Marketing to Professionals: Savvy Strategists - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Marketing to Professionals: Savvy Strategists
Ahead-of-the-curve brand teams are bringing in medical experts with marketing knowledge.


Pharmaceutical Executive


A similar transition often occurs post-launch, when the successful launch team moves on to a fresh challenge and a new brand team inherits its work. Having an independent, unbiased medical/scientific strategist on board throughout these transitions helps to preserve important, hard-won market lessons, and accelerates the new team's climb up the learning curve.

Outside specialists also help:

  • With pre-commercialization of a new product in a new therapeutic area—as early as late Phase I when teams are typically under-resourced
  • Plan launches in unusually crowded, complex or competitive categories—where a strategist with category experience can enrich discussions of marketing strategy and assist in a variety of tasks, including message mapping, competitive counter-strategies, scientific messaging, publication planning, and choosing advisory boards
  • When the pharmaceutical company is small or newly formed
  • Increase capacity for coordinating medical education, clearing copy, and responding to physician inquiries.

What to Look For

When selecting an outside medical/scientific strategist, companies should look for PharmD or MD credentials, and for brand-team experience inside top-tier pharmaceutical companies. Although a PhD with experience on a brand team should not be uniformly discounted, a clinical degree, coupled with commercial savvy, is more frequently the mark of a strong candidate.

Field experience (as a medical scientific liaison, or similar) is an added bonus, because these positions involve direct contact with practicing prescribers, and also expand the commercial insight of the strategist. Moreover, liaisons are required to remain current on disease-state and product knowledge, and work every day in an environment that rewards skill in negotiation and persuasion. (These are talents that serve the savvy strategist when advising brand teams.) Other skills to look for include:

  • Entrepreneurial experience; creative thinkers with outstanding communication skills bring a strong science and commercial knowledge
  • Experience analyzing and interpreting clinical results for diverse audiences, including science and industry professionals and laymen
  • Strong reputation within the industry for resourcefulness, persistence, integrity, and results
  • Access to resources to help gather and disseminate needed information.

The Right Fit

Most strategists available for these jobs are affiliated with medical/scientific strategy firms, medical-education companies, and consulting organizations. But there are a few solo practitioners as well. Medical-education companies support the strategist and the client through information resources, advisory boards, slide-kit and graphics development, white papers, and speaker materials. If you're looking to find an outside strategist, ask your own medical staff and medical-education managers for referrals.

The strategist should ideally report to the brand or category director within the marketing department of the company. Funding should come from marketing budgets, usually as a separate line item. And the tasks assigned should be marketing focused: providing preceptorships to the brand group, reviewing market research, providing competitive intelligence, and writing field force communiqués for launched brands. Strategists typically bill by the project or by the hour and retainer arrangements help ensure continuity of service.

Companies will hire more medical/scientific strategists in the next few years. Savvy marketers say that companies should interview strategists now, in an effort to anticipate future needs.

Eleanor O'Rangers is VP, cardiovascular/metabolic brand strategist, Phase Five Communications. She can be reached at


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