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What does good marketing look like in 2016?

Promotion does not act within a vacuum, so knowing and measuring your environment is a critical success factor
What does good marketing look like in 2016?

Our marketers face a real  challenge. Genuine functional differentiators rarely exist, physician, payer and patient attitudes are cautious and resourcing pressures demand that skill sets and roles are broader than ever. Are we doing enough to support our people to deliver in the complex world of pharmaceutical marketing? This article provides a perspective on marketing capability in our industry and suggests a step-by-step approach that will help prepare marketers for success.

Prepared for success?
Everyone knows that good marketing is critical in any business and that brands rarely deliver upon their full potential when the marketing strategy and solutions are weak. It is therefore a concern that while there are exceptions, most pharmaceutical companies do not provide in-depth knowledge and skill development that is specific to marketing in our industry.

Marketing excellence departments are usually responsible for the development of marketers. Unfortunately, marketing excellence teams are generally under-resourced. This is particularly true within affiliates meaning that time-intensive coaching of marketing fundamentals has become limited. Because of this, marketing excellence is generally now more of a vision or expectation with accompanying templates and timelines, where the focus is not marketing expertise, but on compliance to an annual cycle and internal reporting processes.

Considerable investment is provided for sales functions to ensure sales effectiveness. While such investment is important, what is the value of a high performing sales team if the underlying marketing solution is suboptimal?

Marketing competencies are complex and take time to develop

This is like trying to make a race car go faster by adding a bigger engine, when really a different driver is all that is required for a winning performance. Brand performance is compromised unless appropriate emphasis is given to implementing core marketing principles. If we truly want our brands to deliver to their potential, we need to invest further in our marketers.

Reflection points

  • How do you support and develop new and established marketers?
  • What is your specific marketing investment per head vs other functions?
  • Does your company attract high calibre external marketers?

What good marketing should look like
One fundamental competency is positioning. To comment fully on positioning would require an entire article and this complexity is probably why very few marketers within pharma get this right from a strategic perspective and even fewer examples are rolled-out well.

A good positioning strategy should be the summary of detailed insights and strategic thinking of brand, customer, account, patient, access and competitor insights, finally culminating in an approach that is clear, specific and aligned to a defined target segment opportunity with a distinct element of differentiation. Marketers should understand that positioning is not just a paragraph for a brand planning template, but the result of significant strategic thinking and analysis across a wealth of complex data sets and scenarios that are adhered to across all marketing channels. Although important, the provision of templates and timelines can eliminate strategic thinking as new or inexperienced marketers will update previous iterations of slides without understanding why. Any marketing excellence programme needs to be specific and detailed enough to support individuals in strategic thinking, the tools that are available and in understanding 'why'.

How do we get there? Appraise, map, develop
Marketer development is critical to ensure that a pharmaceutical company's brands are successful. If we were to invest in such development plans, what might they look like, and what would be their focus?

Clearly this would be different for every individual and every team. Capability and needs will be diverse within and across organisations. The first step in understanding which development needs are required is to map out what good marketing looks like in your company across its key elements. This map should also illustrate what poor marketing looks like and every step in between. The descriptions should be objective to enable the appraisal and mapping of marketers on a scale that results in accurate benchmarking. This will provide training needs for individuals or groups of individuals to enable appropriate development plans to be formulated.

Sales team capabilities are often interrogated in similar ways with sales clinics and field visit assessments, so a similar intense process for marketing should be followed. There seems to be no reason for a different approach and every marketer's capability should be mapped. This will help individuals understand their strengths and development needs, and will reinforce a structured pathway and goals for their marketing career.

Marketing excellence programmes need to be specific and detailed

Reflection points

  • How do you assess the capability of your marketers?
  • How do you reward/recognise your marketers?
  • What does good marketing look like in your organisation?

Getting started
A starting point for competency mapping should be to identify the core elements of marketing for your organisation. These could be clustered into groups such as insights, strategy, implementation, measures/performance and people. Within each of these elements identify fundamental capabilities that are critical to deliver marketing excellence. When developing these maps, it is really important to learn from external experts and industries as well as internal requirements to ensure that your competencies are not just historical or internally focused and do not restrict our discipline. It is also very important not to over-complicate things - some of the best examples of marketing excellence are where the fundamentals are done well. A best practice map should consist of only 30 competencies to cover the essential aspects of our craft.

Once you have created a best practice map and you have tracked individual capabilities across fundamental marketing elements, you can benchmark your marketers and if necessary cluster them into subsets of development need. What should follow is the implementation of a coaching or preferably a mentoring programme to develop individuals or small groups in areas where their marketing needs lie. Ideally this will be delivered by someone with solid marketing and coaching experience in industry and will utilise tools and best practice examples in line with a SMART development plan. Mentoring will cement knowledge and skills within roles and within the brand, avoiding hypothetical scenarios where relevance to 'my brand and my job' are difficult to ascertain. Mentoring in other skills such as leadership is hugely valuable in preparing individuals for success. Mentoring in marketing will prepare individuals and our brands for success.

A demanding role
Marketing in itself is a hugely important and demanding role. Pharmaceutical marketing competencies are complex and take time to develop, yet current support and investments are limited. Fundamentals have been forgotten or were never learnt and given way to an internal focus, rapidly eliminating the exciting opportunities, experiences and reward that real brand management can provide. To deliver standout individual and brand performance, take steps to invest in marketing mentoring that is specific to 'my job, my brand and my development needs.' 

Article by
Matt Charge

is a marketing consultant at Charge Marketing Ltd

27th October 2016

From: Marketing

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