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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

How robust is your targeting?

Should we be targeting customers on what they have done in the past, or what they think they will do in the future?

We often say that we are in the business of changing behaviour. Knowing a customer's behaviour is, of course, important and the reason why we hear the question at market research “How much of Product X have you prescribed over the last 3 months?” It has been a few years since I went on a field visit with a sales representative but I know they ask customers about their prescribing behaviour too.

In addition, having seen a myriad of 'segmentation' models (I use inverted commas as 'segmentation' is a term often loosely used for a model created internally with no market research validation whatsoever) explaining that 'high prescribers' are 'brand loyalists' (I know they are not the same but that is a topic for another discussion), it is clear that prescribing behaviour is a common aspect of targeting for our clients.

However, something has been bugging me about this lately; and I don't mean the limited application of segmentation research. You see, I occasionally like to dabble in foreign exchange trading. Traders – and I mean successful traders – do not base decisions on the history of a currency's charts. They do take the charts into account, but if history held the answer we would all be millionaires. What makes a trader successful is that they identify trends and then speculate on the future and what they think the market is going to be like in the medium to long term.

Here is another example. I am currently the owner of an Android phone and my previous phone was also an Android. I keep getting junk mail from major mobile phone retailers who know my buying history, trying to sell me the latest Android on the market. The problem is I don't want the latest Android. My iPad has converted me to Apple and I want an iPhone next (assuming the antenna works and Google Maps comes standard of course).  

However perhaps due to the lack of a feedback loop (clearly these retailers have a closed loop marketing issue), these phone retailers do not know that my attitudes and perceptions towards Android and Apple have changed and they are missing out on the opportunity to sell me an iPhone at an extremely overinflated price.

Past behaviour alone ('current' behaviour does not mean anything unless a physician is in the middle of writing a script) is not a great predictor of future behaviour. Behaviour lags behind reality as explicitly shown in the belief map model: Current belief → Current behaviour → Desired belief → Desired behaviour. When targeting, behaviour needs to be used in combination with other attributes, such as attitudinal.

As a strategic planner, part of my role is to be a soothsayer – a futurologist. Next time I discuss targeting our client's customers I think I will pay a little less attention to “How much of Product X have you prescribed lately?” and more attention to “What do you think you will be prescribing in six months' time?” At least then we can stay ahead of the curve.

Article by
Paul Townley-Jones

senior account planner at Havas Health London

18th March 2013

From: The Directory

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