UCB’s Five Tips for Evolving Your Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

Jennifer Tolley, head of omnichannel and digital marketing at UCB

Days into my new role as head of omnichannel and digital marketing at UCB, a non-marketing colleague genuinely asked, “What’s our omnichannel roadmap, and when will we get there?” It was the perfect time to share my perspective that omnichannel isn’t a destination, but rather an ongoing state of operation.

I explained that omnichannel is composed of three parts: current state activation, your organization’s vision, and transformation (how you’ll bridge the gap between current and vision). Our success would depend on evolving — not disrupting — what we’re doing. We’ll try things, learn, and pivot; after all, our customers’ needs aren’t static so our omnichannel marketing plans needn’t be either. Changes to the roadmap are best made collaboratively.

Operating in omnichannel

Early on, I learned that our omnichannel foundation was solid, reflecting pockets of great work and even best practices in customer journey, segmentation, and targeting. For me, the real question was: “What data, technology, and frameworks do we have in place today, and what will we need going forward, to truly put the customer at the heart of everything that we do?”

At UCB, our omnichannel processes and methods have matured and will continue to do so as we “operate in omnichannel.” With that in mind, I’m sharing a few things to think about, no matter your location on the omnichannel marketing journey.

Workshop it to define it

I’m often asked where to begin — even how to define omnichannel. Biopharma companies of varied sizes and product compositions will have nuances that make each journey unique, but we must start somewhere. When I joined UCB, we began simply by brainstorming. We listed activities we were already doing, did due diligence about competitors’ tactics, and even considered ideas from less regulated industries that we’d read about online. We tossed out those we could never do and highlighted those we could try. Our premise: no idea is a bad idea.

Next, we grouped winning ideas into individual work streams, asking the team, “Who wants to own what?” Some assignments were based on a team member’s oversight of a brand or product, some people selected areas of interest. Some ideas were piloted, and more than a few dropped off our radar. Prioritization is critical – you can’t do it all, and you certainly can’t do it all at once.

We laid out key milestones and deliverables for each work stream, first noting where we are today in each instance, and then planned the following quarters and the next year. Clear accountability across each work stream became part of our roadmap. Last but not least, we identified and tapped leaders and teams deeply ingrained in our company’s business who know their stuff like no one else — leading to my next recommendation.

Involve the right people early and often

“Omni” means “all.” Here, it refers to all channels, of course. But I like to think it means all relevant stakeholders, too. Marketers are the brand experts with lots of data about personas, pain points, and behaviors. It’s tempting for us to jump right to strategy or implementation when speed and results are prized.

Although marketing teams will create and deploy campaigns, much of the work in omnichannel will depend on others. Unless we educate and engage internal leaders and stakeholders from the start, we stand to lose precious resources down the road, and even damage reputations. As a result, we enlisted stakeholders before we launched into new tactics and strategies, involving the following functions:

  • IT
  • commercial data and analytics
  • brand partners
  • agencies
  • sales
  • medical
  • customer support
  • analytics
  • learning and development

Finally, there’s an essential outcome when you involve the right stakeholders: it increases your chances of avoiding a “bolt-on approach.” This serves two goals: 1) key input surfaces problems early on and aids in intentional planning for vulnerabilities and variability; and 2) to truly create a customer-centric approach, it is critical that omnichannel and digital are embedded in everything we do, across all functions, not bolted on.

Now, we summarize and communicate our progress and opportunities for improvement not just with primary stakeholders, but at all levels of the organization.

Avoid marketing speak

It sounds simple, but avoiding jargon and buzzwords around omnichannel has been a big win at UCB. When we think deeply about what matters to stakeholders and give them context via straight talk, we can more rapidly articulate what we’re asking for. That, in turn, expedites buy-in.

Here’s an example from a team discussion with stakeholders in multiple regions about cultural differences affecting initiatives: What worked: “Some omnichannel tactics will work for us only in the U.S., and some will work globally. Here they are…” What didn’t: “UCB operationalizes omnichannel differently globally based on market dynamics, cultural differences, and regulations but is consistent with KPIs where we need to be.”

Even words like roadmap and work stream can mean different things to your non-marketing colleagues and can drive your discussions and plans off track. Be as clear and inclusive as possible, preparing colleagues for change — which is the topic of my next guide point.

Tap into principles of change management

At UCB, we believe omnichannel is a fundamental change in the way we strategize and serve customers. We also know that ensuring stakeholders and teams remain invested long-term is the only way to move forward. Change management requires education, empowerment, and transparency to foster trust. It also requires ongoing and consistent communication on where we are and where we’re headed. This is an ongoing work in process, but laying the foundation is step one.

Stay accountable to agreed-upon milestones

Teams that hold themselves accountable agree to work in a measurable way, sharing their metrics and results. Don’t forget: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your omnichannel strategy won’t be either; crafting your vision and breaking the steps to get there into bite-sized chunks and milestones is much more palatable than seeking to do it all at once.

By this point in your omnichannel planning, you’ve already done the hard work of identifying the key performance indicators and perhaps you’ve even netted some results. Next, ensure that you showcase the data. Key stakeholders should know how and where to find it, and assigned team members should be accessible for questions and concerns.

Remember that despite our best intentions, the best-laid plans can go awry. Leaders, stakeholders, and teams understand. You can mitigate omnichannel marketing delays and disappointments, however, using these tips:

  • Build in space for curveballs and reprioritization
  • Plan for what tasks/deliverables come off the list when new ones are added
  • Communicate the plan for communicating delays, cancellations, or other significant changes; and when these things occur, communicate quickly and transparently

As a final thought, I encourage you to share your wins. We want all stakeholders to see all parts of the process, have a voice, and be excited to participate as they see progress.

Listen to the Leader Spotlight session with Jennifer Tolley.

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