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Listen, learn, act, adapt

By Sarah Theobald

Whatever the strategy you’re developing, the key is to start with the end in mind. Think about where and how your strategy will come to life in the ‘real world’ and use that to set your direction. Of course, knowing your product inside out is essential, but understanding where it fits into the bigger picture is equally important. One of the most common reasons that a strategy doesn’t deliver is that it was developed using an approach that was too insular and made assumptions about the outside world without asking the right questions.

Listen to the right people and hear what they say

Insights are critical to a robust strategy, but you have to know how to make those insights work for you. First, you need to talk to the right people and ask the right questions. All too often we become focused on talking to the top-tier experts because they know it all, right? Wrong, you will often get far better insights that truly reflect what matters on the ground by talking to those on the front line; for example, day-to-day prescribers and patients themselves. Find those people who truly understand and can articulate the unmet needs you’re trying to address and understand what is important to them so that your strategy focuses on the right targets. There are many different ways of listening, from market research and one-to-one interviews to advisory board meetings and virtual forums. Whichever approach you take, the key is to not just listen but really hear what you’re being told, understand the implications and determine what is actionable. Go in with an open mind and take time to appreciate different perspectives and what they mean for your strategy.

It’s not just external insights that feed into strategy development. For successful implementation, it’s hugely valuable to engage all relevant internal stakeholders from the outset too. By listening to the priorities and needs across functions and geographies you can develop a strategy that will deliver for all and which your whole team can get behind when it comes to putting it into action.

Learn from what you hear and answer your big questions

Anyone who has ever developed a strategy knows that there is often information overload. You have external and internal insights, functional priorities, corporate strategy, clinical plans, competitor intelligence… the list is endless. The real skill in strategy development comes into play when all this source material has to be assimilated and interpreted to create a single clear direction. There are many different tools and frameworks available to structure this process but it all boils down to answering the big questions for your product or company. What do our customers really need? What else is happening that could influence our direction? What are the scenarios we might encounter? How can we make ourselves stand out from the crowd? What do we need to do to make a difference? If you can use questions like these to filter and interpret your insights, you’ll have the firm foundation for a robust strategy.

Act decisively but be prepared to adapt

Answering your big questions should give you the pillars of your strategy. Cross-functional interaction and debate will then allow you to nail down a strategy centred on an aspirational vision, with clear strategic drivers or critical success factors. Once you have your strategy in place, the next step is translating it into action. All too often existing plans are retrofitted to a new strategy, ultimately resulting in the same outcomes because you’ve stuck to the same tactics. To make a difference you need to critically appraise your existing plan and make strategically aligned decisions about what you need to stop, start and continue. This process will give you an integrated tactical plan that will truly deliver on your strategy’s goals.

Getting a plan in place is only the start. As we all know, things keep changing and therefore being flexible enough to adapt will drive long-term success. Whether it’s in reaction to metrics and feedback from tactical delivery or in response to a major competitor milestone, you always need to be open to change. Constantly reassessing priorities and being ready to course-correct will keep you one step ahead of the game. And of course, there are always more questions to ask and insights to gather to help you listen, learn and act again!

In association with

20th April 2020

From: Marketing

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