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Reimagining Pharmaceutical Brand Strategy

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Albert Einstein's quote“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
Albert Einstein

I’m sure all the white coats in the lab peered at Albert Einstein with trepidation after he let this idea fly. It is so alluring to believe we can analyze our way to greatness— that there is some mathematical algorithm that spits out and validates brilliantly innovative strategy. But there’s not.

“The people who gravitate to strategic planning functions and strategy consulting firms tend to be highly analytical. That, I believe, is a problem. To be sure, analysis is important but in the end, strategy is and will always be a creative process.” – Roger Martin, Harvard Business Review

This article by Roger Martin at the Harvard Business Review illuminates a shadow across the pharmaceutical brand planning process— a dark spot that has always vaguely troubled me. He neatly bundles my untethered thoughts into a cohesive opinion.
It’s mind-numbing to consider how many hours it must have taken to pull together some of the SWOTs and meticulously worded aspirational value statements I’ve seen or worked on parts of. I’ve often wondered what the opportunity cost is of that time, and if great opportunities are missed because the brand planning process doesn’t tease them out.
Roger Martin throws out 3 Quick Ways to Improve Your Strategy Making. I like them.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” -Steve Jobs

I also like this quote from Steve Jobs. In my experience, it’s the way most effective business leaders find their strategies and make decisions. The managers who rely solely on 400-page spreadsheets are the ones who never seem to make any strategic decisions at all.

Increasing sales in a tough managed market environment with everyday B2B hand tools

Posted by | Innovation, New Ways of Pharma Marketing, Sales Training, Training | No Comments

I read a lot of articles on content marketing, like this one: Keeping Content from Getting Lost. Content marketing is not news across most industries. Do a search on the term and you’ll get 982 million results.

Every time I read an article about Content Marketing, I think of our pharma marketing clients. I see two ways that content marketing applies to pharma: online and off-line. Most people don’t think of content marketing as having non-digital relevance; but I’ve never been most people.

Today, I’m contemplating only the off-line aspect … maybe because over the past week I’ve spoken with 17 DMs, each one for over an hour. My task is to help them increase sales of a particular product in a tough managed market environment. I listen to their challenges, I look at the managed market data for their district, and we discuss how they can bend their curve. Tomorrow.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to drive sales is to stop hard-selling the product and start considering why the HCP needs the product.

“People don’t buy a drill. They buy a hole.”

More than half of physicians and HCPs participate in ACOs or Medical Homes right now. What HCPs need are ways to meet the demands of these new compensation, reimbursement and management entities. The DM and sales team have a huge opportunity to engage with these individuals with meaningful, relevant content.

rogers innovation curve

What does this content look like? It looks like a conversation. It looks like the sales rep discussing with the HCP the quality standards that they are being tasked to achieve, talking about how others are working to reach those standards, and then. Finally. Showing how the pharma product is part of that standard of care.

Is this easy to implement nationwide? No. How do you do it? The only way to convince the masses is to convince a few individuals first. These few then talk everybody else into the idea. That’s why we work with selected DMs who have been identified as Early Adopters. Some call this a “pilot,” but it’s a pilot built to scale organically.

Don’t let me lead you to believe we came up with this highly successful best practice on our own. We simply follow the guidance of top innovation adoption experts like Seth Godin and Geoffrey Moore and Everett Rogers. It’s also the thinking that drives every single KOL program pharma has ever unleashed.

More blog posts: http://www.franklynhc.com/blog/

Do wide-angle brand goals mean only TRx counts?

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SMART GoalsPeople seem to have an all or nothing approach to strategic planning. By strategic planning, I don’t mean “brand plan” because everybody has one of these jammed in their desk drawer. What differentiates the camps is two things:

  1. Are the KPIs/brand goals SMART? (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound)
  2. Are calendarized action plans put in place to achieve the goals, and attainment assessed on a regular basis?

I might be missing something, but I seem to see a lot of  loose goals like “attain optimal…” or “be patient-centric” or “maximize access.” I suppose that goals of any kind help focus energy. But such goals aren’t measurable; there’s no “Yay, we did it” benchmark. If nobody quite knows whether results are great or below par, I wonder how it’s possible to celebrate successes or continuously improve performance.

Say a goal is to offer “healthcare solutions.” The premise of such a goal is that being customer-centric will produce larger eventual returns than the instant gratification achieved by brand-centric hard selling. Is management really willing to gamble the brand on this proposition? And how long are they willing to wait for the TRx bounty to be realized?

In franchises without SMART goals to frame out the gamble concretely, I wonder if the real point is that the only thing that counts is today’s NRx/TRx.

SMART goals establish benchmarks beyond sales numbers. In the absence of SMART goals, only sales numbers can be measured, and therefore only sales numbers can count. Is Going-Straight-for-The-Kill-Every-Day a strategic plan? If tenures are so short and moment-by-moment sales reports so scrutinized, possibly longer-term strategic planning isn’t in a brand manager’s best interest anyway.

Should we say we’re sorry when we disagree?

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“I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with you,” is a statement that always strikes me as strange.

Why do people feel the need to apologize for caring enough, for thinking hard enough, to come up with an opposing point of view? After all, a collaborative team is always smarter than even the smartest individual. Diverse opinions meshed together create brilliant, break-away, sound thinking.

In my opinion, people should apologize for agreeing wholeheartedly, and adding nothing.

— Stacey

No good will come from extremes, even when it comes to extremely innovative thinking

Posted by | Innovation | No Comments

Brad Feldman got an email from a reader that sounds familiar — same story, different business. While Brad’s focus is agile software, the same pattern resounds through pharma marketing: Management will not try anything new until they can see it. And when I say “see it” I do not mean metaphorically.

Is this a bad thing?
In extremes, anything is bad.

risk continuum

No good will come from extremes.

Demanding that every idea be developed to the point that you can hold it in your hands before you’ll even consider it is inarguably bad. You will wind up like the company in Brad’s article: wasting millions trying to fix a wheezing, sprawling, state-of-the-art-if-it-were-1990 approach.

“We were too busy mopping up the floor to turn off the faucet.”

But immediately jumping on every new idea, however sketchy, is what I’ve always called “shiny penny syndrome.” It’s equally bad. You wind up with an ADD-wrinkled bag of fragmented accidental strategies.

It’s really easy to castigate bewhiskered, calcified management in hindsight. But no one knows what they don’t know. In Brad’s reader’s example, it’s easy to assume that the old guard didn’t realize that they could start all over again without repointing their entire IT team to the effort. In their minds, they probably imagined shutting down the business for months, risking their personal careers and fighting off an angry lynchmob of shareholders with tasers and hopeful promises.

To me, the lesson here is trust, communication and process.

  • The establishment needs to hire bold, measured thinkers that they trust to take the business forward, even if they don’t quite understand the technology.
  • And these bold, measured thinkers need to communicate, in the language of the establishment, what they are able to realistically pull off.
  • But it will all be frustrating smacktalk unless the organization as a whole spawns a culture that demands continuous improvement and shapes processes around that core directive.