Impetus Digital is a Toronto-based, privately-owned, women-led company that provides virtual and hybrid meetings, events, and programs for life science/pharmaceutical companies worldwide. Through our best-in-class online platform and White-Glove™ professional services, we partner with clients to help them establish authentic and long-lasting relationships with their customers (e.g. healthcare providers, payers, and patients) using a longitudinal and flexible approach to engagement.
At Impetus Digital, our aim is to build the bridge to allow for ongoing conversations between life science companies and their customers. We have facilitated this through the development of multiple best-in-class asynchronous and synchronous virtual collaboration tools through our Impetus InSite Platform®, all of which are not only secure and 100 per cent compliant but also simple and fun to use. We believe that relationships can be built successfully online without the need to travel and meet in person. As a 100 per cent remote company with employees in four different Canadian provinces, as well as in the APAC region, we are living proof that this is possible!
Tell us about yourself?
Before co-founding Impetus Digital with my business partner Janice Smith, I worked in a variety of pharmaceutical sales, marketing, and early brand commercialization management roles in both Canada and the U.S. I worked in several different therapeutic areas, including oncology, HIV, psychiatry, neurology, rheumatology, and immunology.
During my 18-year career in the industry, I noticed that despite my best efforts to keep connected to our customers, there always seemed to be a disconnect in our dialogue flow. I would find myself having some great conversations in advisory board meetings and then never finding the time or opportunity to follow up with my advisors after the fact. I noticed that this was a huge gap and that there was a great opportunity to help solve this. This was the “eureka moment” that sparked the flame to launch Impetus.
In addition to my role as Co-founder and CEO of Impetus Digital, I’m also the host of the Podcast “Healthcare Goes Digital,” available on all podcast outlets, and author of the book “The Healthcare Heretic,” available on both Amazon and Audible.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Had we known the sudden acceleration of virtual engagements that the COVID-19 pandemic would bring on, I would tell myself that we need to be more proactive in hiring new talent. Since then, this has been a major focus for Impetus in order to ensure that we can continue to provide our best-in-class digital and professional services to our clients with no interruption.
What problem does your business solve?
Although they have their benefits, one-off in-person meetings are associated with a range of issues. In particular, in-person advisory boards require finding a time and place that will work with all advisors’ busy schedules. They also force both Pharma representatives and advisors to travel and take time away from their families and/or work. Not to mention the high cost and environmental impact associated with renting a venue, organizing transportation, food, etc. It can also be debated just how effective these “one-off” type meetings really are in terms of gathering insights and fostering authentic relationships.
To overcome these barriers, Impetus provides three award-winning virtual meeting and event solutions: InSite Touchpoints™, InSite Events™, and Online Community Boards, allowing our clients to host all of their virtual and hybrid programs on the same platform. The Impetus InSite Platform®, which hosts these solutions, can be used for any type of meeting or program that would normally be held in person, such as advisory boards, peer influence programs, unaccredited medical education, product launch preparation, brand planning sessions, journal clubs, clinical trial planning groups, publication co-author working groups, patient focus groups, internal corporate events, and much more!
Compared to in-person meetings, virtual meetings on the Impetus InSite Platform® result in:
- 30 per cent increase in participant engagement rates, guaranteeing an average of 90 to 100 per cent
- 60 per cent increase in the speed to insight-gathering and project completion
- 70 per cent increase in the quantity and quality of insights
- 75 per cent decrease in cost and resources
- 100 per cent client satisfaction
- 9/10 Average participant score
- >95 per cent reduction in environmental footprint
What is the inspiration behind your business?
Impetus Digital was founded in 2008. Prior to that, my business partner, Janice Smith, and I both spent 18-plus years in the pharmaceutical industry. Separately, we used to run numerous in-person customer advisory boards where we would fly people to a meeting destination and run a seven to eight-hour meeting with our key opinion leaders (KOLs). Although the conversations were excellent, we always found that we had little success in continuing those conversations over time. Because other work priorities got in the way and we did not have the tools to allow sustained discussions to occur throughout the year, it felt impossible to turn those one-off engagements into authentic, holistic, and ongoing touchpoints.
We knew we needed to do something different; it was at that moment that we realized that we needed to revolutionize how Pharma engages and partners with their most important stakeholders. This required leading-edge technology and a team of digital, strategic, and medical experts; we needed to invent something that did not currently exist. After this realization, we co-founded Impetus Digital and made it our mission to disrupt the way life science companies interact and seek advice by using cutting-edge, convenient asynchronous and synchronous online tools to create long-lasting and authentic relationships.
What is your magic sauce?
We are set apart from our competitors in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:
1. We offer the largest number and variety of cutting-edge life science-specific asynchronous tools, including:
-InSite Exchange™ discussion forum
-InSite Surveyor™ survey-style questions
-InSite Annotator™ annotation tool
-InSite Selector™ selection and ranking tool
-InSite Mapping™ customizable drag-and-drop tool
-InSite Rater™ visual rating tool
-InSite Team Race™ customizable gamification tool
2. We also offer a large portfolio of best-in-class synchronous (hybrid/web meeting, webinar, virtual event) tools, all hosted on the same secure and compliant platform. Having everything in one place allows our clients to engage their KOLs longitudinally, for example by adding pre- and post-meeting asynchronous touchpoints. In addition, this allows event organizers, sponsors, and exhibitors to engage participants before and after events as well.
