Robert Shewbrooks, TGaS Advisors

Nov 03, 2008
By Pharmaceutical Executive

Against a backdrop of global financial instability, pharma companies must radically transform their business models to confront unprecedented challenges. The answer is not to save money in any way possible, but to adopt a well-balanced approach that integrates strategic objectives with cost-saving considerations.

Internal commercial operations executives, with their reservoir of experience in resolving cost/performance issues, can help in this regard. Comm op can offer valuable strengths for difficult times—analytic, systematic, managerial, and strategic—and provide an untapped resource for senior management.

An outside-in perspective can be supplied by consultancies. They can counteract entrenched in-house thinking and open windows onto how other pharmaceutical companies do it.

Companies that are willing to keep an open mind, embrace outside-the-box ideas, and incorporate analytics as key to assessing strategies will outperform less innovative peers. Here are some approaches to consider:

Customer involvement
Companies must seek fresh ways to interact with customers. They need to smartly pilot new approaches, and set success metrics to help determine whether to support a given investment. An integrated approach to understanding customer attitudes and behaviors is one that melds market information, primary market research results, internal marketing, and sales activity in innovative ways that break down traditional silos. A caveat:companies must gain consensus on how customers perceive the ideal working relationship before revamping operations to get close to customers who might not be willing to reciprocate.

Plug-and-play model
Companies need to become more flexible and nimble to support peak workflow demands. By outsourcing and offshoring not only sales but analytics and other operations, companies can ramp up quickly or scale back when necessary. Current benchmark data show that companies are experimenting with different plug-and-play models—combining co-sourcing, in-sourcing, outsourcing, and offshoring. The trick is to tier services according to their strategic value, and determine what model works best for them.

Prioritize
Companies also need to place bets on the brands that are key revenue contributors and allocate organizational resources—sales, marketing, commercial operations—accordingly. Treating non-strategic brands as equals is no longer feasible.

Marketing and sales 3.0
Online social networking and other cyber-avenues provide fresh options for dialogue with existing and potential users.

It is imperative that pharma marketers be able to demonstrate results. Are tactics having the desired impact on marketing channel strategies? Can we justify their continuation? Internet metrics, however, are still in the Wild West phase. Data tell us that cyber-measurement at the brand level is elusive. Currently, we are working collaboratively with a number of brands to develop industry standards—an example of the “outside-in” perspective that consultants who work with many brands can provide.

The need for enhanced efficiency and productivity further strengthens the role of analytics. Some companies are considering integrating analytics into one Center of Excellence to create a more thorough and consistent view on the impact of sales and marketing efforts on product performance.

Given today’s unpredictable environment, all ideas must be explored. Peer collaboration is one of the best ways to help a company change course.

Robert Shewbrooks is Vice President, Management Advisor at TGaS Advisors. He can be reached at bshewbrooks@tgas.com.