SAS advances CRM remedy for pharmaceuticals vertical

Less than a year after the release of its first hosted CRM solution, which was designed for online retailers, business intelligence vendor SAS is unveiling a second hosted solution; this time for pharmaceutical companies who are looking to gain insight on their direct-to-consumer advertising efforts.

IntelliVisor for Pharmaceuticals boasts analytic capabilities that will help pharmaceutical companies test marketing programs and build brand awareness, an attractive benefit in an industry where consumer trust is so critical. SearchCRM had a chance to speak with Richard Roach, VP of Worldwide e-Business Strategy at SAS, and Chris Glass, Marketing Strategist with SAS's Pharmaceutical Practice, about the company's endeavors.

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Why did SAS decide to target the pharmaceutical industry?
Pharmaceutical companies already rely on SAS analysis tools in their clinical R & D to prove the safety and efficacy of their drugs. These companies trust us as a vendor and so that affinity was already there.

How does SAS IntelliVisor for Pharmaceuticals help companies achieve brand awareness?
We apply data mining capabilities to the Web sites of these companies and we look for patterns to determine whether the content is being consumed by the visitors in the right way. We build segments and strive to understand those segments, which helps us understand the payoffs. Obviously, businesses want to have the most trusted name, so understanding what consumers want becomes very critical to them. Why did SAS decide to target the pharmaceutical industry?
From there, we started looking at other areas of concern that pharmaceuticals have on the customer and marketing side, those stages after the R & D where they need to establish brand awareness. For example, once they have a drug ready for market, how do they effectively make sure that people understand that drug? In the last few years, this has become more of a direct-to-consumer scenario. Where pharmaceuticals used to make visits to physicians and hope to gain market awareness that way, they are now charged with making their brand known through their own means, and the Internet is a major vehicle. So they're starting to get a little more savvy about what Web site content matters to what people. How do the needs of the pharmaceutical industry differ from the needs of other vertical industries and how did you address those needs in this offering?
In pharmaceuticals, you have a lot more information that you're trying to understand about the consumer. It's more about matching specific content with a visitor's problems. Patterns in behavior are studied a lot more closely -- it's a much more complex thing to understand than just "I want a pair of shoes."

How many specific companies are currently using the package?
We've got about 20 customer sites already running. Does SAS have intentions to roll out other vertical solutions?
We had some customer validation about a financials solution. We're investigating several areas within financials. And we're prepared to release another industry-specific solution every six months. Development cycles are long in the software market, but not with the ASP model.

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How do the needs of the pharmaceutical industry differ from the needs of other vertical industries and how did you address those needs in this offering?
Another thing to consider is the business need behind why pharmaceuticals are interested in direct to consumer advertising. When a company files a patent on a drug, they have 20 years, and when that 20 years is over, generic manufacturers can sell it, which means profits will start to go downhill. It costs millions of dollars over many years to bring a new drug to market. So, pharmaceuticals have to make sure they are leveraging marketing dollars effectively. The brand becomes everything.

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