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10 Top Tips for Successfully Engaging Customers In An Omnichannel Way

With ‘Omnichannel’ being a current buzzword, our Uptake’s Marketing Communications Director, Amelia Hutchins has compiled a list of 10 Top Tips for successfully engaging customers in an omnichannel way, which you can read below. If you have any other specific areas that you want us to cover, or if you’d like some more information, please get in touch with us at hello@uptakestrategies.com.

1. Identify your customer segments

The first step in any omnichannel plan is to identify and prioritise who you want to engage with.  Omnichannel engagement requires highly personalised interactions so clear customer segmentation is critical.  Segments also need to be distinct and not too broad.  Cardiologists would be a customer group but too broad to be categorised as a useful segment for omnichannel engagement.

Once the segments have been identified they then need to prioritised.  This might be done based on a number of factors such as prescribing power, intent to prescribe, influence etc.

As you develop your plan you will need to consider how to engage with each segment.  Most likely you will use the higher value and cost interactions, such as fieldforce, for your top priority segments.  Lower priority segments will more likely be reached via more cost-effective channels such as social media or email.

2. Ensure the team is set up to work cross-functionally

One of the biggest barriers to successful omnichannel engagement is siloed working.  As such the sooner you have your team set up and functioning as a truly cross-functional team the better. As you develop your omnichannel plans and engagement always ensure all the internal stakeholders are involved as relevant.

Set out clear roles and responsibilities for everyone in the team. Traditionally some roles, such as the fieldforce, will have had limited involvement at the start of planning.  Today however these roles can provide very useful insights and inputs into elements such as personas and content.  Their ability to successfully orchestrate omnichannel engagement is also enhanced if they are included early in the process.

You also want to make sure your team is trained and prepared as early as possible too.  If for example your field force is not aware of best practice email, or your medical team is not experienced in social media, they will need training prior to launch.

3. Gather Insights

Insights form the foundation of all customer engagement.  The better you understand your customers the better you can meet their needs and communicate with them.  Today there are so many opportunities to gather deep customer insights.

1. First there is classic market research and purchased research reports. Today this should, in most cases, also include social listening.

2. Secondly there is often a wealth of insights sitting internally. Data from previous engagements should be included.  This could include digital interactions and preferences, for example.  Team members with primary interactions should also include their own insights and customer understanding.

3. Thirdly one of the best sources of insights are the customers themselves. Whenever possible ask and include them.  This could be in the early stages of developing a plan, e.g. around channel prioritisation.  It could also be later to co-create or validate tactics and content.

4. Develop customer personas

Customer personas are semi-fictional depictions of your customer segments based on data and insights.  They should include behaviours and preferences.  They should be customer centric and developed with the customer in mind, not the brand. To a degree the more personas you have the more personalised an offering you can deliver.

Personas are important because they:

  • Ensure everyone has the same view of the customer
  • Help the team to emphasize with the customer
  • Help the team understand the customer needs and preferences
  • Support the identification of solutions and content to better support customers

Personas should be referred to frequently and not just at the start of the process.  Reviewing personas regularly can help you to identify new challenges, desires and potential engagement enhancements

5. Create omnichannel engagement goals

Once you have your personas you want to start thinking about what you want to achieve with each persona.  You also need to understand what it is you are trying to achieve overall.  Establish clear goals and objectives that you will measure against.

It is also good practice to develop customer objectives.  These are written from the customer’s perspective rather than the brand perspective.  They help ensure your activities are customer centric and meet the customer’s needs.  These should also be referred to on a regular basis.

E.g.  a typical brand objective might be “Ensure Brand X’s superior efficacy is understood by GPs” versus a customer objective might be “I choose Brand X as I believe it’s greater efficacy means fewer relapses and follow ups for my patients”

6. Identify and activate all your engagement elements

Omnichannel engagement is far more complex than traditional engagement.  There are now so many more channels to consider.  Content demands have increased exponentially.  Timing and cadence of engagement can be critical.  This may all feel overwhelming but don’t worry!  careful planning and preparation makes it less daunting.  You will also find with time you gain experience, and it will just become part of your normal routine.

The adage “Content is King” is just as important today as it was 20 years ago when Bill Gates first uttered these words.  Successful omnichannel engagement requires a steady stream of personalised content.  Digital channels require content that is structured into smaller, “bite-size” chunks.  There is also a far higher need for visually stimulating content.  Our customers are also consumers, and they have certain expectations in terms of content, based on what they experience from other industries.

