6 Strategies to Make CRM Work

Pharma companies struggling with CRM can attain success by avoiding three major roadblocks and recognizing three must-do capabilities.

As companies rush to update their CRM strategies to incorporate social CRM elements, many have yet to master CRM basics. This is as true in pharma as it is in any industry.

At its most basic level, the primary function of a CRM strategy and the system that supports it is to enhance sales force success in developing and maintaining strong customer relationships. In today's dynamic environment, where the focus is on a customer-centric business approach, for any CRM strategy to be successful, pharma companies must have a solid understanding of what their CRM systems can and cannot deliver.

The goal should always be to achieve a unified customer view: it is essential to enabling a sales force and, ultimately, company success. However, believing that it can be done with CRM alone is wishful thinking. Before implementing CRM, companies must consider some important factors: what to avoid and what to seek. These factors determine the opportunities a CRM strategy could provide as the pharmaceutical industry continues to evolve.

3 Stumbling Blocks to Avoid

1. Know how you will calculate ROI: Many past CRM failures hinged on the lack of a clear strategy and understanding of how to calculate true ROI. Additionally, traditional CRM deployments have generally been led by IT, further disconnecting the objectives from the corporate and customer strategies the system was meant to support. Go into your CRM initiative with your eyes wide open and clearly articulate a strategy that aligns to business objectives (not your vendor's spec sheet).

2. Begin with good data: Historically, the data housed in a pharma CRM system has not been of the highest quality. This can often be the case for systems that rely heavily on user-entered data. Incorrect data involves misspelled names, bad addresses, and at its worst, fabricated information. There are also cases when data becomes outdated or misaligned and is no longer an accurate reflection of the customer relationship. Poor data quality leads to poor analytics and, ultimately, poor execution and decisions.

3. Don't let the name fool you: Many of today's CRM systems are missing the primary component: the customer. Traditional CRM is very much based on data collection-housing and tracking customer information and activity-all of which is used to better target various customers. But they lack any substantive collaboration tools to engage customers. This leads to one-way communication between a brand and the customer. Reps will continue to maintain the relationships (e.g., trust and rapport) with physicians and drive engagement. CRM is a support mechanism for engaging customers, not a replacement.

3 Ways CRM Can Succeed:

1. Real-time, actionable information: CRM systems are a critical part of any CRM strategy and provide a number of high-valued functions. When deployed correctly (with good data and a proper ROI strategy) they can maintain your customer master of accounts. At their best, CRM systems provide the home office with critical real-time information and activity from the field, so the company can be more responsive to customers. CRM can result in deeper relationships with key customers, increased sales, more effective and targeted marketing, and better determination of sales force ROI.

2. Enriching CRM data: Enriched multidimensional customer data is the most important tool you can provide your field when enabling value-added interactions with your customers. The data stored in your CRM system plays a large part in understanding your customer influences, local and personal prescribing characteristics, and overall relationship strength with your customers. By integrating your CRM data with information across an increasing number of channels-including closed-loop marketing systems, managed markets, contracting, and incentive compensation-sales operations teams can create timely, accurate, and targeted insights tailored to your sales force and home-office users.

3. Bringing the benefits of social to the customer relationship: CRM strategy is evolving. The current trends in pharma put a premium on physician access and rely on a change in rep-to-physician engagement focused on value creation. We also live in a more social environment, which enables more collaboration, transparency, and engagement. Advocacy and experience are crucial components of maintaining a relationship, which all revolve around the customer. In the social CRM model, the customer is the focal point of how an organization operates. Instead of marketing or pushing messages to customers, brands can now talk to and collaborate with customers to solve problems. This ultimately will empower customers to shape their own experiences and build relationships with your company. This is the secret to turning a customer into a vocal advocate.

CRM strategy and its supporting systems can bring huge value to pharma companies, as long as pharma executives remember that CRM is not meant to be an end point. It's a critical functional asset to the sales process and an entry point to engaging with customers. Your CRM data is invaluable, and by enriching it you create a better understanding of your customer, leading to more compelling, local, and personalized interactions.