Episode 4: Ben Tilly

EPISODE 4: Ben Tilly – Practicus Digital Transformation Podcast

We are joined by Ben Tilly, a hands-on digital transformation leader with over 20 years commercial experience. Having started out in web design, he soon moved into the world of marketing working for Apple and the BBC before finding his passion in the life sciences sector over 10 years ago. Having led numerous digital and multi-channel campaigns successfully, we talk to him about the challenges of digital marketing in the pharma and life sciences industries.

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James Rowson 0:02
Hello, everyone, I’m James Rowson.

David Kemble 0:04
And I’m Dave Kemble. And this is the Practicus

James Rowson 0:07
Digital transformation podcast.

David Kemble 0:23
Hello, and welcome to the latest show in the Practicus Digital Podcast Series. Today we are joined by a good friend of mine, Ben Tilly. Ben is a hands on digital healthcare leader with over 20 years commercial experience. Having started out in web design, he soon moved into the world of E marketing, before finding his passion in the life sciences sector over 10 years ago, he has led numerous digital and multi channel campaigns successfully, and is an all round great bloke, Ben, great to have you with us. Thanks, Dave. So what does digital mean to you?

Ben Tilly 0:57
It’s an interesting question. I think digital probably means a different thing, every single day of my job. But ultimately, I think it probably is be distinguished as what we’re trying to do in terms of multi channel versus omni channel. So traditionally, I think we’ve been in a situation where we’ve had all these digital tools given to us. And we’ve basically done push marketing to customers in a bit of an ad hoc way. So that’s multi channel, which is very much, which is the channel we use a bit of material to convey across that channel. At the customer, I think they these days are numbered. And I think that’s pretty old fashioned in its thinking. And I think where we got to get to nowadays, is this omni channel approach where the customer is at the center of what we’re doing. And it’s much more of a poor marketing say, essentially, what we’re trying to do is send across communications to the customer at the time that they want it, rather than the time that we feel we need to just push it across.

David Kemble 2:05
Interesting, I remember when we’ve spoken in the past, you almost don’t like the word digital, you’ve found it to be a puts people

Ben Tilly 2:14
yeah, I think that is the case, I think it’s, it could be a bit of a barrier to transformation in organization, especially when you’ve got people that are very used to working in traditional marketing, ways of working within marketing. And all of a sudden, they’ve got all these new technologies. And I think what needs to be conveyed to to a lot of people is actually the way of working hasn’t really changed in terms of the mindset, what we’re trying to do, which is, you know, the customer comes first, obviously, in terms of what we’re, you know, in terms of the materials need to be fit for purpose? Say, I think, yeah, so digital probably is a bit of a double edged sword in that respect, where it certainly has connotations of tackiness, and new ways of working. And that’s definitely scary for a lot of people. So, you know, given that it’s so intrinsic in our everyday working lives now in our personal lives, almost doesn’t need to be said, it’s just, it’s just there isn’t enough like oxygen, or it just doesn’t, yeah, he talks about.

James Rowson 3:21
Yeah, I mean, Ben, you’ve you’ve worked in digital marketing for quite some time now. But I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on on your experiences, have you? Have you seen any major differences between the sector’s you know, do some approach it, you know, in a very different way to others. I feel like playing

Ben Tilly 3:37
catch up in pharma, I think, traditionally is pretty good about a 10 year gap, where, you know, having worked for the likes of apple and IBM and the BBC. You know, back back in 2002, or three, when I was working for Apple, we were creating personas for your digital marketing activities, and really thinking about that customer journey using digital. So thinking about things like email and their journey to the website, and then you know, what their behaviors were on the websites and then get in a sales call to kind of really accommodate that person’s needs. And based on their behaviors, you know, that just hasn’t ever been done in farmer and certainly since 2011, till very recently. So I think that’s probably the biggest difference. Now, I think we’re playing catch up. And he’s saying the company that I work for, I’ve seen some huge strides just in the last year that I’ve been there, where we’ve certainly aligned ourselves to that non formal way of working where it goes back to what I was saying earlier on about omni channel where we’re thinking more in terms of customer experience, rather than a multi channel marketing approach.

David Kemble 4:55
Do you think that’s down to the risk averse nature of the pharmaceutical Life Sciences sector that they haven’t got to where other sectors are?

