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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Agenda 2018: Choose your own adventure

Written by: | | Dated: Friday, February 16th, 2018


Med Ad News asked its sources what key questions for 2018 we had left out. This is what they told us.


What comes before the marketing trends?

Before we talk about new marketing trends, it’s important to pay attention to something very big happening on the discovery side of the business. All major pharma companies are grappling with the need to streamline and focus their R&D processes. Beyond therapeutic focus (which has already occurred for most), pharma is working to engage machine learning and hardcore data analytics to help increase their R&D productivity. This work should lead to the development of products that come out of the lab quicker, and with the added potential benefit of a well-defined patient target. This will have an enormous impact on how we bring these products to the market.

– Louisa Holland


Got talent?

The lack of marketing talent will have a major impact on pharmaceutical marketing – all marketing, really – this year. Nurturing and cultivating the next generation of marketing talent will be an imperative for all marketers, this year and beyond. The problem lies in the fact that fewer young people aspire to be marketers, certainly at large, legacy brands, assuming they lack innovation and are not culturally relevant. They aspire to work at companies they perceive to be at the forefront of innovation, such as Google or Facebook. And they aspire to work at companies with purpose – those where their work can make a difference in society and culture, where the company’s products and services exist to do more than just make money. Or they aspire to start their own companies, eschewing big brands altogether.

Also, marketing today requires an unprecedented mix of skills – the classic tenets of marketing, including creativity and strategy, are still necessary, but also crucial is aptitude in technology, data, analytics, metrics and financial performance. Now more than ever, marketers need to be able to connect the dots between marketing spend, marketing effectiveness and business growth, and now more than ever, with digital platforms at the core, they have that ability. But companies need people who bring the right education, skills and understanding to make that happen.

Creating opportunities internally at companies large and small for young people to have the flexibility and motivation to employ a range of skills, take risks and be entrepreneurial for the sake of business success, understanding that marketing is no longer a cost center but a growth driver, is key. Creating internal work cultures that attract the next generation and articulating and establishing a business purpose in a way that is palpable both within and outside companies will be necessary to compete in the future.

– Peter Rooney, growth officer, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide


How is the role of field sales reps changing in 2018? Will the traditional field model be replaced by something new? If so, what is next?

The life sciences industry has gone through several phases of commercial evolution, from face-to-face interactions to multichannel engagement to coordinated interactions between commercial and medical teams. We are entering a new phase where field and medical teams can better use data and insights to drive intelligent, value-based conversations with customers. Physicians want pharma to engage with them on a more immediate and in-depth level than ever before. By 2020, two-thirds of HCPs are expected to be ‘digital natives.’

HCP expectations, coupled with a shift towards customer centricity, are compelling commercial teams to tailor engagement to each customer’s needs and anticipate how – and when – they will want to consume information. For field reps, this presents an opportunity to deepen the relationship with their customers and broaden points of engagement with the HCP. In the new phase of ‘intelligent engagement,’ sales reps will look at the 360-degree view of the customer and combine that data with machine learning to determine the next best interaction. This year, sales and brand teams will get predictive and provide personalized information to customers before they even know what they need. The key will be to engage intelligently across multiple channels in a well-orchestrated way.

– Paul Shawah


How will mobile-based marketing impact pharma in 2018?

In the same vein as “personalized medicine meets personalized marketing,” the opportunity to leverage technology at the moments of care to deliver personalized brand messages to patients will take a larger role for pharmaceutical brands. Instead of pushing out one blanket ad to all patients such as on a website, brand activation tools can deliver targeted messages based on an individual’s treatment options. This capability allows for more contextually relevant, customized and impactful brand marketing.

– Dave Sheehan


How can pharma companies improve their forecasting accuracy?

While there are many factors that determine success in marketing, virtually every product is measured by achievement of sales expectations, e.g., how it did versus the forecast. While marketers are always challenged to create a more accurate forecast, the challenge is even more acute for new products entering new markets. As one Chief Commercial Officer stated, “You need to know how to make a forecast that is achievable because the other side of that equation is miserable.”

Why is it so difficult to create an accurate forecast? According to a recent TGaS Advisors survey, the availability and validation of data sources are the top two challenges. Forecasters are challenged with triangulating data sources for the relevant populations. Changes in adherence, length of therapy and other types of data can create dramatic swings in the forecast.

While data issues are the most serious challenge for an accurate forecast, process issues were the most commonly cited in the TGaS survey. This included pressure on the forecast from stakeholders, version control and keeping track of assumptions, along with the time it takes to modify or update a forecast.

Given these challenges, what is a marketer to do to create better forecasts? One thing all marketers know is that the forecast will never be 100 percent accurate. However, the forecast should be credible. Marketers should ask if the forecast assumptions are appropriate. What data is needed to make this a credible forecast? How can I ensure that all of the assumptions for each scenario can be quickly accessed? By answering these questions, marketers will be able to have confidence in the forecast will be 100 percent credible (if not 100 percent accurate).

– Curt Staab, senior VP, Emerging Life Sciences Network, TGaS Advisors

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