Tolstoy’s observation that while happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way describes the pharmaceutical selling environment today. No standard go-to-market strategy will work for every unhappy brand and every disaffected doctor.
A new focus on flashy iPad sales presentations will slow but not stop the slide in office access. Technology should enable marketers to learn about and serve the customer better and faster than the competition, not simply be a new shade of lipstick on the traditional sales pig.
Relationship Marketing, or “treating different customers differently” is finally getting the attention it deserves. Contrast RM with the more typical marketing approach of “shouting” at the audience with a single message and betting that a brand will get its fair share of the audience. Now with the perfect storm of declining physician access, pricing pressure from private and government payers and the looming patent cliff on many blockbusters, marketers are finally seriously considering the benefits of building long-term relationships with their customers.
This year, brand teams will begin to invest in physician databases and predictive analytics and digital channel integration and will start learning how to treat different customers differently.
There is a day of reckoning approaching when it will become painfully obvious which brands have created meaningful, value-based relationships with healthcare professionals and patients. Pharmaceutical companies are starting to be scrutinized by a new wave of tech-enabled professionals, empowered patients and enlightened bureaucrats intent on holding suppliers to higher standards of value and engagement. And depending on what they find, they will vote with their pocketbook.
The essence of strategy is to be ready before you need to be. This year, from brand teams to board members, there will need to be a new focus on customer strategy and on recalibrating what it means to serve our different customers differently. The way they need to be served and the way they prefer to be served.