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  • Writer's pictureKarsten Schmidt

Strategic considerations to successfully embark on digital transformations journeys

According to the latest Across Health Maturometer study of 2021, 27% of marketing budgets are actually being allocated to digital initiatives compared to only 14% seven years ago. At the same time, the surveyed Biopharma companies reported that the most important bottleneck for digital initiatives in their organizations is due to a lack of specific internal knowledge. Therefore, we have invited Joaquín Pais for an interview to find out his perspective on digital transformation in Life Sciences. Joaquin has been CEO of ShowerThinking for the last 14 years, providing strategic consultancy and technical implementation support for Life Sciences companies on their digital transformation journeys.

Karsten: Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Joaquín. From your perspective, how far has Life Sciences industry progressed lately in their digital transformation compared to other industries?

Joaquín: From my perspective, Healthcare and Pharma have traditionally been considered laggards in this transformation. There were several digital initiatives before 2020, but now it is clear that the sector is changing the pace of digital transformation. For many companies this topic is gaining key strategic relevance at board level.

Today, new projects are on top of the lists in terms of priority, whereas inexistent two years ago. Think about Customer Experience, SalesForce Marketing Cloud, webinar platforms, Marketing Automation or Artificial Intelligence. The sector is looking for new engagement models with HCPs and patients and everyone is looking for the best model that fits into their company.

Karsten: How would you describe different maturity stages that Life Sciences companies possess in their customer engagement approaches?

Joaquín: We usually consider the diagram below in every new customer engagement with Healthcare and Pharma companies. We accompany this plan during five steps when we work with Digital transformation leads, Multichannel Managers or Marketing teams.

Illustration of Engagement maturity and channel coordination requirements

Before moving one step further, the previous one must be consolidated and digested inside the company. We see many failed implementations because although the company considered a step already done, only a partial technical solution is in place. Often, no operational model is implemented inside the company. Resources and training are key factors in order to progress appropriately.

Karsten: What are the main obstacles that Life Sciences companies face when they try to move up on the maturity stages of customer engagements?

Joaquín: In my view there is not enough internal knowledge inside companies about the exact requirements or needs. Too many Healthcare and Pharma companies try to solve customer engagement complexities by focusing on technical implementation projects. But, in order to build solid customer experience roadmaps the collaboration of many disciplines like UX (User Experience), Marketing Automation Campaigns, Digital analytics amongst others is required.

Karsten: You certainly have accompanied a couple of Life Sciences companies on their evolution to higher engagement maturity? How long did these journeys last until reaching a satisfactory level of implementation and what were important key learnings along the way?

Joaquín: If you consider that some companies operate over several regions (Europe, USA, Canada and APAC) you will soon realize that the pace of customer experience programs is different depending on the market. We always focus on achieving business results and explain the internal organizations how to operate in this new model. Our goal is that teams evolve their skills and gain independence with each new journey or campaign. Anyway, the kind of engagement we maintain is at least one year to reach appropriate results.

One of our key learnings obtained is the need to create a systematic approach in the operational model when a new journey or campaign is launched. In some companies we have developed an internal best practices framework where key stakeholders follow and suggest the optimal implementation of a journey in a specific market. Both tactics together are aimed at solving scalability issues that we can face when we over-personalize a customer experience project.

Karsten: The Across Health Maturometer study also shows that the level of HCP satisfaction with digital reaching 41% in 2021 is still relatively low. What do you think are the main reasons for that?

Joaquín: I see that several companies are misunderstanding customer experience projects with implementing new platforms/technologies. They are usually working with IT consultancy companies with the hope that after the implementation phase, the customer experience will improve but this is not the case. A more comprehensive approach and a new way of internal organization is needed to target these new challenges. Regarding the organization, the more you advance in the engagement maturity process, the more you need different cross-functional teams to collaborate. Some of them have a marketing focus, while others focus on technology or commercial excellence related tasks. Regarding the approach, with customer experience projects a major shift from push to pull campaigns or inbound marketing campaigns needs to be understood and implemented.

Karsten: To what degree have you seen the shift from push to pull campaigns work effectively with your clients?

Joaquín: In Healthcare & Pharma we still see some misconceptions about pull campaigns, but they are the standard option in other sectors. For us, pull campaigns combined with other cycle plan campaigns have generated one of the best marketing and sales results. We have some case studies where the level of engagement and interaction with HCPs are above any other push campaign. There is usually more effort involved in the creation of pull content campaigns since the journeys tend to be more complex and the personalization options more complete, but customers usually reward those types of campaigns since they maintain a more natural flow of communication.

Karsten: Field representatives might perceive digital customer engagements as a threat to their role of having regular face-to- face customer interactions. What is the best way to address this concern?

Joaquín: Customer engagements are not going to be the same as before the pandemic. HCPs from different sectors have understood that a more efficient way of interaction with Pharma companies is possible. I don't mean that it would disappear, just the opposite, as in other industries it will keep a key importance but just in a timely manner. I foresee that digital interactions merged with rep activities will be most successful.

Karsten: Thank you, Joaquín for sharing your point of view regarding this in current times highly relevant topic in current times.

In summary, we can say that moving up the maturity ladder on customer engagements requires that all functions involved need to clearly map out the requirements with the aim of building better customer experiences. This goes significantly beyond solving technical implementation challenges. Combing push and pull campaigns increase complexity in customer journeys but at the same time pave the way to better marketing and sales results. Rep activities are here to stay and need to be combined with smart digital interactions that help improve the overall customer experience.

What are your experiences/recommendations in terms of moving up the maturity ladder of customer engagements?

For further reference please reach out to or


Xeleratio Consulting Ltd.

We help Life Sciences executives improve sales performance with innovative best-in-class Business Excellence tools and methodologies . Expertise in Business Excellence has been gained with over 12 years of working in different global and regional roles in the Life Sciences industry.


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