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Med Ad News: 3 Companies to watch that could change how pharma products are marketed and sold

For the eighth year, Med Ad News has chosen three Pharmaceutical Marketing Ventures to Watch that could change the way pharmaceutical products are marketed and sold.

For the eighth time this past October, Med Ad News began once again its search for the future of pharmaceutical marketing. We sought out young companies, spin-offs, offerings, and ventures to profile that are providing the most innovative and interesting products, services, or marketing opportunities to pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare community. This year’s first profilee is also a “first” for this space, the first pharmaceutical company – rather than service provider, to be profiled – due to its radically different business model. The other two profilees both deal with what may be the modern pharmaceutical marketer’s most immediate challenge – how to distill “big data” into actionable intelligence.  


Reltio is a provider of cloud-based data driven applications, primarily but not exclusively for the life sciences industry. The company aims to bring together multiple data sources to create real and actionable business intelligence, blending together master data and big data across all domains and formats from internal, third-party, social media, and other sources. All this data can be matched, merged, and shared across multiple applications and business functions, and the company’s apps offer a spate of visualization options – storyboards, network graphs, and recommendation cues, among other things. Most importantly, though, Reltio goes beyond mere data collection and collation by providing built-in machine learning and analytic capabilities, to offer clients what the company calls “recommended actions,” steps they can take based on what all the data is telling them.

“In most marketing apps today, the onus is really on you as the user to do all the heavy lifting,” says Ramon Chen, chief marketing officer of Reltio. “Sure, the software helps you record the information, so you can record that you visited a physician in a CRM or you, in essence, created a marketing campaign, but the system doesn’t have any smarts. It doesn’t really say, ‘Hey, I think you should go visit this doctor because your goals for the quarter – I know what your goals for the quarter are, I know that this doctor happens to be influential. And by the way, you don’t know that doctor but this person that you just e-mailed with is connected with them and they connect with them through a particular committee.’ All of this information is usually not available to you because the data is not just in CRM, it’s in other systems. But with Reltio it is not only being brought together and cleansed and managed and kept up-to-date, but it’s serving you up what we call ‘recommended actions,’ essentially guiding you to make the best possible choices, so really fulfilling the vision of what computers should really be doing for you versus a CRM system.”

But with Reltio it is not only being brought together and cleansed and managed and kept up-to-date, but it’s serving you up what we call ‘recommended actions,’ essentially guiding you to make the best possible choices, so really fulfilling the vision of what computers should really be doing for you versus a CRM system.

On top of the artificial analytic capabilities, Reltio’s app also takes advantage of good old-fashioned wetware by including strong collaborative functionality. Borrowing a page from Facebook and other social media, the company’s apps allow for annotation, commenting, and “thumbs up or down” by end users, all of which is visible to other users as well.

“Just like LinkedIn where you can get recommendations and endorsements from people who know you, Reltio’s applications allow sales people and marketing teams to collaborate on the data, commenting almost Yelp-style on the data as to whether it’s valuable and therefore enriching it,” Chen says. “If I’m a salesperson using Reltio’s application, I might go visit a doctor and I find a better phone number for that doctor right over here in the hallways that he plays golf with XYZ doctor. I can stick that into the Reltio system, and that’s available as tribal knowledge for everybody to share and respond to.”

Of course, none of this can work if the data underneath the hood is unreliable, so Reltio goes to a great deal of trouble to be sure that it is.

“Most of the products out there that bring data together don’t clean the data,” Chen told Med Ad News. “They don’t fix the addresses. They don’t change erroneous spellings. They don’t know that ‘James’ is the same as ‘Jim.’ They don’t standardize the data, so when they try to collate data across systems, they don’t necessarily get the best possible information and match because ‘Jim Smith, Jr.’ may seem like the same as ‘Jim Smith,’ but it could be father and son. We handle all of that, so that’s our foundation, reliable data as a premise. Because without reliable data it doesn’t matter what kind of recommendations you make, they’re going to be wrong if the data is incorrect.”

Because without reliable data it doesn’t matter what kind of recommendations you make, they’re going to be wrong if the data is incorrect.

Another differentiating feature of Reltio’s offering is its ability to learn. Chen describes it by drawing a parallel to LinkedIn.

“Let’s say LinkedIn recommends a job to you,” he explains. “When you take that action and apply for that job, LinkedIn knows you’ve applied for it. What it’s going to do is sit there and wait for an outcome. It’ll wait to see whether you changed your job description to say you now work for that company, or if you don’t change your job description, it could make an assumption that you didn’t get the job. That closes the loop. It’s not only giving you a recommended action, but it actually knows what you did, and that’s how we add value continuously. In a salesperson situation, if we recommend that the salesperson contact this person in this committee, the action and the results are correlated back to our previous recommendation. If the result was poor, then we will improve our intelligence and make a different type of recommendation next time. Therefore, we can continuously improve the outcomes and the recommendations while actually measuring return on investments and actual outcomes.”

Reltio was founded in 2011 by Manish Sood, one of the original developers of the master data management product Siperian MDM, now owned by Informatica. For the first two or so years Sood invested his own money incubating the concept. He improved on the foundational elements of what he had created with Siperian and moved it to the cloud to make it more efficient and accessible, and then developed and added the recommended actions, learning, and sharing components. The company soft-launched with a handful of clients about a year and a half ago, finally launching to the world at large this past March after receiving series A funding from two healthcare-focused venture investor companies. Since the formal launch, Reltio has been expanding rapidly, from 11 employees in March to more than 100 today.

“People’s jaws drop whenever we show the product because it’s unlike anything that they’ve ever seen before,” Chen says. “In essence, if you think of Siri and Google Now, people expect to just ask questions and get answers, but they also expect Google Now – the Siri equivalent on the Android phone – can do things like, if you visit Philadelphia or a particular part of the world, it can look at your contact book and see contacts in there and ask you, ‘Hey, your friend only lives 20 miles away. We know you’re in the vicinity. Do you want to call them up and maybe get together?’ These are the kinds of things that are happening in the consumer world, but B2B is not providing any of that intuition or intelligence.”

Other jaws have been dropping too. A number of IT research firms, including Gartner, have already given votes of confidence to Reltio. The company also has data partnerships with a long list of third-party providers including ZS Associates, Accenture, Cognizant, LexisNexis, IMS, and MedPro.

What’s next for Reltio? Size and speed, and more and greater connections.

“We feel that we can continue to scale the company and continue to build value for our customers and so essentially continue to innovate,” Chen told Med Ad News. “We have a tagline: ‘Be right faster.’ Essentially, we want people to be able to make the best possible decisions at speed and scale. Really, that’s what the world is all about, just speed and scale and then accuracy of those decisions, which speaks again to our reliable data foundation. We are expanding globally. We are in all areas of life sciences, not just pharma, medical device, biotechnology. We offer solutions for both commercial ops and R&D. We also have customers in the plan and payer side managing patient data. We have a tremendous opportunity to be the platform that unifies patient data across pharma and healthcare providers. That bridge that’s never been crossed can securely be done with our system because we have other capabilities such as the ability to be able to secure data from a privacy perspective and share data blinded. All of those things are very powerful attributes of our platform that will allow better communication between parties involved, thereby improving the healthcare system.”

Click here to read the article with all 3 companies at PharmaLive.com