Health Information Technology Archives - Franklyn Healthcom

Find the Why to Lift Your Share

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Same Side Selling - the book

Same Side Selling – the book

I was reading Same Side Selling by Ian Altman the other day. Ian says that he did a study of CEOs and found that there are three questions a CEO asks before making a purchase. She doesn’t ask, “What is this thing?” or “How does it work.”


CEOs ask:

  • Why do we need this? What problem do we have that this product will fill?
  • If we move forward, what results are we likely to get?
  • Why should we buy it from this company?

“As one CEO explained, ‘If I know the problem it solves and my likely outcome, I don’t really care what you are doing or how you do it.’ In other words, why bumps what off the list.”

Let’s consider this lesson relative to pharma sales. Do we know why prescribers write our brand? Do we know why practices or larger provider organizations might encourage or discourage their prescribers to write our brand?

In order to overcome the “I can only write Generics now” objection, we pharma marketers really need to figure out our Why. No longer do we have the luxury of sloppily defining our target patient populations as ‘anybody with skin,’ or ‘anybody with high blood pressure.’

“If a company defines their offering too broadly, it is less likely that [their brand] can help us. We’re not looking for generalists. We want to hire specific fixers for specific problems.”
— Jack Quarles, long-time Fortune 500 Buyer

“It is more profitable to be a big fish in a small pond than a small undefined fish in a big pond.”
– Tim Ferriss, Author, 4-Hour Work Week

What’s a frequent “Why?” for practices? The demands of payers. Payers offer pay-for-performance objectives and providers do what they get reimbursed to do. One reason Franklyn has been so successful pulling brand sales through IDNs is that we have been able to integrate a managed markets “Why” into our clients’ sales approach.

Managed Markets is just one avenue to get to “Why.” To bend the sales curve these days, brands need to find more of them.

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.

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

The pharma brand marketing paradox

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paththroughswampIt’s not news that traditional brand marketing and selling is becoming increasingly ineffective. EPG just came out with a study, one amongst many, that showed HCPs are, in general, not that interested in what pharma companies have to say about their products. Surprised? Probably not.

But here’s the paradox: Senior management often demands brands sell the brand, after they sell the brand, while selling the brand. Pharma marketers apparently aren’t working unless brand logos are wallpapering America. Is the full-frontal direct confrontation pill-pusher route the fastest way to success?

I say no. I say pharma can no longer afford the luxury of solely pushing its own objectives. 

This is what content marketing or native advertising or product placement (there are many words for the same idea) is all about. The name of the game is to communicate with customers without selling. Instead of pitching products or hard selling services, focus on creating and delivering valuable information that educates prospective buyers.

It’s been well proven in CPG that if a brand consistently gives customers something of value without selling it to them, the brand will definitely earn not only customer trust and loyalty, but also their business.

I’d suggest that today and in the future, brand detailing should be considered one part of a well-aligned strategy based on customer needs.