Words by Isabel O’Brien
In the middle part of this year, it was near impossible to brew your morning coffee before encountering talk of ‘the new normal’. The phrase polluted televisions, radios, and newspapers. Zoom was alight with strategy meetings to decipher how this new state of affairs would be navigated. What was less talked about was KPIs and how the new normal would impact both their structure and usage.
This absence from thought was best encapsulated during an interview at Cannes Lions Live 2020 with Bozoma Saint John, who was, at that time, CMO, Endeavor. When asked about what success metrics her company were using amidst the pandemic, she laughs: “Success is still being alive. Success is still having a business at the end of this thing.”
However, now that the shockwaves have plateaued and businesses have had to time adjust, a refocus has taken place. Talk of the new normal has waned into acceptance, and industries, including the pharmaceutical industry, are taking active steps to develop fresh success metrics for the new era.
“Measuring KPIs is about measuring progress towards goals. Irrespective of circumstances and changing environments, our ability to define what we are trying to accomplish and have a way of moving closer to that is critical,” says Nikos Georgiades, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Digital Commercial Execution, Novartis.
For pharma’s commercial arm, revisions have been particularly important. Restrictions on travel and reduced clinician availability have called for new, digital methods of engagement and identifying KPIs to track these interactions has been key for healthy business continuation.
“When digital interactions were seen as a mere support act to the main business of speaking face-to-face with customers, the focus was perhaps more on ‘reach’ metrics for all interactions… But with little or no face-to-face interaction, we must use digital KPIs to track our conversion rate. Such as, has visiting our website changed the customer’s view about our product? Did our webinar have an impact on prescribing habits, whether they attended or viewed on-demand?” says Kay Wesley, CEO, Kanga Health. “In addition, to understand our conversion-rate we must also track engagement – how interesting was this content? How relevant was that interaction to the customer? Furthermore, to achieve the required number of conversions, we must still reach enough customers in the first place. So, to succeed, we must now track KPIs for reach, engagement, and conversion,” she continues.
Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has invalidated many of the monthly targets and 5-year plans that were in place for commercial teams, it has also acted as a catalyst for developing new and more thorough KPIs, which align more closely with pharma’s digital future.
“No one knows when this pandemic will end, or what our industry will look like at the end of it. Positives can be taken from how we have adapted our business practices (as an industry) over the previous 6 months and we will have to show similar flexibility in setting KPIs in the future,” says Chris Lawson, Managing Partner, Orientation Marketing.
Georgiades shares an aligned future outlook: “We will certainly not revert back to the fully traditional measures and KPIs, but instead we expect that a combination of old and new KPIs will measure progress, efficiency, and effectiveness of our efforts.”
We expect that a combination of old and new KPIs will measure progress, efficiency, and effectiveness of our efforts
We may be so deeply engrossed in the new normal that it no longer feels like an adjustment, but the industry has undergone a transformation and KPIs have proved to be the dial on the compass that is keeping commercial teams on track for their goals. As Wesley concludes: “Only by tracking the right KPIs can we work in this nimble yet effective way to build a business fit for the future.”