Ben Tilly 5:05
Yeah, I mean certainly is risk averse, there’s this element of risk averse, absolutely. But I think because of the whole nature of materials being signed off in the way that works with any effort needed to launch campaign visits to outside the farm is fairly straightforward, within farming times that by a factor of five or six times, maybe that’s an estimate. But certainly, there’s several layers of complexity that need to get over to get the basics down, you’ve got so much red tape, I suppose the best way to describe it, where you’ve got to get everything signed up by a medical person, in several ways of signatories, abide by codes of practice, and you’re forever slightly worried that you’re going to get into trouble with the PMC PA. So yeah, so it really becomes a bit of a barrier, the way that pharma sector is set up for advertising, essentially, in promoting their products. I think that’s the biggest barrier is less about the risk. I think we all know what the risks are. And those risks are common sense almost.

David Kemble 6:20
It almost feels like the innovation is so focused on the medicine on on improving people’s lives, that that that part of the innovative side of the business has to focus on that. And therefore, perhaps the digital side lags behind Is that a fair statement

Ben Tilly 6:43
here in certainly in the past, that’s been the case set. Now, I think we’re seeing a big tidal change. You know, as I said, the company I’m working for is really, really kind of looking at cutting edge ways of working. But I think you’re right, I think there’s so much resource on the actual manufacturing and development of medicines, that are almost the delivery of getting the message out to the customer, is bit of an afterthought. And it still is, to a certain extent, you know, one thing that happened at us is that, you know, we put a lot of effort in thinking about the structure of our approach, and talk about, you know, talk about that structure a lot in within internal meetings. And then we’ll get you a brand can and things like that will last for several weeks and months. And then you know, when it actually comes to delivering the tactics, the physical thing that the customer says at the end of it can often be a little rushed, and a little, let’s say an afterthought, but it doesn’t seem that it deserves the attention doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I think

James Rowson 7:48
one of the things that we’ve covered off on some of the previous episodes is that the need to get the absolute sort of the strategy and the overriding goal, you know, really crystal clear from all the stakeholders, right at the start, I mean, in your experience, you know, what, what is a pharmaceutical company’s, you know, goal when it comes to digital and digital transformation, you know, what, what are they trying to achieve,

Ben Tilly 8:09
is about the customer being at the center. And, you know, it’s about having those messages, and communications and interactions delivered with the message that’s right for that customer that that meets their unmet needs, and is at time and a channel that seats and So ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do, but they don’t see the very traditional things that we’re attempting to do, which is all about a guest brand adoption, after we’ve got a mindset of the customer identified. And what then you’re trying to do is move them along, you know, to become ultimately I guess, an advocate for your, for your brand or your product. And now I’m seeing in pharma a lot of work around that customer experience architecture, where we’re trying to move a customer along that journey using omni channel.

David Kemble 9:01
So, who is the customer, then you talked about the customer then? And you’ve got to look at it because my understanding is you’ve got you’re trying to provide information to healthcare professionals. But now you also want to be able to get information to the patients to key opinion leaders. So yes, who’s

Ben Tilly 9:20
the interesting question, actually, Dave? I think my opinion probably slightly differs to majority of people in pharmacy. I always like in the situation to a dealership where, you know, you’ve got an A BMW, for instance, they have a manufacturing plant in Germany, and then they have people like sittler in the UK that act as dealerships. And that’s to me is the mindset of you know, the the manufacturers, the pharmaceutical companies of BMW is, you know, the pharma company and in the dealerships setting, for instance, the doctors, so if you have to ask BMW who your customers are, they wouldn’t say the dealerships, they would say The patients, sorry, they’re the people that drive the cars, the customers. And then the same way, you know, I think the, you know, our customers and pharma are our patients. And guess what we consider customers, the healthcare professional, should be seen more as a partner. And maybe is

David Kemble 10:21
not that’s, that’s a good analogy that does make sense, because you want both, you’re you’re trying to get the information to the end the driver as it were, but in order to do that, the best way to do that is to provide information to the dealership. So that because the drivers are the ones who are going to go into the dealerships to access the BMW if you like. And so yeah, by by giving the right information to both parties, but it’s gonna be different.

Ben Tilly 10:55
Because it is going to be obviously a doctor specialist answer is going to be very interested in the science, you do actually have your patients that are called expert patients, which, you know, majority of us when we get an illness, like, you know, flu or whatever, we’re not really that interested in the physiology of the virus and how it attacks our bodies, we’ve all been a little bit more exposed to that, I suppose, with the advent of cable, and we know more about viruses, but in the past, there wasn’t a thing that we were interested in. But now you’ve got a lot of patients that have access to obviously, the lights of the internet and cable, you know, if they, if they get a disease, they, they they research it quite heavily. So you do have this sub section of expert patients, which sometimes I think, and I haven’t really seen much evidence of it in pharma, where it’s not really, they’re not really being catered for. And I don’t know whether it’s something that they shared because, you know, we’re not providing we’re not selling very to the, to the public in that respect. So just a backup, one of the biggest issues in farm that we have, is avoiding selling, or promoting our products directly to the to the public, that is a big night, for obvious reasons. You can’t Yeah, influence patients, and get them to overload the doctor’s decision. It’s just not ethical. But there are situations where I think, you know, a patient organization or an individual patient working directly with a foreign company might actually work and begin receiving information potentially could be ethical, if they’re on a treatment plan with that doctor already, and their treatment plans will even set up. Let’s see why there couldn’t be a direct engagement with the farm company in the patient.

