based on very specific patient use cases.

The old model, in which physicians wait weeks for the next sales rep to walk into the office, is no longer functional. The flow of information must be relevant and always accessible in a world in which drugs are more complex. Health care providers will demand information that is more targeted and delivered on demand – exactly when and how they want it.

Next-generation technology systems address these more intense marketing demands. First of all, they enable a complete view of the customer. Traditional CRM systems fall short in this department because they take a siloed approach to customer communications and touchpoints, and insights about customers don’t come together in a single place.

For instance, if you’re a pharmaceutical company, a doctor could be on your website right now researching a new drug. But it’s likely your sales rep doesn’t know that. And when that rep goes into the doctor’s office tomorrow, he’ll probably start the conversation with the weather or last night’s big game, when he could be talking about the drug treatment the physician was researching the previous evening.

Modern CRM systems can make it easier to capture and bring together all of the customer interaction data for a more complete view. For instance, what information are my customers searching for? Where are they spending time on my website? Which dinner meetings are they going to? What influencers do they listen to?

Yes, that’s what any good sales rep tries to understand. But even the best reps don’t have visibility into all possible data points, and they certainly can’t process them all to design the very best game plan for a particular customer. When all of this information is understood, you can segment your customers and target them with relevant information aimed at addressing what they value most.

It is also now possible to capture data in large enough sets to anticipate your customers’ needs –even before they ask. By correlating large volumes of causal customer engagement data with actual customer behaviors, you can begin to predict what they want. As an example, if you know that a specific segment of health care providers responds to a unique sequence of product messaging, you can proactively serve up that same sequence of information to similar customers.

A modern CRM system can gather the information necessary to make these kinds of predictions. Such a system can even provide recommendations for ways to interact with a customer, through which channels and with which targeted messages. Pharma can also begin to provide the information that health care providers need on demand, when they need it. After all, the rise of increasingly complex treatments requires an ongoing, bi-directional flow of information, compared to the old push model of information delivery.

Pharmaceutical companies can use this new approach to marketing to better understand the customer, provide relevant information on demand, and more accurately predict the customer’s needs. In fact, in a world of highly targeted drugs aimed at very specific patient populations, they will not be able to ensure their own health without it.

Paul Shawah is vice president of product marketing at Veeva Systems (

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere
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