Q&A with Adam McGuigan, Alcon

We sat with Adam McGuigan, Country Head of Commercial Excellence at Alcon to understand his perspectives on accelerating omni-channel maturity. Here’s what he had to say.

Hi Adam, tell us a little bit about yourself and your career history up until now.
I started my career in the Health Science world with Biesdorf as a Sales Rep many years ago, then moved around several Sales and Key Account roles. I then joined LaCorium Health as a National Sales Manager and progressed into a Business Unit Manager position before moving to AbbVie, where I took on a Head of Strategy and Innovation role in the Commercial Excellence realm. From there I joined Zoetis as a Business Unit Director for Pharmaceuticals and Commercial Excellence – and really got to play in the e-commerce and marketing automation space, where their maturity is far beyond where a lot of big Pharma are right now. And most recently I joined Alcon (on the first day of lockdown in New South Wales), as Country Head of Commercial Excellence.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your omni-channel agenda?
I think we’ve all been waiting for this moment in time for us to take a leap of faith – something which was accelerated virtually overnight. Even though we knew in theory what we needed to be doing – this whole thing is new to a lot of us. What I’ve just experienced at Alcon is that we wanted to launch Marketing Cloud, remote detailing and facetime through our CRM over an 18-month period, and when COVID-19 hit – we launched it within a three-week timeframe globally. So, it’s clear that when things need to be done, it can be done – when things need to be expedited, they can. The pandemic has forced us to have a really strong innovation mindset of ‘launch quick, learn fast, iterate and move on’.

What are some of the barriers to change that you’ve seen within the Marketing function?
I think changing mindsets is the most prominent barrier, because the core role of Marketing within Health Sciences hasn’t changed – what has evolved, is just the way we need to do things. What I’ve seen in the past is typical brand managers, product managers and marketers hiring mini-me’s, or the same type of individual into these roles, where we have the opportunity now to bring in diversification which we haven’t had before. This allows us to raise the capability, experience, and skillset across multiple franchises to take us to the next level. A supplementary barrier is the roles and responsibilities piece, identifying who owns the change, who makes decisions, and who runs that cross-functional support team to deliver on the omni-channel aspiration.

What is holding Health Science organisations back in terms of accelerating omni-channel maturity?
Our bandwidth often is the number one excuse for not to getting out there with our customers. This means the customer journey validation process sometimes relies on agencies, external parties or some old research to do that for us, versus getting out there with the customer ourselves and validating the information or assumptions that we have. The other part is when we launch patient or customer solutions, education programs, or whatever it might be, we look retrospectively at what has worked and what hasn’t, and let that inform how we go about future launches instead of testing, creating a pilot, and working on a subset of customers with a new channel and new approach, so that we can learn and iterate from there. The cost-to-serve and the cost-to-reach is so great in the traditional method, when we can be using an omni-channel approach and a piloting system to really reduce costs and create a greater impact.

Can you share an example of where you’ve experienced the benefits of an omni-channel approach?
I think the best example I’ve seen was while I was working in the e-commerce and marketing automation space at Zoetis. By bringing in a digital expert, tailoring marketing messages, working through a strong segmentation process to understand customer preferences, channel choices, pain points and developing a strong strategy for those different markets through brand teams – showed a 40% increase in NPS over a 12-month period. It was remarkable to see such a significant leap by being personal and targeted in the way you go-to-market.

Where have you seen variations in levels of maturity across the sub-sectors you’ve worked in, and what are the real nuances between them?
I think the nuances lie in the decision-making and agility piece because at the end of the day, technology is readily available to us all. I'd say the time spent in Animal Health – their maturity level in the way they're looking at customers and targeting with a really personalised approach is quite high. From a Medical Devices perspective, Alcon are very strong in our culture around agility and making quick decisions, we've removed a lot of the layers in terms of timelines and that's led to us being very nimble in the way we're going to market at the moment. So, I think it depends on where you're sitting, but from a maturity perspective, it’s definitely vast between each company.  

Do you have any practical tips for leaders who are about to embark on an omni-channel transformation?
Changing your strategy from a face-to-face model to an omni-channel approach is a huge leap, and I think the first thing you need to do is start from the top and have the leadership team bought into the process and change. The other part is, you've got to be able to fail. If you don't have the cultural confidence in the organisation to fail at something, this could be scary because it's all new to a lot of people. Embracing change and learning from your failures will allow you to iterate and deliver something that's truly remarkable.

From an affiliate perspective, how do you ensure that your local needs are being met when speaking with global?
You need to have strong data and reasoning for the ‘why’. If there's a change that needs to occur, a reason why you would not deploy a global solution, or a reason why you should – you must be armed with solid market knowledge, data and analytics, and benchmark examples from other Health Science organisations within your local market. You have to remove the emotion and politics from it and show clear facts as to why you would or would not do something.

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