As 2017 gets ever closer, we’re continuing our look back at the principles that have helped us become what we are today. Here’s Part 2 in our three-part series on thriving — not just surviving — as a pharma marketer.

Be Adaptable
Pharmaceutical marketing agencies — marketing agencies in general, really — were using mostly the same tools — print and television — for pretty much the entire second half of the twentieth century, which meant that marketers rarely had to concern themselves with a new medium. These days, if a marketer goes off to meditate in Tibet for a year, he’ll barely recognize the toolbox when he gets back.

Producing big ideas or great creative is no longer enough for us; we need to be following new media wherever it leads and bringing (sometimes dragging) our clients along for the ride. An agency that doesn’t make a priority of being a subject matter expert about everything from here to the bleeding edge of new media is never going to get anywhere beyond being the charming but doomed third-party candidate in the pitch room when the really big accounts are on the line.

And just to be clear, being adaptable doesn’t mean hiring somebody who used to work for Instagram and giving him a nice office and a six-word job title. The will to proactively adapt to changing media and market conditions has to seep into the walls of an agency; it has to touch everyone and drive everyone on the premises.

Expertise can always be bought, but adaptability cannot; it must be a priority of an agency’s leadership, something that’s encouraged and rewarded every day, in every employee from top to bottom.

The CEO or the CIO or the executive vice president of technological jabberwocky may not catch every new development in the marketplace. But an agency full of smart people who are constantly being encouraged to think forward and look outward surely will.

Not Everything Needs to be Billable
At least not if you want to be a real innovator. Plenty of people in our industry love to talk about innovation, but if all your innovation is coming from client work alone, then what kind of innovator are you, really?

If finding better ways to communicate with people about their health is your agency’s raison d’être, then you ought to be investing in ways to do that on your own rather than waiting for some client to finally agree to do it and implement it six to twelve months later.

For example, at Intouch we’ve been geeking out about Alexa, the Amazon voice command device, as well as the potential of virtual and augmented reality. But, by geeking out, I don’t just mean having an Echo or a VR headset in the office and telling each other how cool it is.

We’ve been building proprietary apps and pharma-specific tools for these products, just because. We may end up using some of those tools in our client work, or we may not. In the end, it doesn’t matter; the mere act of developing them keeps us thinking actively about how to improve our toolbox, and that will make us better partners for our clients. Innovation is not a switch that can be turned on when the telephone rings; just like adaptability, it has to be ingrained, encouraged and rewarded at all times.

As I said in Part 1 of this series, being a successful marketer takes commitment — to staying open-minded and up to date, taking (calculated) risks, and making yourself indispensable to your clients.

Check back before we close out 2016 for Part 3 on how to thrive, not just survive!