James Rowson 12:39
Yeah, especially again, another really interesting point. But I mean, Dave, you’ve you’ve told me before that, you know, pharmaceutical companies are always talking about personalized medicines to ensure that the patients are all treated separately, as opposed to putting people into, you know, categories where they where they shouldn’t be. And just from a from a customer journey perspective, I’m interested to get your thoughts, you know, can you personalize digital marketing, then in the pharmaceutical sector? And how would that yes,

Unknown Speaker 13:02
leading, that’s the thing that we strive to do. So I think having a one size fits all approach just doesn’t work. It might work for Mars bars, but it doesn’t work for you know,

David Kemble 13:19
I don’t know, I like a big Mars bar.

James Rowson 13:21
There’s two sections that you can describe for basketball. Now, there’s many people that by the front sides of things.

David Kemble 13:30
Did I even

Ben Tilly 13:35
scandalous. Say, yes, personalization. So yeah, the whole love of pushing a generic message out to a group of customers just won’t fly, I think we have to think about, you know, where a particular healthcare profession is, in their, in their knowledge of, you know, therapy area and the knowledge of the product that you’re trying to talk to them about, you know, whether it’s a tablet, somebody that’s just playing with the product, you know, maybe got a few patients that they want to try it out on, versus, you know, where you’ve got a key opinion leader who’s a complete advocate of your product, and, you know, talks on your behalf to other healthcare professionals to kind of, you know, get the word out, as it were, I think you’d go with the bits in between, so that, you know, the message for the dabbler versus that marketing message for the key opinion leader are going to be incredibly different. So you’ve got a spectrum and it’s, it is really difficult. And the great thing is we’re in a situation now where we’ve got some really cool technology that enables us to do that really intense in depth analysis of journeys and behaviors and you know, all the analytics, whether it’s sales data or web data or email, even data or you know, just all of the different data points and touch points that you can collate, you begin to get a really, really nice picture of individual users needs. And off the back of that, you can use some really sophisticated tools such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud, for instance, to start to really personalize communication, so you end up with a situation, hopefully, I don’t think we’re too far away from it. Where a customer, when they interact with your touch points, whether it’s an email, or a cam, okay, an account manager or the website, those interactions will be unique to that very bad single healthcare professional need to healthcare professionals will have a Stayner an identical experience with your brand. Because we’ve got so much information or so much noise about what that person needs. We’ve got the capabilities now to actually deliver personalized content on websites and emails and in presentations, and all those sorts of things.

David Kemble 16:10
That’s, that’s really interesting. And we talked about in previous podcasts, the relationship with technology, and you mentioned earlier, you know, digital is, is all around us, much like oxygen. And it’s going to be interesting to see over the next 1020 years, how much further we can go with using technology and digital in everyday life to improve individual experience individual lives, and hopefully ease the burden on the on the NHS as well. You talked about earlier, the access of information. And you’re absolutely right. I think now we’re all used to be able to access any information we want. We’ll just jump on Google. And if we do have an ailment, we go straight on and go right what’s wrong with me. What do I need? And it’s it’s, yeah, it’s a very, very interesting journey. And what’s your thoughts with regards to remote consent now? Because Is there anything we could have done differently to ensure minimal, the minimal impact on Coronavirus? Because access to healthcare professionals has clearly been massively affected over the last year? Is there anything that you think the pharmaceutical world could have done differently or

