Category Archives: Vision

What will the future look like?

The Robot Will See You Now. How Pharma Can Approach Using Chatbots.

Innovation can be defined as ‘the production of something original and useful in order to create value for society, business or both’. In line with many of the other great society changing landmarks that have occurred in our age of technology, such as the birth of television, the creation of digital music or the evolution of the mobile phone, we can find an intersection of how technology and a human need collide—which fosters the innovation.

One of the most common examples of human demand which has now been extrapolated in the internet digital era is the need to ‘access information’. But we are becoming lazier in our ever increasing busier lives, and looking it up in a book like when I was a kid is pretty obsolete. Humans tolerate less delay these days; we want it NOW, instantly and requiring limited effort. Chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) are innovations which are already changing and will continue to change, allowing humans easier access to information through advanced AI platforms.

Messaging continues to dominate

That’s great and all, I hear you say, but isn’t it just another passing phase? Why is it important? Why should you care? Isn’t it just another ‘channel’ of info? In the last couple of years messaging platforms (FB Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp etc.) have surpassed the big four social media network channels in terms of size of audience, and clearly this is one of the main reasons that the Googles, Microsofts and Facebooks of this world are sinking billions of dollars into developing their offerings in this space. Now, stop and think about that for a second, and what an impact the current social platforms have had on society and the way we engage with each other today; that’s a pretty big deal, and now there is something that’s bigger!! With audience adoption of these messaging apps being so pervasive, it would make sense if you’re a digital business that’s interested in reach of any sort for this to be part of your channel strategy mix. The pharma industry needs to start aligning with the new consumer on-demand mindset that has been set by online businesses such as Netflix and Amazon. However, don’t include new technology just for the sake of being able to say you are doing it; you still need to put user needs at the centre and make sure you’re creating something that is relevant, valuable and useful to users. Otherwise, don’t bother. 

Technology in this space has progressed leaps and bounds in the last few years.  The rate of machine learning evolves quickly and this technology will only continue to get smarter, faster, more relevant and human-like in its operation. Working in the pharma sector, we know that traditionally this industry as a whole is somewhat of a laggard against more ‘innovation’ leading industry sectors. I think many understand where these blending of human and machine interactions can create immediate efficiencies, convenience and customer experience, so there certainly is an appetite for it. Healthcare is predicted to benefit greatly from this technology evolution and in an increasingly patient/customer-centric world, one of the questions we are constantly asked by our clients  is ‘How do I use this for my customers and in my pharma company?’.

Doing it for pharma

For all pharma organisations, naturally, control and risk mitigation are important factors. The thought of relying on an accurate Siri response to a customer’s question is enough to scare the life out of the typical pharma marketer, or at least elicit cries of ‘code breach!’. However, chatbots can actually be deemed a safe, secure channel, as they can (platform choice dependent) act in a one-to-one environment with customers, rather than social media’s typical one-to-many configuration. Part of the challenge of implementing innovation in a regulated market is about tackling the ‘folklore’ head on and also following successful examples set by your competitors. There are usually ways around these barriers, though, and it doesn’t have to start with anything overly complicated to set your own company precedent for these activities.

At Nitro Digital, we have found there are three typical approaches which pharma can take when addressing chatbots; which of these is the right choice for you really depends on the nature and objectives of your business:

  • LINEAR MODEL
    This operates a curated and controlled experience, with predetermined answers and scripts defined and approved for use. It it limited in scope but is currently a model which pharma marketers favour as they begin to explore this space.
  • INTELLIGENCE MODEL
    This model is machine learning driven, and it works by delivering natural language responses to questions and queries through learnt behaviour. This can, however, be unpredictable and its level of sophistication currently will still cause concerns as to the degree of control that can be kept.
  •  HYBRID MODEL
    The third option is a mix of the previous two. It allows for the gathering of insights and builds on the knowledge base which customer interactions can offer by capturing these queries and storing them. This way, we prepare for the technology advancement in the platform without losing any of the rich learnings, which is something that pharma will typically do before jumping in. It is a more risk cautious method of approaching chatbots: whilst you are offering a curated experience,  you are also building the datasets of learning to apply to your development at a later date.

