Jeff Tomaso

Enterprise Growth Leader, Merkle

It’s the destination that matters

I often hear clients say, “We need to map the patient journey.”

And, when I do, it always makes me think about the young boy, Billy, from the comic strip “The Family Circus.” When asked by his mother to complete a simple task, like taking letters to the mailbox, he would embark on a circuitous adventure through every room in the house and around his neighbor’s yard ultimately arriving mere seconds after the mailman had departed.

What Billy’s mom failed to understand was that what she believed was a simple ask with a straight path from the kitchen to the mailbox, to Billy, was an adventure filled with twists and turns, with a myriad of distractions that took him off course. Despite her best efforts to give clear instructions and to direct him to the end goal, Billy always followed his own path and very often failed to fulfill his mom’s desired outcome.

Such is the challenge faced by today’s pharmaceutical marketers. To many, the path to treatment has very clear and linear steps—condition awareness, education, diagnosis, treatment, adherence—and that manifests itself in broad spectrum of marketing tactics and messages that are designed to move patients along a desired, pre-defined path. Yet, like Billy’s path to the mailbox, the typical health patient often takes a long and winding road to treatment, visiting multiple websites, talking to friends and family, meeting with their physician, trying multiple medications.

While setting out to craft the ideal patient journey and experience, pharma marketers ignore a simple truth—each individual has a unique path to treatment. We can’t define the journey for them, we can only shine a light on the destination and hope to offer timely, relevant and actionable support and guidance to help them reach it.

Managing moments of truth

So, where does that leave today’s pharmaceutical marketer? To be successful, we need to shift from trying to control the entire patient journey to focusing on managing moments of truth, those simple, basic interactions between a person and a brand. Clicking on a search ad, filling out a co-pay form, hitting the “Request a Sample” button. Each moment represents a step in the patient journey, and each moment represents an inflection point, an opportunity to change perception, to add value, to influence direction.

A pharma marketer’s job is to leverage an ever-expanding toolkit to orchestrate and activate the right moments as part of a person’s brand experience to help them achieve their desired health outcome.

  • Data allows us to recognize individuals and understand where they are in their treatment pathway; visibility into search, social media engagement and digital content consumption helps us recognize if are they researching symptoms. Have they just been diagnosed? Have they been prescribed? Are they evaluating alternative treatments?
  • Integrated technology solutions allow us to orchestrate and connect each interaction, creating a seamless experience across channels, delivering contextually relevant and timely information informed by our understanding of patient needs and prior interactions.
  • Organizational adaptability enables us to embrace uncertainty, manage unpredictability, and be fully customer-obsessed, even in the face of constant disruption. With almost any touchpoint able in real time to turn into a buying moment – or a sharing moment, a service moment, a feedback moment – brands need coordinated, enterprise-wide processes that can adapt, evolve, and be (re)- defined to match ever-shifting customer journeys.

Most importantly, we need to remember that at the receiving end of the email we send or the website that we build, is a real person actively searching for a way to better manage a chronic or serious health condition? For the pharma marketer, the goal is to deliver meaningful, personal interactions that inspire action and positive health outcomes. If we can manage the moment and solve today’s problem, consistently and with compassion and understanding, we’ll create a compelling brand experience that delivers true impact.

To learn more about how to manage moments and deliver compelling customer experiences, download the 2021 Customer Experience Imperatives eBook, The Formula for Customer Experience Transformation.

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