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

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Putting a best practice sharing model in place

The impact of rising R&D costs and reduced commercialisation of pharmaceutical brands, due to increased market access barriers and shrinking marketing budgets, mean that pharmaceutical manufacturers need to be better at developing best practice sharing models within their organisations. 

The days of developing and implementing successful projects and not sharing these successes internally must be avoided if marketers are to maximise the return of investment from their ever-declining, annual marketing budgets.

Unfortunately, many pharmaceutical manufacturers with broad portfolios can be very poor at sharing successes within their organisation. Brand teams are often guilty of not sharing successes with their marketing colleagues, either within their own area or with other brand teams.  

Employee turnover with marketers leaving an organisation and taking all their great ideas with them can be to blame. It may be  due to the instinctively competitive nature of marketers who do not want to share how they have achieved success with their colleagues. Or it can be purely down to the fact there is no overarching process or person/department within the organisation that is responsible for overseeing the activities of individual brand teams. 

Whatever the reason, a lack of sharing best practice can have a serious impact in many crucial ways. Instead, by putting models or processes in place where successes can be shared, developed and adopted, we can avoid 'reinventing the marketing wheel' time and time again.

Adopting a sharing mentality
So what do we mean by best practice sharing? There are many definitions available that look to define what best practice sharing is, but put very simply – best practice sharing is a method or technique that can be easily adopted across an organisation that has consistently delivered superior business benefits. 

In Building on a Best Practice Sharing Program that Works from the Harvard Scorecard Report (May –June 2009), Marilyn Richards (former director of the Ricoh Performance Excellence team) states: 'Best practices are the most efficient (ie, requiring the least amount of effort) and effective (ie, yielding the best results) ways of accomplishing a task, based upon repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time.'

I am sure this is not a revolutionary statement to any of us, but how good are we at sharing with our colleagues how we have achieved success and about documenting the process for others to replicate?

There are some common pitfalls that must be avoided if a sharing of best practice approach is to be adopted – including the inability to adapt a project to address local/specific needs

The adoption of best practice models or projects will often require a significant level of internal buy-in if we are to avoid the 'not invented here' syndrome. This is especially true if the recipient of the model cannot identify or associate with the business benefit(s) of the model or project in a way that is relevant to the activity that he has been asked to implement. 

There are some common pitfalls that must be avoided if a sharing of a best practice approach is to be adopted. These include lack of (early) stakeholder involvement and the inability to adapt a project to address local/specific needs. A good example of this is the implementation of a centrally driven brand campaign at a local affiliate level which I will now discuss further.

Fast Track

  • Best practice sharing is a method that can be easily adopted across an organisation that has consistently delivered superior business benefits
  • It enables an organisation to retain expertise and success – and crucially avoids it reinventing the 'marketing wheel' across brand teams
  • As marketing budgets shrink it is ever more critical that pharma shares its successes across its organisations
  • Consider how best to oversee that the sharing of best practice is routinely implemented
  • Common pitfalls of best practice sharing can be avoided by engaging internal stakeholders early in the development process and ensuring they understand the value to their business
  • Make sure that you factor in the need for adaptation to address local/specific needs, if applicable

Implementation – global to local 
A real and business-critical challenge often faced by global brand teams is the consistent local implementation of centrally driven brand campaigns. Developing and achieving consistent implementation of a global brand campaign is traditionally an area of heated discussion between global and affiliate sales and marketing functions.

More often than not the key reasons for a lack of local adoption of a centrally-developed brand campaign include:

  • Lack of (early) stakeholder involvement
  • Lack of adaptation to address local needs.

Based upon insights around this important global vs local relationship, we have developed with our pharma clients an internal best practice model for developing and implementing centrally driven/developed brand campaigns. A simple checklist that we work on with our clients when developing brand campaigns runs like this:

  1. Ensure buy – in to the brand strategy – before initiating the brand campaign development process, ensure affiliate marketers understand, and have agreed with, the brand strategy
  2. Choose the right terminology – the term 'global' suggests or implies that the brand campaign is owned by the global brand team or global marketing. To ensure the brand campaign is 'owned' by the organisation (ie, global and affiliates), the term global is best avoided
  3. Create brand advocates – consider creating a 'core' brand campaign team consisting of global and affiliate stakeholders
  4. Agree campaign objectives – develop SMART objectives to align stakeholders and to define success
  5. Define what is mandatory and what is optional – will avoid unwanted discussions at the implementation stage
  6. Involve local stakeholders in the testing process – increase local ownership of the campaign by involving local sales representatives in the testing process and use local marketers to oversee translations
  7. Provide brand campaign support materials – to minimise strategic leakage in brand messaging at a local level and to avoid duplication across affiliates when developing sales training materials. This also means making available sales support materials, eg, sales script, objection handling guide, sales aid material, etc.

Developing best practice sharing models – and thereby sharing marketing success within your organisation – will enable your pharma business and individual brand(s) to maximise the return of their marketing investments. It may mean establishing a new working process and finidng ways to ensure you have buy-in across the various stakeholders but as a result you will avoid reinventing the 'marketing wheel' – and with it the costs that so doing can incur.

Important stages in sharing best practice
Following a few key steps for developing and implementing a sharing best practice model may help you and your organisation maximise the RoI from your available resources:

1. Identify internal success
Consider setting up a 'best practice' team or committee to manage the entire process and to identify successful projects within the organisation

2. Define success for each brand area
Once internal successes have been identified, the business value must be evaluated and validated. This is critical for both buy-in and the implementation stages of the process, ie, 'What's in it for me?'

3. Describe best practices
Document the best practice in a concise and easy-to-understand manner that can be expanded upon once buy-in has been achieved

4. Create buy-in to best practices
Identify key internal stakeholders and sell in the best practice(s) projects using the evidence from steps 1-3

5. Implement best practices
Develop strategic guidelines on how to adopt and adapt the best practice(s) projects

6. Measure the business benefit(s)
Generate evidence of the business benefit(s) of the project(s) to ensure continued adoption throughout the organisation and create internal champions.

Article by
Sunil Ramkali

heads up the Life Science Business Unit at W Communication Agency. He can be contacted at

22nd April 2013

From: Marketing



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