Home Insights Harnessing the power of data to understand customers and drive brand performance

Harnessing the power of data to understand customers and drive brand performance

5 mins read

Please note, this article contains references to Ashfield Engage which has now become Inizio Engage

The availability of vast amounts of data has transformed the potential for pharma and healthcare companies to understand their customers on a deeper level, build stronger relationships and increase the value of their brands.

How? Ashfield Engage’s analytics partner, Sese Abhulimen from PROPENSITY4 tells us about powering smart data.

Most companies today are data rich, but not every company is data savvy – lacking the methodologies that inform analytics to extract meaningful and actionable insight. While larger pharmaceutical companies typically have their own dedicated analytics teams, the volume of activities can make it difficult to keep pace and get the answers they need at high speed. Furthermore, many smaller and mid-size organisations simply don’t have the resources or expertise to make the data work and create value for them.

PROPENSITY4 was set up by former AstraZeneca business insight director Sese Abhulimen. He identified a gap in the market to provide that expertise and move away from narrowly focused, project-specific analytics toward a big-picture approach that ensures data, analytic, and insights are tied together. As a result, they intrinsically inform strategy across payers, patients, and healthcare professionals.

“Data, analytics, and insight have to be integrated otherwise you can’t formulate an accurate forecast and clear strategy – and you can’t create business impact,” he says.

“It might sound strange, but we’re not about selling specific projects; we don’t engage with a client and say: ‘do you need a segmentation, patient journey or channel mix review?’. It’s always about the bigger questions, like what’s the true opportunity for the brand? And what do you need to do to exploit that opportunity?”

Sese Abhulimen, Managing Director, PROPENSITY4

Finding the answers to fundamental questions

Advanced quantitative analytics can be used at all stages of the brand lifecycle, from understanding the potential of a molecule and building towards product launch, through to the countdown to loss of exclusivity and beyond.


By integrating the right internal and external data assets, defining the right methodology set, and then running specific analytical models, companies can gain detailed insight into market size and opportunity; into payer, doctor, and patient profiles; and into how and where they can most effectively compete.

That powerful insight can then be leveraged to understand the patient journey, inform the commercialisation plan around payer requirements, build a tailored HCP segmentation solution, optimize the promotional mix and sales force size, and quantify the most probable forecast. It also sets the basis to measure performance and refine the approach beyond launch.

“We use analytics to give clients answers to the most fundamental questions,” he says. “It can be something as simple as how many doctors are active in this market? What is the journey of the patient in this therapy area? How many patients started on the competitor product at launch? And how many physicians and patients can I expect to take up my product?”

“Ultimately, through answering the right questions, we provide accurate commercial forecasts, the channel mix required to achieve it, and the probability of success.”

It’s about speed and accuracy

A key aspect of the PROPENSITY4 methodology is to create customer archetypes to aid strategic decision making. These groups are less about identifying doctors by prescription volumes, and more about understanding and narrowing in on the key attributes that influence a doctor’s treatment philosophies and behaviours. For example, how and when are doctors engaging with patients and what are the payer influences affecting treatment? Every relevant factor that can be layered into the archetype model increases the accuracy and effectiveness of this tool for predicting prescription behaviour and channel preferences.

The greater the understanding of specific archetypes, the easier it becomes to apply precisely targeted promotional tactics and messages, and to identify the most appropriate communication channels to successfully engage with them.

As Sese says: “Today, we can run models to identify the optimum number of calls for each archetype cohort or, for example, predict that we expect 70% adoption by month three within a specific cohort – and we know that will happen within a +/-5% accuracy range.”

It’s this high level of accuracy, along with the speed of results, that clients want – and why they turn to external experts. Whereas a patient journey study might take 16 weeks to produce in house, PROPENSITY4 can produce it, with that high level of accuracy, in an average of six.

Shaping the future

The COVID pandemic transformed the sales channel mix overnight, significantly reducing face-to-face communication and forcing greater reliance on telephone, video, and digital communications. And although in-person sales are bouncing back to varying degrees, depending on the country, many sales teams have moved to a more sophisticated, omnichannel approach.

This is another area where analytics can provide clarity, helping companies understand how effective their teams are across channels with different customers. They also provide an opportunity for pharma companies to proactively define a new future.

“The choice for pharma companies today,” says Sese, is do you want to just sit back and wait for the market to reset post-COVID, or do you want to look at what has actually been beneficial to physicians, patients, and to your business during this time, and use that to shape the future of the market? That’s the big question and it’s one where you can use analytics to accurately test and measure various scenarios, and provide evidence of how you can adapt and leverage those benefits.”

“At the end of the day, this is what analytics is all about: driving performance. And that comes from knowing your customers and knowing how to target them through true omnichannel marketing, effective messaging and promotional activity.”