Blame the Driver, Not the Car - Pharmaceutical Executive


Blame the Driver, Not the Car

Pharmaceutical Executive

The Big Question

So how do you avoid getting battered and broken and keep your plan from falling apart as you move through the gauntlet? Well, you probably won't be successful in every battle, but here are some ways to bolster your defense:

1) Always keep the customer in the room. Through clinical planning, forecasting, market research, and beyond, keeping a singular focus on filling a customer need can help keep you in alignment. Remember, you're not looking for the next big promotional idea or to help the sales force balance their incentive package—you're looking to satisfy your customer.

2) Align early and often. Too often, brand planning doesn't truly begin until Phase III trials look good. But by that time, it's too late to start asking what the market needs and sizing up the competition. Yes, it's costly to invest in marketing planning too early, but it can ensure you're aligning the foundational aspects of your launch.

3) The first sale is always to your sales force. Your brand's biggest competition could be sitting right in the rep's bag, fighting for detail time with a customer. So one of your first jobs is to sell the sales force on your brand. If there's one thing that will make a sales force run in the opposite direction, it's ambiguity. Stand up at the sales meeting and show them the clarity of your plan. They have to understand it, believe in it, and see that selling your brand aligns with their own goals.

4) Do your planning jointly. Corporate culture is both incredibly team-oriented as well as political, which leaves you with massive amounts of red tape to cut and hoops to jump through. As tempting as it might be to try to avoid it, don't. Work with key players in your organization to set goals and strategies, which helps ensure buy-in (and discourage surprises) later in the process.

5) Lead all your agency partners in the same direction. Hopefully you have the resources to work with specialists in the areas you need—advertising, medical education, PR, and so on. Whether these partners are from one agency network or independent resources, force them to play nice and work together so your brand communications are seamless and unified across channels. And force the teams within the company who oversee these partners to do the same.

Although you're pretty much guaranteed to emerge from the promotional gauntlet bruised and bloodied and somewhat dazed, working hard to keep all the parts of your plan aligned at least assures that the scars you've suffered will be reminders of your brand's success.

Al Topin is President of Topin Associates, a full-service medical marketing communications company, and a member of Pharm Exec's
Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at


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