Digital marketing in the age of COVID-19


By SciencePOD Editor
22nd September 2020

Interview with Blake Leitch, Global Head of Marketing, Biosimilars, Biogen

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way we do business, with a rapid increase in demand for digital customer engagement as face-to-face interaction has taken a back seat. Digital marketing has never been so important, and pharmaceutical companies need to ensure that their digital offerings meet their customer needs and expectations in this rapidly shifting landscape.

The key to meeting this challenge lies in pooling expertise and experience. Blake Leitch, Global Head of Marketing, Biosimilars, Biogen will speak to this at the upcoming Pharma Marketing USA 2020 Virtual Conference from Reuters Events, in a panel discussion entitled “The Digital Culture Club: membership not guaranteed.” In this interview, we speak with Blake about the upcoming conference.

“Sharing experiences and best practices is very much what our industry needs in the time of crisis…How we positively navigate through those changes – together – will enable more successful outcomes for all of us”

— Blake Leitch

What has been the greatest challenge to your digital transformation during COVID-19? How do you predict that the biosimilars market will be affected by the pandemic?

COVID-19 has presented the world with challenges rarely seen on this scale or level of complexity. Since face-to-face personal engagement with our customers was no longer possible for a significant period of time, we accelerated the evolution of our engagement efforts by improving our ‘digital IQ’, which is the ability to deliver a personalised customer experience based on the right virtual channel mix, field force soft skills, and data and content powered interactions. Customer access has been restricted in the traditional sense but the need and desire for relevant information is as acute now as ever.

Increasing biosimilar adoption represents a very important opportunity for systems across the world; to advance the standard of care for serious chronic conditions while at the same time creating meaningful savings for society. This has become even more urgent as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and help the patients we serve.

How has the field force role evolved in your company? Where do you see it going from here?

Working together to help serve the needs of our customers with agility and a pioneering spirit are central to Biogen’s DNA. Our customers’ needs evolve continuously and now, more than ever before, we need to be nimble and responsive to the changes we are witnessing. The overnight shift from personal to fully digital engagement wasn’t easy but the strong relationship our team continues to build with HCPs and system stakeholders helped us accelerate multi-channel adoption – we are simply evolving towards what is needed today and tomorrow. Personal engagement is core. We need to be able to interact with new technology platforms, to develop and provide new tools and support programs, and to collaborate more closely.

How can companies ensure that their digital marketing offering is best positioned to address customer needs?

By asking our customers what they need, and carefully listening to what they tell us. It is not an online/offline discussion, it is orchestration of the value proposition in a way that is integrated and offers meaningful value to our customers and their patients. Personalisation is key. We know that in meeting the medical education and information needs of healthcare practitioners, there is no “one size fits all” solution.

Are you experiencing digital fatigue yet? What are you doing to combat it?

After the months of remote working and lock downs we are all probably tired of Zoom and Teams meetings and miss face to face interactions. Inboxes are full; many feel bombarded with information, and simply choose not to engage. We need to be conscious of this, to understand what information our customers want the most, and where and when they want to receive it.

Content needs to be tailored, made available in different channels, at different times. Throughout all our engagements, we need to create ways to ask, listen and adapt.

What do you hope the key take-aways will be for the (virtual) attendees hearing the session/panel discussions?

For me, acknowledging and listening to the “Voice of the Customer” is crucial, and should be at the heart of everything we do. We need to be respectful of the huge demands that are now on healthcare systems worldwide, and what this means for patients and healthcare professionals. At the same time, I believe that we also offer part of the solution – the ability to advance patient care and transform lives while also helping sustain our healthcare systems when they need us more than ever. Sharing experiences and best practices is very much what our industry needs in the time of crisis. New solutions and innovations are often difficult to develop and will mean change for many. How we positively navigate through those changes – together – will enable more successful outcomes for all of us.

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