Imagine that you're a pharmaceutical sales rep who is on the road, making on average 10 visits to potential customers (physicians) each day. The physicians only grant you a few minutes -- sometimes even just one minute -- to capture their attention toward your products. But you have an even bigger challenge -- in the physician's office or a clinic environment, you can't connect your laptop PC to a network. Given that limitation, you will not be able to use certain software applications for marketing materials or for capturing data if those applications run on a hosted server that you access through a network.
Jeff Wessinger, president, Skura Software Division, points out that Salesforce.com took some components of online offerings and made them available offline, but the offline version is not as robust as the version available when connected to the Internet and is not focused on vertical solutions.
A dramatic advancement in technology over the last 12 months now enables the use of mobile applications without losing any functionality when a laptop is untethered from a network. Now all the capabilities and all of the application code can run while disconnected from any network (similar to a BlackBerry); when the user connects to the network, the code synchronizes all of the information.
Another important development is the fact that Skura Corporation, which has a very robust untethered closed-loop marketing (CLM) mobile solution for pharmaceutical companies, has created a connector into a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model (where all the data is stored). So pharma companies can now take advantage of the cost and convenience benefits of the SaaS model for the CLM solution.
"Our CLM application enables sales reps to get more out of the time that they spend with physicians and more feedback in interaction between the rep and the physician," says Wessinger.
How does it work? The application runs on a Tablet PC and allows the rep to go through a multimedia presentation with the physician, as opposed to just having a dialogue and some paper reprints. All of the marketing collateral is available on the Tablet PC. The information the rep presents to the physician, as well as the physician's feedback, get recorded and tagged back to the physican's profile. "The application then takes that aggregate information back to the mother ship, so to speak," Wessinger explains.
"Through careful analysis of that data, the pharma company can start to understand which promotional materials work with each segment of physicians and then take that information and get even better interaction with physicians who are of the same profile. That's what we at Skura call CLM," says Wessinger.
How Ortho-McNeil Neurologics benefits from the Skura solution
Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Inc. (OMN), one of the companies in the pharmaceutical sector of parent company Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), is using the Skura solution. Bill Whyte, director, Portfolio Marketing, says the response from customers has been very positive. "Sixty-five percent of them report that they prefer seeing our marketing content in this electronic format compared to traditional paper. The physicians also tell us that they believe the information is more valuable because the reps show more information than before and it's packaged in a more digestible form (video, etc., with relevance aimed specifically at the physician)."
He adds the solution allows the JNJ (OMN) sales force to get more time with physicians to talk about products. "Because the information is more captivating and interesting, they are willing to spend more time with our reps," says Whyte.
One of the greatest benefits of the Skura CLM software is a functionality that ensures the sales rep downloads the most recommended content for a particular physician, including clinical messages on efficacy and tolerability.
Explaining this functionality, Wessinger uses an analogy of the John Madden Football electronic game. "There are hundreds of defensive and offensive plays that you can call as the coach, and the game gives you about 30 seconds to pick from a menu of about 2,000 different options. But it also has a "Madden Pick" button to push, which will pick from those thousands of options the best play for you, based on the down and distance in the game, your opponent's strategy, the score, and other factors. It picks the play for you, and all you have to do is play the game."
"A sales rep can choose from our menu of content, or the rep can push a 'RepCoach' button and download the presentation that we know mathematically will be most effective with a particular physician, based on the historical activity we've had with 50 other doctors who are just like him. It even downloads the content in the presentation order that has been proven to be most effective," says Wessinger.
The Skura application tags and traces the use of each client's marketing assets so that further down the line they can run predictive models against it and figure out optimally how reps should sequence and arrange the marketing messages for a physician.
This innovative functionality and the software's ability to optimize physician responses to marketing content caused Gartner to rank Skura as a "Cool Vendor in Life Sciences, 2008." There are other companies with products that tag and trace data, but Skura goes further and makes meaningful business out of it.
Imagine how critical this is to a sales force in a company like Ortho-McNeil. Headquartered in New Jersey, Ortho-McNeil markets products to treat Alzheimer's, epilepsy, and migraines. Within the reps' Tablet PCs are 300 multimedia screens of information that they can show a doctor. In a typical sales call only lasting 60 seconds at best, they can show only two or three of those assets. The Skura product ensures they show the two or three that are best and most relevant to each physician.
"We decided to move forward with closed loop marketing because the marketplace had changed," says Whyte. "Our sales force has to be more efficient at displaying marketing information and retrieving data because of having less time with customers."
Outsourcing to optimize the marketing effort
The Gartner Research Note on Cool Vendors in Life Sciences 2008 says "the days of engaging in all sorts of sales and marketing activities are long gone. Powerful tools are available to optimize these efforts..."
Companies like Ortho-McNeil outsource the Skura solution through a "release management" offering, referring not to software releases but, rather, to releases of the pharma company's marketing content to the field. Creative content changes frequently. In addition to the application, the client pays a monthly fee (based on headcount) for the people who manage the process.
Whyte, for instance, works with an external advertising firm to develop marketing content, which he then turns over to the IT department, which works with Skura to deploy it to the field. The on-site Skura person works with the client's brand team to figure out how the content should be organized and presented.
The Skura team also helps its clients go through extensive medical and legal reviews and, in the United States, helps them get the content approved by the FDA. Skura personnel then publish the new content releases or incremental changes to existing content and deploy it to the reps' Tablet PCs. Depending on the company, this process can occur as frequently as every couple of weeks or every month or two. Whyte says his company has enhanced its content three or four times since it began working with Skura in September 2007.
The involvement of the Skura team continues on the back-end as they analyze the information for the "RepCoach" solution.
Whyte says Ortho-McNeil's experience with Skura has been "very positive" and not just from a technical perspective. When moving toward deployment of the company's initial content, they needed extra resources to meet the timeline. "Skura provided the resources we needed and demonstrated they wanted to partner with us," says Whyte.
The SaaS model
Pharma companies can now take advantage of the untethered solution through a SaaS capability that Skura and Verticals onDemand have enabled and not have to buy software. Skura recently entered a partnering agreement with Verticals onDemand to provide a hosted model for clients that prefer a lower-cost option. Skura's product that runs on a rep's Tablet PC now integrates with the back-end SaaS repository at Verticals onDemand. The hosted model is exactly the same as the on-premise model. Clients pay on a per-user/per-month basis for 38 or 46 months.
Lessons from Outsourcing Journal:
- The marketplace has changed. Pharmaceutical sales forces must now be much more efficient at displaying marketing information and retrieving data on relevance to a particular physician because sales reps now have less time with customers.
- Technology solutions now enable sales reps to present more information to their customers, but it can be costly to maintain the in-house resources to continually update the content in such an application and deploy it to the field. Pharmaceutical companies can now access a closed-loop marketing mobile solution for their sales reps by outsourcing with a cost-effective Software-as-a-Service (Saas) model.