Ben Tilly 17:39
just it’s always beggars belief theory that you have the ability to send emails and promotional emails, say, since I’ve been working, say, over 20 years in 20, say 25 years the ability to send out promotional emails, it’s been there. And you know, I’ve worked for several companies, you actually wouldn’t name them, but that just don’t have any permission database set up, you know, they have no permissions at all, you know, just for the simplest thing of sending an email. So yeah, absolutely, we could have done a lot to mitigate the situation we found ourselves in with Coronavirus, which would have been to collect the permissions in the past. The trick is now how we do that, and it is very difficult because, you know, we’ve got a situation where we almost have to get an E permission for everything that we do digitally. So given example, traditionally, you wouldn’t need permission to ask a doctor to send them a an invite to a face to face meeting at their surgery. But because we’re now doing it digitally and remotely using things like teams zoom, we have to gain consent from AGP, to be able to send them an invite to a meeting digitally, which is slightly informal. So we really, really, I mean, this is where we really we find ourselves slapped up. So not only did we not have access to people physically, you know, we now found ourselves without being permissions for this particular activity, where we had to go through a bunch of hoops and jump through a bunch of hoops basically, to get that information. And it’s difficult you know, you’ve got several barriers, so an account managers got to get past the receptionist, you know, potential practice manager, but then got to get you know, verbal consent from the healthcare professional to be able to send the permissions email, they then have to the healthcare professional, how to then reply to that email. And then you can then send them an invite to have a meeting with them. So it sounds a nightmare. I mean, there is some flex But it’s in that way, we can potentially ask a receptionist for permission to send them to send the healthcare professional permission. So it kind of makes it a little easier in some in some situations, but it still is still very, very challenging.

James Rowson 20:18
It sounds and we’ve we’ve we’ve seen an experienced a have a blast, sort of no year to 18 months, you know, how different companies in industries have adapted to this new world that we’re living in, and the way that we’re gonna we’re gonna be, you know, working moving forwards, I suppose. Do you think that the regulations in the pharmaceutical sector, you know, are fit for purpose for this new digital world we’re moving in, say,

Ben Tilly 20:39
I think absolutely need to be there, the regulations are fit for purpose, the interpretation may be isn’t, I think, is probably the best way to, I think, quite rightly, he got people whose jobs on the line that sign off materials and agreeing to activities that are maybe slightly in the gray area of the of the guidelines, you know, well, or perceived to be in gray area, the guidelines, things probably more accurate, because if they are in the gray area, then probably shouldn’t be done. But if it’s, you know, on that line on that edge, then you people quite rightly get nervous. And it is a huge block. And it is a huge barrier. And, you know, my advice to anybody working in pharma, and in doing the projects is get your medical team, your regulatory team on board via the very inception of that of that project. And try not to, you know, seen several companies where you’ve got quite a high churn rate of medics sign off things, you know, in, that becomes a big barrier. So, if you’re a company in charge of retention, you know, make sure that you keep your medics on board, because otherwise it’s a huge disruption to your business where you’ve got new minutes coming in trying to get their head around a particular project, they don’t need the legacy behind that project and might might feel nervous. And therefore, you would recommend scrapping the whole thing which I’ve seen, you know, multimillion pound projects happen to. So yeah, so, so regulatory, sorry that the rules and regulations around pharma are there for a reason to protect patients and ensure that we’re not doing things like disguise promotion, where you set something up as an educational forum. And when the customer gets involved in it, you end up promotion to them, which is a complete nightmare. So there’s lots of things there that there for good purposes. But absolutely, we need to be just a little bit more agile and not thinking sometimes.

David Kemble 22:42
Yeah, you’ve talked about the ethics earlier, of access to the inverted commas, customer, and depends which customer and you and I have talked in the past about digital ethics. And I know we were having quite an interesting chat about the fact that you can now do micro analysis of expressions. So in a scenario where you’re having a Ts call, we’ve all been there where we have a call with an individual, do you mind if we record this call. And, of course, you don’t need that you have no problem with anyone recording a team’s call or a zoom call. But if they said, We will micro analyze every single expression that you make during this call, so that we can then better understand you as an individual, how to sell to you more effectively. Where do you draw the line?

