Filling the digital gap for pharma

Whenever there is a major paradigm shift in business, there is both a capability and a capacity gap. Rarely do companies have the right people, and enough of them, to fulfill the demands of a new business environment.

This is particularly true of digital marketing for pharma. Pharma management is looking to marketing to build the necessary digital channels to deliver content to healthcare professionals and patients. But marketing is experiencing digital capability and capacity gaps.

Capability: “Do we have the right people to do the work?”
Capacity: “Do we have enough of the right people to do the job?”

Most digital Centers of Excellence (COE) or centralized pharma marketing operations groups are lacking in one or both.


Some COEs are evaluating automated digital tactics and analytics platforms. But there will still be a need for specialists to review marketing data and make intelligent campaign recommendations. To deliver relevant and meaningful recommendations requires a broad set of new digital and analytical capabilities. These new roles include data model architects, multichannel marketing analysts and digital strategists. Also a writer and designer to turn the analysis into English!

The leadership challenge is to understand one’s capability gap and then determine the smallest set of additional capabilities needed to do these jobs. Most of this expertise will come from experienced hires, not internal promotions or lateral moves.


The capacity question asks, “Can we find and hire, train, on-board and retain enough of these experts? How do we meet the demands from both brands and senior management? We need to deliver digital tactics, develop detailed campaign reports and then make recommendations for the next wave. This isn’t easy!”

Experts like these are in high demand, and COE managers are often forced to step into the gap and do the work themselves. As a result, pharma doesn’t get the level of insight they need in a timely way and the COE managers experience a high level of burnout.

What’s the answer to this dilemma?
There is an opportunity for digital agencies to step in and help pharma build both the capabilities and the capacity. Pharma agencies need to help their clients build the managerial and technical abilities to meet these new market needs.

For their part, pharma marketers need to recognize that agencies may be their best short-term, and potentially long-term answer. Many pharma companies have tried to deliver digital through internal departments or individual brand managers. But it takes a unique set of capabilities to draw meaningful conclusions, make specific strategic recommendations and then execute campaigns to improve tactical performance. Most of pharma leadership has come to the conclusion that they don’t have the human resources or expertise to do the marketing analytics and digital implementation themselves.


Perhaps we should consider the dilemma pharma had with R&D productivity 15 years ago. Pharma was resistant to CROs taking over investigative R&D. But then it became increasingly obvious that outsourcing could fill their capability and capacity gaps. Now CROs are key partners with most pharma companies.

So, perhaps we’re at a similar juncture.

Pharma is beginning to show interest in “outsourcing” digital delivery with companies like closerlook. Could outsourcing once again fill pharma’s capability and capacity gap?


Related Thinking

The 3 Questions that Data Should Answer for Successful Pharma Marketing

Related Offering

Multichannel Marketing Reporting



David Ormesher, CEO

Founder and CEO of closerlook, a recognized leader in creating innovative relationship marketing solutions that help pharmaceutical companies get closer to their most important customers. Learn more about closerlook here.

Tags: marketing, pharma

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The drugs, Optistavin, Easovartis and Librylin, and names, results, case studies and specific information, referenced in this advertisement are fictional and were created solely for illustrating the digital marketing capabilities of closerlook, inc. Any resemblance to actual drugs, medications, treatments, persons, living or dead, or to actual events, is purely coincidental. closerlook, inc. does not assume and hereby disclaims any liability to any party for any loss, damage or disruption caused by such party’s reliance on the fictitious information contained in this illustration.

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