Editor’s note: SVP Jack Lipton joined Intouch in 2011. Jack has vast pharma agency experience and has proven to be one of our biggest cheerleaders, so intouchsol.com editors asked Jack to explain precisely why he thinks Intouch Solutions is so different.
We've been named the Med Ad News Agency of the Year for the second time in three years — and arguably in the tougher category of higher revenue agencies. How did this happen? From my place as a relatively new Intouch employee from New York, I offer my perspective on how we have done it.
One way to look at this is to frame it as a great chef or restaurant owner would assess their "product." If great work is like great food that attracts loyal customers, what is the recipe that makes it happen? Effective creative and happy, loyal clients are our food and customers. What drives our menu?
1. We're 100 percent Life Sciences. Focus, focus, focus! Our sights are always set on life sciences — particularly pharma — and they are not diverted into learning new industries. Our best people and resources are never going to be diverted into something unrelated to health care. Being this focused is not unique to Intouch, but it is an all-important bedrock that we're built on. Do you think you get the best food in a restaurant that serves all kinds of cuisine? No way! The specialist is set up to do the best job.
2. Digital Emphasis. We're not one dimensional, but these days if you are going to "season" your staff anyway, it pays to be digital first. With the rise of multiple platforms, digital is growing faster than any other medium. It's the most effective and efficient way to reach virtually all our audiences.
3. Technology Expertise. Our kitchen is state-of-the-art. We're not challenged to cook up apps and tablet platforms with smoke and mirrors. We’ve served up more of these to our clients before some of our competition began to even think about it. Technology is not an add-on for us — it's in our DNA. Our company was founded on it.
4. Visionary Management. Our menu of offerings has not remained static. It's because our management is not afraid to take risks and invest in new areas that can positively impact the business. Importantly, they have the patience to see through initiatives that may require long-term feeding.
5. We're Humble. Being rooted in Kansas City and the Midwest, we're far from being arrogant. That means we listen to our customers and are open to change what we serve up, if it makes sense. And if the food doesn't taste good for some reason, we do something about it.
6. The "Menu" Selling Approach Is Different. Let's make believe we're a secret observer at some competitive agencies’ new business pitches. At most of them we're likely to see a variation on the same menu approach. You'll see agency after agency tell you that they have great creative and have a process that allows them to understand targets better than anyone else. Really? When you strip it down, great creative is subjective (effectiveness is not) — and the processes are basically different prescriptive research paths to get to target insights. At Intouch, we don't scream that we have a "proprietary" process. The creative process is both art and science, and it takes hard work. We don't force fit. We roll up our sleeves and dig into research and brand learnings to uncover what is the best fit for the brand.
7. Unique "Menu" Offerings. Just like at a great restaurant, there are signature dishes that make you different and get customers to sample and then move on to other items on your menu. Our best example of this is PharmaWall. It is the ultimate example of what makes us different. It is the result of how different we are. Our leadership — especially our CEO — recognizes the value of investing in a product that could ultimately help many of our clients and make us valuable. This has paid off not only for clients that might not otherwise participate in Facebook — but also for Intouch. Named one of the three most innovative 2011 pharma initiatives by Med Ad News, it's fast become what we may be most known for in the industry.
8. The Right Size. Though we've grown tremendously — especially in the last five years — our growth has not outstripped effective management. We're big enough to do almost everything a client could need, but not so big that we're fat and growing ineffective. This doesn't mean we can't grow bigger and stay effective. Restaurants expand and often add locations. Their growing success is predicated on either replicating or improving the original menu — so is ours!
9. Rewarded Staff/Low Turnover. We have an overwhelmingly loyal staff. A key reason can be directly tied to how we treat them. Agency success is shared, so bonuses extend to everyone — not just senior staff. This has been lost at many agencies over the last several decades. This is like a binding element in a recipe. It helps to keep everything together. We have one of the lowest turnover rates of any agency.
10. We're Independent. In an age where growing agencies are developed to be bought by holding companies, our independence is crucial to how we operate. Someone from thousands of miles away is not telling us what we can or cannot use in our kitchen or what we can buy to make it best work for us. It allows us to make decisions that best serve us, and not just feed and protect the bottom line of a larger entity.
So this is how I see it now: Our success is the result of all these recipe components. If you pull any of the ingredients, it won't be the same and undoubtedly would not be as successful. Several years from now — even within a year — some of the key agency recipe ingredients are likely to change. But that's the nature of any successful agency. The recipe for success requires constant vigilance. At Intouch, we're all responsible for keeping things fresh and "stirring the pot" to keep us successful.