3. Our signature White-Glove™ services and 360° behind-the-scenes support are what really set us apart from our competitors. We provide a soup-to-nuts solution, including the virtual meeting platform, recruitment and stakeholder management services, strategy, technical support, and medical writing and content creation services. Our tools and services are consistently rated as “excellent” by our clients and their advisors, and we take all of their feedback into account to make sure that we are constantly evolving and improving.
To ensure that our services remain top-notch, we invest a lot of time and effort in maintaining our award-winning company culture. This includes providing wellness and learning grants, “summer Fridays” four-day weeks during the summer months and two weeks off during the December holidays (in addition to regular paid time off), paid wellness time, unlimited sick days, comprehensive benefit packages, computer and internet reimbursement, stock options and annual bonuses, monthly (virtual) happy hours, and quarterly hybrid get-togethers, just to mention a few initiatives. We understand that our employees are what makes this company so special and successful!
We also recently established a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) committee to ensure that we remain a diverse company where our differences are celebrated and where we use our unique experiences and perspectives to strengthen our services. We always tell our customers that our virtual tools can help improve the diversity of their projects and that this will ultimately lead to stronger insights collected; it’s important to us to practice what we preach!
4. Finally, we put sustainability at the forefront of everything we do and are actively working towards carbon-neutrality by 2030 (aiming for 2025). Since forming our Internal Environmental Committee in September 2020, Impetus has established important partnerships with the Green Business Bureau and Tree Canada; we launched our official Tree Planting program on September 1, 2021. At the time of writing, Impetus Digital has already planted 1,354 trees across Canada on behalf of our clients and employees and recently won an industry award for our sustainability efforts. We also celebrate Earth Week annually and work to educate our clients and followers on topics related to sustainability through our social media posts and articles.
A lot of our competitors will use buzzwords like “sustainable” and “environmentally friendly” in their marketing, but other than offering the actual virtual meeting tools to reduce the need to travel, I have not yet seen any of our competitors do anything to reduce their own carbon footprint.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
In the next five years, the Impetus team will continue to grow as we increase our business share across all regions. We are aiming for 10x growth and our vision is to be recognized internationally as the catalyst for healthcare transformation, one conversation at a time.
We are always working on new ways to use our large portfolio of virtual tools and improve our existing tools and services. Recent examples include innovative and award-winning initiatives such as Virtual Ambassador Programs, a new medical education offering wherein three to five KOLs participate as faculty to attend a national/international congress and summarize key abstracts of interest to HCPs from their country/specialty. Leveraging Impetus’ existing virtual tools and working with our strategic, digital, and medical writing experts, we then create multiple outputs from these summaries, including video vignettes, podcast episodes, slide deck summaries, infographic-style digital handouts, and more.
Other examples of innovative programs we have recently launched include Digital Content Councils, which are online HCP working groups meeting regularly to review promotional or educational materials asynchronously, and Online Community Boards, where healthcare professionals can share best practices, discuss complicated patient cases, or conduct daily “e-huddles” during virtual/hybrid conferences.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
One of the biggest challenges faced was in early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. While many other small businesses were forced to close down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had the opposite problem: the demand for our services more than tripled almost overnight! At the time, our team comprised only 11 people, and the work they put in at that time was nothing short of heroic; they came together and grew revenue by 166 per cent compared to 2019. Of course, we value work-life balance and don’t want people working more than eight hours a day for weeks or months on end; realizing the need for additional manpower to meet the increased demand, our team has more than tripled since then. Janice and I also made sure to show everyone how appreciated their hard work was. This included paying for meal deliveries for team members and their families and insisting that each team member would stick to our “summer schedule” and take every second Friday off, despite the continuously high workload.
Another challenge was that the COVID-19 pandemic forced our clients to quickly pivot from mostly in-person meetings and events to 100 per cent virtual encounters. Before the pandemic, we focused mainly on virtualizing smaller meetings (< 50 participants) such as pharmaceutical advisory boards, working groups, steering committees, and medical education meetings. In March and April 2020, we helped transfer our customers’ in-person meetings to virtual meetings in as little as a few days, ensuring minimal disruption to the agenda, workshops, speakers, and participants. In the second half of 2020, it became increasingly clear that our customers also needed a way to virtualize their larger events such as company-wide internal meetings and conferences. As a result, our small team developed and launched a brand-new virtual event solution–InSite Events™–in record time.
The main reason we were able to adapt and persevere through this quick increase in demand and initial staffing shortage is because of our team and company culture. From day one, Impetus has been a remote company and we believe in empowering the team to think outside-the-box and dream big, believing that every action and idea contribute to the company’s success. To foster authenticity and connection virtually, we promote ongoing and open communication and put the team members’ wellbeing at the forefront of everything we do.
Together with Janice, I have worked hard to build and sustain a 100 per cent virtual team, where employee wellness and an “all hands on deck” culture are prioritized. During the “Great Resignation,” when many companies lost key talent and others struggled to hire the right people among stiff competition, we expanded our team of A-players to make Impetus into what it is today. As a result, Impetus is now winning global contracts and clients despite competing against companies 10 times our size.
How can people get involved?
Life science teams looking to optimize their insight-gathering, peer influence, or educational programs can reach out to [email protected], visit www.impetusdigital.com, or book a free demo with one of our Business Development Directors at www.meetwithimpetus.com to learn more!