Given the importance of content it is advised to start with looking at your content.

  • What are your messages?
  • What are the keywords?
  • What stories are you trying to tell?
  • What is the sequence and cadence of your content?
  • What are your content modules?
  • How can you convey your information in an impactful way?
  • What formats resonate with your customers?
  • How can you make your content channel agnostic to improve ROI?

Then you need to think about which channels you will use to disseminate your message.  Base this decision on your persona preferences.  Whilst you do want to also consider which channels you are currently active on you may need to change or reassess this as customer’s preferences change.  You need to “fish where the fish are” not where you want to be.  There is still a disconnect in the level and quality of digital engagement from pharmaceutical companies versus doctors’ digital preferences.

Your channel selection will also be impacted by elements such as your budget and customer prioritisation.  You will probably want to have a good mix of owned, earned, and paid channels.

Another important element to consider are 3rd party activities and events.  You will want to identify when the key events are that your customers are interested in.  Of these you should consider which you will attend in person.  Other events you may not attend in person but may want to optimise some of your online activity around, e.g., paid promotion or social media.

It is also worth identifying who the online influencers are that you may want to work or partner with.  These may be physicians or patients and they can be a great resource for co-creation.  Alternatively, do you want to support any of your KOLs in becoming online influencers?

As all of these starts to come together you will need to start considering your resources, timing and planning.  Look at how you allocate your budget based on your content and channel plans.  Ensure you have enough budget set aside to adapt and optimise your engagement as you progress.

At this point you also want to start activating your activities.  Your approvals teams also need to be ready.  You should have your creative agencies developing your content.  Elements such as welcome emails or pre-approved responses should be finalised and approved.  Any new digital channels need to be set up and tested.

7. Orchestrate your customer journeys

Now that you have engagement elements identified and activated you need to start planning your customer journeys.  This involves planning the cadence of content and tactics.  Consider the steps your customers will take as they progress along this journey.

  • How will you grab interest or initiate the journey?
  • How will the messages drive the desired change in behaviour from one step to the next?
  • Once you have grabbed a customer’s initial interest what content do you want them to see next?
  • Which channel will this happen on?
  • What are the steps in your digital journeys?

Consider the wide variety of possibilities.  Customer journeys are rarely linear today.  Rather they tend to jump channels and may not follow your planned cadence.  You will need to have plans that can be agile and fluid to deal with the reality of omnichannel engagement.

You also need to consider how you will measure your activities and journeys.  Make sure you have clear impact and diagnostic KPIs set up.

8. Ensure systems, data and analytics are set up and ready

Another foundational element to omnichannel engagement is technology.  In order to gather your insights, you need to make sure that your systems are set up correctly and interconnected.  Data coming in from your field force should feed into a centralised system along with other data such as email or website metrics.

Make sure that everyone has access to the right data and dashboards.  Your field force for example should be able to see if an HCP engaged with a digital asset prior to the call.  The data will need to be checked on a regular basis, in some cases daily.

Omnichannel engagement is driven by AI and automation technology, for example suggesting the next best action for an individual customer.  These systems also need to set up and fed with the correct data.  If a customer is directed to the wrong piece of content, for example, they may lose interest or unsubscribe.

9. Press play: run your omnichannel engagement programme!

At this point the hard work is done and you are ready to go!   There may be teething problems, or you may feel like you are not ready but do not be discouraged.  We live in an agile world where it is better to get started with something that may not be 100% perfect.  As long as you have understood your customers and feel you are delivering them value from the start you will soon be able to amend and improve your experience.

10. Monitor, measure, adapt and optimise

This is where the importance of monitoring and measurement comes in.  You and your team will need to keep a close eye on the activities and monitor the data coming in.  Be ready to adapt quickly.

If an activity is not working identify why.  Consider if it needs to be amended or terminated.  Similarly, if an activity is doing better than planned consider how to optimise it further.  Perhaps place some promotional money behind it.

Feed these insights into your plans and adapt them.  As you learn, amend your content and tactics.  Reorganise you resources as dictated by what you see.  Ask your customers what works for them or what they would change, and act accordingly.

No plan will ever remain the same but that is part of the excitement of omnichannel!  It is a continuous learning experience and if done well delivers value to all stakeholders.  Let the technology do the heavy lifting for you, while you focus on the strategy and applying the insights.  Work together a cross-functional team, supporting each other.  Always go back to your customer and your persona and you will be sure to succeed.

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