I recently participated in the Digital Pharma East conference in Philadelphia. At this annual event, 200 to 300 pharma marketers and their agencies gather to talk about digital pharma and trade important questions. Questions like, what’s the next big thing around the corner? What should our priorities be? Is anyone doing anything interesting or effective?
Half of the attendees are new to digital marketing and were sent by their boss to learn, the other half are experienced digital marketers looking to commiserate once a year with colleagues on how challenging it is to do marketing in a regulated industry!
Bringing the Outside In
I was part of a panel that addressed customer-centricity. I called my introductory talk “Bringing the Outside In.” I discussed moving pharma from inside-out thinking to outside-in thinking. This means bringing the customer into every aspect of our business. This will impact decision-making, define success, affect what user-centered creativity looks like, and influence what it means to develop relevant content. Simply put, it’s about making the customer – physicians and patients – the central focus of all that we do.
The Four C’s of Customer-centric Marketing
In my talk, I borrowed a construct from Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, and defined the four C’s of customer-centric marketing — Commitment, Courage, Capabilities and Confidence.
A customer-centric marketing strategy requires a commitment to building a customer-centric culture and mentality. This involves making the kinds of structural changes in an organization that place the customer in the center of its universe. For a large company, that’s not easy. Most pharma marketers are in the habit of using third party intermediaries like agencies and media to outsource their reach and frequency efforts. If pharma hears anything back from their customers, it’s usually second- or third-hand.
But in a communications-rich world, that’s not enough. Today, manufacturers need more direct access to customers. How do you get that? Here’s where you begin to realize the strategy and benefits of relationship marketing (RM).
If we “RM-enable” each one of those outsourced agency tactics, whether it’s direct mail, conventions, email, teleconferences, website or samples, even the sales force interactive sales aid, then we can have access to every touch point with a customer.
What does it mean to “RM-enable” a sales or marketing tactic? It means to connect every tactic to a central database.
The details about every tactic – who was targeted, who responded, how and when they responded – these interaction details are captured to a database. This enables you to create a direct listening channel to your customers. In other words, direct access. You’re not hearing it second- or third-hand. Not only do you get an incredible level of outside-in insight about your customers on an individual basis, you can now control the types and sequences and targets of outbound messages and tactics to provide the most value.
A couple of examples
A couple of examples of two different kinds of launches using this approach might help. In one case, a new drug was entering a very competitive market space with about 60,000 physicians in the brand’s target universe. In another case, a specialty drug was launching with a target of about 4,000 physicians. We implemented RM strategies for both products, and despite very different audiences, we were able to touch 50% to 70% of physicians in our brand’s target universe. We interacted with them between five and seven times each. Since these were both pre-launch programs, they focused on disease awareness and invited physicians to opt-in to future interactions.
After the products launched, we continued to talk to these physicians via various channels. Over the following six months, the physicians we had touched with our pre-launch RM strategies had an average response rate 5.7 times greater than those who had not been reached. In other words, they wrote 5.7 times the number of prescriptions as physicians who were not part of the program, resulting in a very significant return on the investment.
How do we explain this kind of response? This happened because we knew our doctors. We learned what they cared about. We discovered what the right value proposition would be for them once the product was launched. We were able to have an actual, direct communication channel to them.
How can you get to that point of insight? How do you build an outside-in mentality that will support relationship marketing? It starts with a commitment to nurturing a “data and insight” culture within the company, within the brand. And to do this you have to have the second C – courage.
Not everyone within pharma or within the agency community wants to embrace the level of transparency required by a “data and insight” culture. It can be threatening to those vested interests, inside and outside of pharma, that would prefer the old murky way of doing business. It requires courage to publish response data on customers and marketing tactics. But sensitizing the organization to the differences among their customers and the different ways to reach them can have a remarkable effect on the culture. Marketing strategy begins to evolve from blunt segmentation (in terms of deciles or segments) to individual customer long-term value scores, and marketing planning moves from guessing to data-driven decisions.
Success in building a customer-centric marketing culture requires two more Cs, Capabilities and Confidence. To keep the word count of this blog to a reasonable length, I will cover these two criteria in the next posting.
Part II coming up… Stay tuned!