Of course, there are still challenges for the industry, like obtaining content approvals, ensuring the Fair Balance Act is upheld, observing privacy laws, etc., but these are obstacles with workarounds rather than showstoppers. However, as we have advised many eager and ambitious clients wanting to be the first to bring chatbots into their organisations—’Let’s not do this just for sake of doing it’—we still need to fill a user need, and it is still an activity which requires a commitment and needs ongoing maintenance and improvement.

‘But isn’t machine learning really difficult and expensive to do?’ you may ask. The truth is that creating a successful automation bot is more of a user experience (UX) challenge than one of technology complexity. And in that respect, it should be approached like any other social or digital activity. Think about the goals you want to achieve; what is the problem you are solving for your users; what is in it for them; what could be automated; what efficiencies can you make; what risk mitigation could this help with; is this something that will deliver cost saving: are all good questions to ask yourself. Start simple, learn, test and evolve the process.  

It’s evident that chatbots are another great technology which can help deliver value within digital marketing—and especially so for pharma and healthcare brands looking for a shortcut to offer value and information to their customers. Examples of instances where chatbots can provide value and enhanced patient care are doctor discussion guides, benefits verification support, medication and refill reminders and overall customer support and content delivery that the user can access whenever they want, 24/7, personalised for their needs. Artificial intelligence has advanced greatly in the last few years, so anyone with some coding smarts can do this, and, in addition, there are already lots of platforms and tools to leverage. Nitro has a 40+ strong team of keen software developers looking to experiment with this tech to solve problems for you.

So, start thinking about this now as this needs to be part of your digital strategy, not a bolt-on, nice-to-have afterthought. And you need to be thinking about this now for 2018, not 2020, as by then the market will be saturated and you’ll have missed the robo-party. You can read more about how chatbots can benefit  your marketing strategy in general here.

For any help exploring this area, please get in touch with us directly at www.nitro-digital.com/chatbots, we would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

2017-Nitro Digital-vision-graphic

2017: The Life Sciences Marketplace and the Imperative for Change

Let me start the year not with a retrospective, but with a call out to what we want to build at Nitro.

First off, it’s worth stating what we believe, or rather hypothesise:

  • That a fundamental shift must occur in the way the life sciences industry approaches marketing.
  • That this is necessary in order to make healthcare sustainable. Life sciences companies are major contributors to R&D, and their participation in society is not only necessary, but vital.
  • That the companies that are best placed to contribute will not be just those with the right drug at the right price, but those which, having got that mix right, are then able to combine it with collaborative HCPs and a layer of digital and communication services that support either real work outcomes, professional collaboration or patient care.
  • That the way to achieve this goal is not simply using sales reps as glorified delivery men and women. I’d go further, and say that few doctors want to see reps anymore for product information alone.
  • That creating a new promotional and educational distribution model for the pharma industry is not easy, nor is there a single silver bullet. Healthcare is, so far, reluctant to see the rise of an Alibaba or Uber in its sector; perhaps it will come, but perhaps the system is too fragmented, complex and non-commoditised for that. (although, if you continue the Alibaba analogy, that would make it ideal for a bit of disruption. . .which brings me to my next point nearly).
  • That everyone wins if a more efficient, digitally enabled, two-sided market emerges in healthcare.
  • That technology is essentially borderless and has the power to effect global change in our industry as much as it has in others.

We started Nitro 15 years ago based on these beliefs. We believe them now. Achieving a solution to the issues created by the challenges above has proved elusive, but I genuinely believe we have developed the scale and expertise in what is an ever moving tech and process stack that means we can take major steps forward in 2017 towards helping our clients find more efficient, tech-enabled ways of engaging with HCPS, patients and other stakeholders for better healthcare overall.

