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Smart Thinking blog

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

Back to school: client service 101

Simple advice to renew your business model for client service

Every now and then, I'm reminded of the right way to manage clients. Not that we don't already know, but sometimes, you're so busy doing you don't always have time to assess how you're doing! I had an opportunity to go back to school recently and it was a refreshing reminder. I was asked to organise a speaker for our meeting of our international association of independent agencies, so I tapped a former client who had moved on from directing product marketing in Canada to do so on a global scale.

Our meeting theme was 'Adapt or Die' so I asked our speaker to talk about how agencies could be sure they were meeting the changing needs of our clients, both locally and globally. This individual has held senior marketing positions worldwide and has worked with literally dozens of agencies, so when he talked about how the market is changing for Big Pharma, he had our rapt attention.

He told us how the recent patent cliff, with several blockbuster drugs losing exclusivity, along with 'anaemic' product pipelines have led to a purging of sales representatives and an increase in non-personal promotion. How the use of multi-channel marketing is on the rise with digital now representing a disproportionate amount of marketing spends, and growing.  He told us how emerging markets like China have been outpacing western nations in use of digital technologies and physician use of the Internet, smart phones and social media.

We fully expected this update to be followed with guidance on how we needed to adjust our product mix, our internal skillset, and our business models. So what did he suggest we change? He told us that agencies have actually done a great job of adapting their products and services to align with the changing market, so no advice there. What we haven't done as well, and what leads to more client dissatisfaction than any lack of services is quite basic - ineffective client service. 

He encouraged us to review our models and he gave us 9 simple pieces of advice to guide our approach:

  • Don't keep changing account people – clients don't like training staff
  • All brands are important, so don't saddle clients with the B team for smaller ones
  • Clients won't always tell you if they are unhappy, but if you ask them they will
  • Clients like agencies to show them something that confirms the relationship is working (Key Performance Indicators)
  • Creative is important – If you get bored with the brand, guess how the client feels?
  • Surprising clients with more than asked for makes them value the relationship more
  • Tell the client things about their business they don't already know  - that's an insight!
  • Offer the client ways of improving the working relationship – don't wait for the client to ask to review it; it might be too late
  • Keep the wow factor that made the client choose the agency in the first place

Sage advice from a trusted source. And what a relief to know I don't need an office in Beijing.

Article by
Chris McEvenue

Managing Partner, CPC Healthcare Communications, Toronto, Canada- Proud Member of Indigenus Network.
Email him

28th February 2014

From: Marketing



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