Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Pharma Sales and Marketing

7 mins read

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to the natural intelligence displayed by animals including humans. AI research has been defined as the field of study of intelligent agents, which refers to any system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of achieving its goals.

Some Key terms associated with AI

Machine learning

With a limited need for programming, machines can teach themselves. Combing massive amounts of data allows AI to identify patterns and groupings. This could be used to determine target audiences, decide on optimal times to send emails, or segment out groupings for deeper engagement.

Deep learning

In this advanced version of machine learning, computers actually teach themselves with minimal programming by humans. Marketers can use deep learning to identify data and make predictions related to how consumers might behave.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

This technology allows machines to determine what humans are saying, whether in text or by voice. More sophisticated programs can decipher speech in various languages, understanding not only the actual vocabulary but also pulling out context and more hidden meanings. Sarcasm and subtlety are still difficult for AI, but advanced technology is working on it.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

The process of Automating Business Operations with the help of virtual robots(bots) to reduce human intervention is said to be Robotic Process Automation (RPA).  Use of RPA in Pharma Marketing and Sales has already been discussed in our earlier blog.

How can AI help in Sales/Marketing related activities for Pharma Companies?

The success of AI depends largely on the availability of large and reliable data. The analysis and interpretation of the data done by an AI engine should be used after evaluating the market conditions, customer response, and use of our own experience and intelligence.  Having said that post-pandemic, the entire process of Marketing and Sales approach is undergoing change, especially for the Healthcare Industry. The application of AI gives the field force the right tools to make an informed decision. Some of the applications of AI in M & S from a Pharma perspective are outlined in the following sections.

Customer Preference Analysis

Catching the attention of Doctors, the influencers/customers for Pharma Industry is not easy. They are only available to be detailed too, in between patients. There are also several players in the market who are vying for the Doctors’ time to promote their own products.

The only way a difference can be made is to have promotional content that includes topics of interest to the customers. This is where AI comes into the picture. An AI engine can wade through the large amount of data collected on the

doctor like the specialty, Potential, penetration, KOLs that they follow, associations that they are members of, social media data, etc. The engine can suggest the right materials and content be used.

Omni channel

The concept of Omni-channel which has been growing has become especially important post-pandemic and the electronic addiction prevalent across all customer groups. Omni channel basically advocates the availability of promotional material in all channels viz. F2F, webinars, email, social media sites like Facebook, and Instagram, and websites. AI can analyze the data collected to suggest which channel is preferred by a customer. The success or failure of digital content can also be analyzed to help the marketing team to do the necessary changes. The AI can also help the field force to plan the channel that they should be using, the appropriate time when the customer will be receptive, and even the content that can be used.


Using a combination of the campaigns run, own sales, competition sales, and general economy the AI engine can give inputs for the strategy to be used for a new Campaign. Similarly, the AI engine can help the field force choose the right doctors for the campaign and also suggest the channels to be used.


When conducting events like CME and RTM, the AI engine can help select the right speakers for the events. The speakers have the most influence and respect in their specialty. Even the attendees can be chosen based on their area of interest, the KOLs they follow, and also their past response to invites to such events.

Sales Analysis and Forecast

There is a lot of sales-related data available to a Pharma company. There are primary sales, secondary sales, Rx data, and Market Research data.  Using this and the doctor profiling data, an AI engine can give inputs on the strategy to be adopted in a market whether it is for an existing Brand or a New brand launch.

Benefits of AI

  • Personalized messaging to the customers
  • Use of the right channel at the right time
  • Helps in informed decision making
  • Time and Cost saving as the engine does the data crunching and highlights what needs immediate attention
  • Though we have not gone into NLP in this blog, the use of it will help make websites more interactive. When a customer visits a site, he/she will be able to get a response for at least the standard queries

Final Summary

AI augments human effort in all areas including sales and marketing. It cannot replace humans and human intelligence but will be the assistant which makes it easier to arrive at and implement the right strategy. Algorithms can go wrong, after all an AI engine did predict that Nadal had a 2 % chance of winning the Australian Open in 2022 after the 3rd set but the final result was different. Our own judgment combined with AI is the ultimate winner.

Author Bio

R. Priya. Sr. Vice president, VSM Software (p) Ltd

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