3 Ways Life Sciences Brand Managers Can Tame Multichannel Delivery Chaos
Originally Published on PM360 Online
In today’s industry, life sciences brand managers are expected to take on so many different roles that excelling in all of them is nearly impossible. They are required to be everything from a Brand Strategist, to a Customer Engagement Strategist and at times they’re asked to be a Multichannel Delivery Manager.
While the health marketing ecosystem continues to grow more complex, so do the expectations of brand manager knowledge and capability. By some estimates, more than 54 discrete HCP and patient channels are available to brand managers today.
In fact, recent studies point to a growing “digital knowledge” gap as one of the biggest challenges facing life sciences marketers. According to one study, only 18% of life sciences companies are satisfied with their digital marketing programs.
This expansion of brand manager responsibilities and the knowledge gap that results have had adverse effects on brand performance. While it may be difficult to quantify, the problems surface with turnover rates, poorly designed programs, project delays, and overages. The problem is particularly acute in mid-size and smaller life sciences companies because they often lack well-developed support for the brand manager. This issue also affects larger organizations whose support departments aren’t adequately staffed or integrated with the brand teams.
The ideal solution should start with relieving the time brand managers spend on the strategic aspects of their job (brand and customer engagement strategy). By reducing the time they spend on multichannel delivery, (tactic scoping, partner management, cross-work stream integration and scheduling), brand managers can still add the greatest value because they’re not doing all this extra work.
Consider using any of these three support models for brand teams in multichannel delivery management:
1: The Agency of Record
The most common option is to ask your Agency of Record (AOR) to manage execution across all channels.
This can be an effective solution in an environment with a limited number of tactics and agency partners, as the agency lead needs only to manage their team and a few other stakeholders. This model works well when the program is aligned with the core competencies of that agency (e.g., content creation and creative development).
When there are many different tactics requiring multiple specialist vendors (e.g., social media, technology, mobile, etc.), the AOR model faces challenges. It is often costly to use the AOR to oversee cross program multichannel delivery – it typically requires multiple points of escalation and associated staff allocations.The skillsets of an Account or Delivery lead will most likely be aligned with that specific agency’s core focus. For example, it is unrealistic to expect the lead of a strategy and content focused agency to foresee and proactively manage risks in a technologically complex effort such as the development of a website on a new CMS platform.
Another potential hurdle could come about as inevitable conflicts arise between agencies, internal teams, or other stakeholders. The AOR may have a bias toward the solution that most benefits their organization. When this occurs, the only point of escalation is the brand manager. In order to effectively arbitrate conflict, they will need an understanding of the details of the decision, forcing them to make partially informed decisions. As result, the brand manager is frequently pulled back into day-to-day management.
2: Internal Support from IT or a “CoE”
Another option for staffing delivery management is to use a centralized internal team. This can come from IT or a multichannel group or digital center of excellence (CoE).
A project manager assigned from an internal IT group is usually well versed in the organization’s internal structure and processes, and highly trained in IT best practices.
The IT project manager is rarely experienced in end to end, multichannel marketing best practices. They may be very effective in the technical aspects of the aforementioned website build on a new CMS platform, but it is unlikely that they will be effective in executing the integrated social media campaign that goes along with the website’s launch. This knowledge gap creates risks across projects that must be mitigated by someone, most often pulling the brand manager back into daily risk management.
Using an internal digital or multichannel CoE is another solution for brand managers.
The analyst/strategist can be a very valuable addition to the team in shaping strategy, sharing best practices from across the organization, and providing company guidelines.
They may be a “square peg in a round hole” when tasked with keeping a multichannel, multi-organization campaign execution on track, as they will lack the skills and knowledge to effectively navigate the inter-agency politics, which will result in the brand manager being pulled in to navigate those challenges. It’s essential for brand managers to ensure the resources assigned to support them are truly Delivery Managers, and not Digital Strategists, Business Analysts or subject matter experts who lack delivery management skills.
3: Hiring a Delivery Management Consultancy
The third option is to hire an outside multichannel delivery consultancy to direct delivery management activity across the brand’s marketing efforts.
This model provides delivery staff with the knowledge and skills to direct delivery across all channels and tactics. As an unbiased third-party focused on delivery management, they will not have a political agenda to generate new work and can effectively manage internal and external stakeholders across each of the various tactics. If sufficiently empowered, your delivery team can act as a filter for the brand, resolving many points of contention and finding unbiased and balanced resolution to issues. This allows the brand managers to focus on strategy and only participate in the execution phase to make brand impacting decisions, rather than being bogged down in the day-to-day details of tactical delivery.
This model requires contracting with a separate entity and in order for it to work, the brand team must empower its partner to work with the other partners, make decisions, and be the leaders of the collective team.
Each of the three models have their benefits and drawbacks in providing delivery management support, but each option helps free the brand manager from day-to-day delivery management.
When the campaign does not have a large number of stakeholders and aligns with the core competency of the AOR, it is likely that there will be success in managing that campaign. When the campaign is a constrained, is technically deep like an update to a platform or website, the IT group within the organization will have the appropriate resources. If the centralized commercial services group has strong, experienced multichannel Delivery Managers who are comfortable managing the various agencies servicing the brand, then leveraging that service is likely the most efficient solution.
Whenever a situation consists of a wide variety of tactics and specialist partners, an outsourced delivery management consultancy can accelerate speed to market, create cost and process efficiencies, while freeing up a brand manager’s time.