Over the past decade, Intouch has grown from a small digital healthcare marketing agency into a major player that can go toe to toe with anyone else in the industry. As 2016 winds down, it’s worth looking back at the principles that have helped us become what we are today. These principles are neither secret nor even particularly complex — in fact, we’re glad to share them and encourage others to try them out.

Think for Yourself
Our industry, like most industries that have been around for a while, can sometimes be trapped by its own history. In the course of fifty or sixty years of doing much of anything, dogmas can become deeply engrained — in our case, dogmas regarding how physicians should behave; how best to communicate with them; how to handle products in particular disease areas, and so on. Sometimes those tenets have been around for so long that no one really remembers how they got started or what the basis for them was, but somehow they still hang around because no one has taken the trouble to drill down into all that received wisdom to see what’s underneath.

A marketing agency that wants to serve as a real partner to pharmaceutical companies needs to begin by distrusting and testing all the dogmas, most especially including the dogmas of its own clients. Or, put differently, just because Client X believes in Strategy Y and is paying you lots of money doesn’t make Strategy Y the right strategy, so go out and prove it, or disprove it, for yourself. If you don’t have the courage to look a client in the eye and tell him that his dogmas are out of date — and do your own analysis and research to prove it — then you’ll never be more than a service provider in this business.

Live the Data and the Science
Big data isn’t just a buzzword in marketing anymore; it’s our new reality, and anyone who doesn’t know how to take advantage of it is starting well behind the starting line. Sure, you can pay some other company to do analytics for your agency, but at this point that’s rather like paying someone else to develop the creative or the strategy that you are offering to your clients; if you have to hire someone else to provide data analytics for your own clients, what value are you, as an agency, adding to the equation, exactly? Brand managers have moved on from counting clicks and expect their agency partners to be able to trace the impact of a campaign all the way through the streams of data to an actual positive patient outcome; “Let me check with our analytics providers” is becoming less and less of a convincing response to that expectation every day. Analytics need to be built right into your agency, and everyone working on every brand should be steeped in them.

And then there’s behavioral science. In a world where people continue to smoke cigarettes, not take their diabetes meds (or their immunosuppressive transplant meds, or their HIV meds, etc.), and do all sorts of other counterintuitive things that damage their health, a deep understanding of how such choices are made, of why people make choices against their own interest and what can be done about it, is absolutely crucial for anyone in the healthcare outcomes business. If behavioral science isn’t a component of how you approach every one of your programs, you’re playing yesterday’s game.

You don’t need an advanced degree to be a successful marketer. More than anything, you need commitment — to stay open-minded, keep learning, take (calculated) risks, and be indispensable to your clients. Check back soon for more tips on how to thrive, not just survive!