Turning the Ins and Outs of Marketing Inside-Out - Pharmaceutical Executive


Turning the Ins and Outs of Marketing Inside-Out

Pharmaceutical Executive

The Case for Change

There was a time when pharma could afford to be this wasteful and unaware of the effectiveness of good marketing. But with margins eroding, managed care rising, HCP access constrained, and the Speed of Change creating new, economically superior models in industry after industry, pharma needs to reformulate its approach to sales and marketing, and turn the Speed of Change to its advantage. The inventive use of digital technology can become a powerful tool in every way: in personal selling, in non-personal selling, in consumer marketing, and indeed in the activities of marketers themselves.

The rapid move to the iPad and other tablets is a strong step in the right direction. But that step will fall short if it means nothing more than 'detail aids on a cheaper device.' Rather, a truly Speed of Change approach means conceiving of tablets as highly sophisticated tools that create openings for engagement with HCPs. By making creative use of the tablet's distinguishing characteristics (touchscreen, GPS, accelerometer) a product's benefits and differentiation can be more convincingly presented.

At the same time, powerful data can be shared—in two directions. Reps can call up rich, relevant information from sales databases to improve their call planning, and marketing executives can see patterns in the sales data coming back from the field. There is nothing preventing this kind of seamless, sophisticated use of data—except the vision and commitment to do it.

HCPs may be harder to reach, but they still need information from pharma. The Speed of Change trick is to deliver your marketing messages and knowledge to HCPs at the very moment they have interest or questions. This is 'just-in-time' HCP marketing; it represents a significant departure from existing approaches (such as portalsaurs), but it's completely attainable today. In fact, it already has been attained—by Amgen, for its brand Nplate.

Given the preponderance of ROI evidence, every consumer campaign should be digital-centric. The obvious reason is because that's how consumers seek out healthcare information. The less obvious reason is that by using Speed of Change tools, you can build more effective campaigns more quickly. These tools can enable marketers to take the pulse of consumers in real time, leading to faster and more actionable insights. Better insights mean better campaigns—and better results.

All of these changes can be accomplished today; but none will be accomplished unless the role of marketers changes, too. Marketers must become expert at rapid customer knowledge acquisition, absorption, and recalibration, precisely tuning consumer, HCP, and managed care campaigns to the proclivities and preferences of their customers.

Think of it this way: One of the greatest impacts of Speed of Change is the atomization of knowledge; a marketer focused on a very thin slice of knowledge (a particular brand treating a particular condition, most likely) must be better at this than the manager of a competing brand. She has to tune her environment for speed; using technology tools to read her customers more quickly, absorbing past performance data to make decisions based on what is likely to work best, and, once in market, monitoring feedback from the field and from campaigns to see what's working, and adjust accordingly.

The best marketers are already headed in this direction, turning the Speed of Change from threat to weapon. The simple but critical question for the health of the industry as a whole is this: Are you?

Bill Drummy is the CEO of Heartbeat Ideas. He can be reached at


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