I like to think that most people in the pharma industry now accept that digital is an important channel that they need to think about and include in their marketing plans. Marketeers now include digital in their brand plans and the number of dedicated digital marketeers within pharma is growing.
Another area where we are increasingly seeing digital is in sales, with more and more reps being given iPads to use in their details with physicians. This is not, in my opinion, edetailing – this is essentially still a traditional detail but using modern, digital, detail aids. I find it can be really confusing that some companies call a traditional detail (i.e. face to face) that uses iPads an edetail while to others an edetail is a detail delivered electronically (as opposed to face to face).
Edetails (the non -face-to-face sort) themselves also have various formats – again rather confusing. There is the self-serve edetail which is a pre-recorded video / presentation which the physician can watch, pause and stop as needed. There is then the rep edetail which is more like a video conference between a rep and a physician (but where you can also still have the presentation element).
This confusion also means that companies who have implemented ipad detailing (let’s call it idetailing) think they have innovated when in reality they have only moved with the times. It also means that they are not fully optimising the opportunities that digital presents. The value that a true edetail brings is that the doctor can schedule them at a time to suit them – not just within office hours. From the pharma company point of view the value is that edetailing cuts costs. Even when using a live rep to do an edetail the rep no longer has to travel, cutting down on travel expenses, and could even conceivably work from home and work part-time, opening up opportunities to people who require flexibility around work.
The other value that edetailing offers to companies is potential access to physicians who are no longer seeing reps or who are too expensive to send a physical rep to (for example in rare diseases).
There are of course concerns that edetailing of this nature will make the traditional rep (and I mean the face-to-face rep not just a rep without an ipad!) redundant. However this should not be the case. edetailing is often an extension opportunity to traditional detailing – and in fact it has been shown that the most effective sales technique is in fact the mix of traditional detailing with edetailing (see graphic below). What will change however is the role of the rep and this has already started in some companies.
The rep of the future will become an orchestrator rep – he will provide a more concierge like service to physicians, providing them with product information but also information around the digital services that the company offers, or information from recent conferences for example. The role of the rep will move away from the traditional hard core sales focus to a value focus – providing information rather than pushing sales messages which the physician is not interested in. Of course sales will still be the objective but the sales message will be delivered in a more customer centric, value driven way and this will then be supported by the edetail online.
The value that edetailing provides means that more and more pharma companies will start to use it, but, as much as I am a fan of digital, I believe there will always be a place for the face-to-face rep. The future though will be totally value driven and value comes from partnering human and digital interactions.