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Winning the Next War

Faruk Capan

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I recently had the privilege of being published in Pharmaceutical Executive. My article examines how pharma can catch up to the modern marketing model requirements by tackling obstacles I like to call the next war.

Pharmaceutical marketing organizations, like many armies, are usually better equipped to fight the last war than the next one. However, success — in war and marketing — goes to the side that rapidly accepts and acts on the challenges of a new environment. Fortunately for us, we have a clear view of the obstacles facing us in the next war on modern healthcare marketing because they are already upon us. And a successful attack plan is within our reach.

As we begin a new year, I encourage you to consider the obstacles of this next war and contemplate how we, as marketers, can do things differently to overcome them.

1. Challenge: Thinking remains shortsighted. The drug development side of the pharmaceutical industry requires a slow and steady approach. Because of this, pharma’s marketing decision-makers tend to focus on short-term rather than long-term goals. This doesn’t work anymore, because long-term relationships with patients and physicians are becoming more critical each day.

Solution: Change the incentive structure. If brands want to create long-term relationships with patients and physicians, we need to find leaders who are going to build long-term relationships with brands. Leaders who are compensated based on a long-term horizon can afford to be patient, and the virtue of patience in brand development will only grow as our ability to target becomes more granular and the digital tools more complex.

2. Challenge: Big data is, well, big. Collecting mountains of data is one thing; sifting through all of it and drawing actionable conclusions is very much another. There’s no way around it. Learning how to handle big data is going to be a long, difficult and expensive undertaking. Many companies choose to invest in a single solution to deal with the large amounts of data, but this only compounds the issue.

Solution: Think small. Rather than throwing vast resources into a single solution to the big data challenge, companies and brands should think small, slow and steady. Start with small-scale, highly targeted data collection and analysis pilots on individual brands or audiences that seem particularly ripe for a granular data approach. This less expensive approach empowers brand managers to make their own decisions as to what works for their brand rather than accept a solution dictated from their higher ups. It also allows you to show the value of your approach with low risk while gradually gaining institutional buy-in.

3. Challenge: Pharma has creaky joints. It’s no secret: in the pharma industry, we are slow, tentative and risk-averse. We set it and forget it, work in siloes and, even when something does get done, it takes months for legal/medical/regulatory approvals. Agility is not our strong suit, making it increasingly difficult to keep up in the ever-changing world of modern healthcare.

Solution: Make agility mandatory. It is going to take an enterprise-wide commitment to break down all the impediments to real agility. To get there, we need leaders at the highest level willing to make agility mandatory across the company. Those leaders must encourage innovation and smart risk-taking, reward speed and efficiency, and not take “no” for an answer when the fate of a brand is at stake.

The next war may be upon us, but by fighting each of the challenges head-on, we will come out as winners. I encourage you to move into 2015 fully armed with solutions to the obstacles in front of us. You can read my full analysis of each obstacle and the corresponding solutions here.

 

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