Of course, the journey will not be competed this year, or the next, or perhaps ever. But maybe that’s part of the fun of it.

So, all that being said, we think we have—through some deep and testing experience—a clearer idea of what the makings of a two-sided marketplace for life sciences looks like and what this means for the sales and marketing model for the sector. We refer to this as life sciences social closed loop marketing (CLM), and at the heart of it is a powerful combination of a BuzzFeed-esque content marketing model, a tech stack configured to cope with the regulatory and global nuances of our industry, and a data-driven understanding of customer experience and the means and modes of acquisition and retention. Ultimately, to us it’s about helping life sciences companies build up their own proprietary distribution channels.

Here’s what it could look like:

Life-Sciences-Social-CLM-diagram

In our opinion, life sciences companies need to work iteratively (emphasis on iterative collaborative working) to build the following business processes and tech stack to compete effectively in the world that awaits us.

  • A Content Engine that contains the people, processes and tools to deliver high quality, targeted, relevant (to the audience’s needs) and consistent content in a variety of media types. It should produce creative and ethical content backed by science, and conforming to modern internet content marketing techniques: think Buzz Feed meets the BMJ! Notably, the resulting items should be incredibly timely and published more frequently. There should be a mix of interactive, service-based and information communication, most of which will be curated and created by KOLs. This content engine is not just about production, but also technologies that facilitate the creation, curation and publishing of content, like Nitro’s own proprietary ULTRA Buzz system, the Veeva Vault or web services like Grammarly.
  • A Multichannel Publishing System, whether it’s an owned media one using a CMS-like Drupal or Adobe’s Creative Cloud, or using earned platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • An Acquisition Strategy, since we know from having built thousands of sites that ‘build it and they will come’ just doesn’t work in the life sciences sector. Marketers, therefore, must (in our humble opinion) have an effective user acquisition strategy in place using a mix of media tailored specifically to their target audience’s needs, to be able to reach them where and when they want to be reached. Nitro’s media effectiveness database assembled using over a decade of data-driven experience allows for easy budget optimisation across a range of disparate media channels and across a full range of therapy areas.

All of the above creates visibility for your online assets, but as the cost of media in our industry is relatively high, it’s critical to provide an engaging interaction and to extend the ROI beyond the first visit. To encourage this ‘stickiness’  you’ll need:

  • A Measurement/Analytics plan, as well as a Customer Experience and Data Management strategy, whether it’s gathering feedback through net promoter score usage or other surveys; data from interactive services,; creating cookie-dropped user tag lists; email capture or sign up; or analytic services such as Google or Adobe using their respective tag managers. This activity is primarily to ensure you deliver and can measure the value you are providing but also about allowing you to segment and augment data so that you can:
  • Pull data back into and sync with your CRM (Veeva, Agnito, Salesforce) (data extension strategy) and enable your KAMs and other colleagues to leverage it, and;
  • Critically—and so far largely absent in our industry—a retargeting strategy utilising not just valuable and relevant high frequency content (see 1 above!) and email, but also cookie and data-driven and programmatic retargeting marketplaces. Talk to me any day about the relative ROI of buying media in this way compared to the cost of initial acquisition. This is the realisation of a core internet economy principle, the development by brands of their own proprietary distribution channel.
  • Finally, the output of all these efforts can’t be directly about shifting ‘drug product’ through share of voice (through that last point plays an import role in acquisition). It’s about (again, in our opinion) building genuine advocacy through listening, responding and partnering. This builds trust and will at scale be reflected in content creation which if you follow the logic through will create a virtuous circle fuelling the company’s content engine (see the diagram above!). Beautiful!

So that’s it in a nutshell. It’s not a simple vision, way more complex than just content and communications but, if successful, way more valuable for all concerned. It would be amazing to build a company that delivered on this.

That’s our plan. 2017 and beyond.