Ben Tilly 23:39
Interesting line, isn’t it? And it’s almost that age old argument about Google ads, where I think they give an option or these two, where you have a switch that says I want to receive targeted or not targeted, relevant ads to my needs, you can switch that off, which basically, they stopped tracking your you know, sir, and you know, and whoever to listen on your conversations so they can give you targeted say, that’s this comparison that I draw. So you know, it depends on what side of the fence you come down on, are you happy for your your behaviors to be analyzed to the degree that you are then only bothered? or interacting with relevant things? Or would you rather than ignore all you know, all your behaviors, and you just get, you know, non targeted the annoying adverts? And yeah, and by that I’m not saying on one side or the other. I’ve got feelings for Bay, but their whole microexpression analysis things really, really interesting. And just to kind of get people to understand what what that is essentially, if anyone’s ever watched a program called lights me with Tim Roth, basically, he is trained to read people’s minds. expressions and their micro expression is something that everybody does when they’re faced with a new situation or some new information, or they’re told something. And it’s something that’s almost in perceivable by most people. And what it is, is a flash of expression that happens across your face. And I think there’s seven categories, and I can’t remember them, but they are things like disdain, anger, disgust, less than positive ones as well. I can’t remember, sadness may be worried, I don’t know, there’s definitely these micro spec called proof of micro expressions that an FBI agent in for instance, could use to discern whether somebody is telling the truth or whatever. So the whole premise of this micro special analysis topic was that there is some software that enables a an account manager to have conversation with a customer, deliver content, verbally, and visually via what we call eat me detail, which is essentially an online presentation around trial data and things like that. And then the software would report concurrently, those interactions alongside the micro expressions of that customer, then at the end of the code, amalgamate them to basically shape, what impact each of the interactions, or each of the sequences of the of the call hat, whatever, it may be something that the camera just said, or showed by the presentation, what the consequence was, from an emotional perspective on that customer. And I, and I think that I can say things about that thought, firstly, you know, how many people would agree to their micro expressions been analyzed? You know, because where does it stop? Yeah. And I think, actually, in the field, everyday use, it’s not probably appropriate, for now at least, until people perhaps become a bit more comfortable with how the data has been treated. But I think that’s the biggest issue, people don’t really know, people don’t really understand what happens with their data. And, you know, for good reason, because it probably nobody really knows, you know, you’ve got Hawaii and people like that doing all sorts of crazy stuff. But where I did think that it had a really good application was in different materials. So when you’ve got a group of them add boards, so you’ve got a group of

David Kemble 27:31
professional that patient

Ben Tilly 27:33
research that she so you, you, you create a series of materials, and you go through the interactions with your customer, avatar, email, your your customer, great, who’s acting as your what’s the word, market research people, and they’re fully aware of what you’re doing with the data and everywhere that you’re analyzing their micro expressions, and you get instant feedback to see how that contents managing. I think that’s probably somewhere.

David Kemble 28:03
Yeah, yeah, I think you’re right. And it’s interesting, as you’ve been talking, I’ve been thinking to myself, I’d I’d almost like someone to switch on and try and

fantastic. Yeah, that there’s, it’s really interesting, isn’t it? Because we are, we will accept certain things over over the years that creep in and I use, for example, your tescos club card or any loyalty scheme, we know what’s happened. They know they’re tracking exactly what we’re buying, when we’re buying it how, what our shopping patterns are, like, we know that Amazon are tracking it and, and they send us certain, and it works. The interesting thing I saw the other day, I think it was on the Dragon’s Den, there’s a chap who’s invented or created a company now that allows you to sell your data. Yeah, it’s all around cookies. So he was talking how it’s marketing’s greatest trick, etc. as fascinating.

Ben Tilly 29:20
Yeah, as I think it wasn’t it kind of banded around as the best Dragon’s Den pitch of all time. Yeah, that is, yeah, yeah. It goes back to that whole debate we have about Apple as well, you know, when you download the bits of software, or science or any service, you know, you’ve got reams and reams and reams and reams of terms of conditions that you just take, right? Because you want the bit of care. You want it now, you don’t want to wait until you’ve read Yeah, two hours worth of T’s and C’s in that whole idea of you know, people sending data to other companies like Dragon’s Den, chat, right. I wholeheartedly on people being lazy and not reading that condition. People then are in uproar about the way that the data is being used. But they have tended to agree to it. Although I do think that the way that the terms and conditions are laid out is a complete barrier, and he is there and it’s designed for people not to read it. So it’s, you know, it’s no great situation. Well, there

David Kemble 30:24
was a South there was a South Park episode all around that. I remember. Yeah. This was some time ago. And it was it was directly linked to that around terms and conditions. What are the kids signs up to suddenly got four or five hours at 1200 pages? And as a result, many men in black suits with the sunglasses turned up a bundle them into a car And off he goes. Yeah.

James Rowson 30:55
I also remember an advert where I think it was Wyclef Shawn was working for a Virgin Media promoting Virgin Media. And he he signed an autograph for for a little old lady. And then on the other side, it was a contract and he had to go and basically it was it was very good says it’s been around for a while I think.

David Kemble 31:13
Fantastic. Ben, thank you so much for coming out today. Really, really interesting. Always. Thanks a lot really good insights. It’s a fantastic stuff. And guys, if thanks for listening, if you have any questions for Ben, you can either reach out to James all right or reach Ben Tilly on LinkedIn. You can reach me on email at Dave campbell@practice.com and me James dot com. Thanks so much. That’s a wrap.