5 things I’d like to hear from pharma marketers in 2011

1.  Digital is a core skill-set required for all marketers in our organisation.

In FMCG, in banking, in the media, this has been true for years. But in pharma we still seem to think that the eMarketing person “over there” will deal with all the digital elements of our brand plan. 

This is a bit like having a brand team member whose job it is to look after “paper”.  But “paper” isn’t a channel, and neither is “digital” – they are both types of media with many different manifestations and many channel types, and digital opportunities present themselves in public relations, medical education, brand promotion, KOL discussions, customer relationship management, among many more. 

All our communicators, from the medical information team to the board of directors, must be digital-savvy. As the power-house of communications, the marketing team should be leading the charge and ensuring that all marketers are e-marketers.

2.  We are evaluating whether or not to use face-to-face selling for this product/customer segment/country

We all talk about customer-centric multi-channel marketing.  But do we really challenge our accepted channel mix?  How brave are we?  Do we evaluate whether these target doctors prefer face-to-face or other types of interaction – the way we (still!) ask if digital interactions are relevant?   

Or is our planning still centred on the goal of getting reps in front of doctors?  Assuming we feel there is a role for a mix of human AND digital interactions are we optimising the cross-channel opportunities?  Are the reps passionate about and selling our digital support services?  Are our digital interactions offering face-to-face follow up?

3.  It is our duty to try to ensure public sources of information about our products are up-to-date.

Most pharma companies are aware that patients and doctors use public online sources like Wikipedia as much as, or more than, “official” sources of information. Most regulatory authorities do not prevent the industry from sponsoring updates to such sources to ensure their currency and accuracy. But still, most pharma companies are not doing this and most of these sources are out of date. Shall we find a way to fix this in 2011?

4.  I am well aware of the online conversations about my drug, and this insight is shaping my strategy

2011 is the year to really start listening.  Yes, use an agency and a monitoring service to regularly report on the conversation.  But, just as important, go there yourself and listen.  To be a “fly on the wall” as your customers discuss your product or the needs they have that it might address is a marketer’s heaven.  Let’s make use of it.

5.  Is it unproven?  Do we think it might work but don’t know the ROI?  Let’s do it!

How many times have you been to those meetings where you brainstorm innovative communications, and come up with a number of real “breakthrough” communication ideas that you think, with all the knowledge in the room, will really impact your key target audience, change behaviour somehow, and change healthcare forever.

Then someone asks the million-dollar question “how do we know it will work?” and everyone looks round uncomfortably.  If it doesn’t work, you’ve wasted the company’s money and you look like a fool.  If it does work, you might create a communications paradigm shift and become a hero.

Generally in the pharmaceutical industry, we don’t reward risk.  We don’t risk taking a drug to market until we have all the clinical evidence it needs to support it, and so often we mirror that behaviour in our marketing plans.  If we don’t have evidence to support a course of action, we don’t do it.  This is impacting our readiness to adapt our mix to exploit emerging channels.  We want first mover advantage, but wait a minute, we don’t want to be first.

Happily, we are seeing “innovation funds” and “digital strategy leaders” and increasingly people whose job it is to try things and see if they work.  This is a promising trend, but still the risk-averse culture is embedded, and the only people who can change our culture is…..us.

Set aside a portion of your brand budget as the “risk fund”.  Reward your team for taking managed risks and learning from them.  Adaptability can create competitive advantage.   Let’s do it!

Congleton Town Councillor for the Women's Equality Party. CEO of Kanga Health Ltd - practical digital transformation of healthcare.

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4 comments on “5 things I’d like to hear from pharma marketers in 2011
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Complete Digital, Kay Wesley. Kay Wesley said: 5 things I'd like to hear from pharma marketers in 2011: https://bytesizepharma.com/2011/01/25/5-things-2011 #in […]

  2. pperlado says:

    Hi Kay, I agree with you about the necessity of being e-marketers. But people are not ready yet. Maybe because we got used to face to face strategies and tactics and it’s been working for years. And now, suddenly, we have to change our commercial model in less than a year… We have to move carefully or someone could go too far too soon…



  3. Kay Wesley says:

    Less than a year? The digital revolution has been happening for 15 years. It is old news. I challenge the assertion that “it’s been working for years”. It is a very expensive business-model we operate – and actually it isn’t “working” in many markets – doctors DO use the internet for 90% of their info-seeking and face-to-face for only 10%…should we only have 10% of our key customer’s air-time?

  4. […] year my New Year post was 5 things I’d like to hear from pharma marketers in 2011, and you may like to know I’ve heard 4 of the 5.  (I’ll leave you to guess the one I […]

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by Kay Wesley of Kanga Health Ltd

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