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Evolve and thrive vs wait and wither

What is the future of your marketing function?

Aaron BeanVictoria GittermannTime to fix the roof while the sun is shining

The industry’s drivers of change are well understood. Digital technologies and acute cost pressures faced by healthcare systems, combined with a highly competitive environment and disruptive players challenging the norm, are changing how value is defined, created and captured. The customer landscape is also growing in complexity, with customers, quite rightly, demanding the same personalised and meaningful experiences they get through other industries. Equally, as data becomes easier to collect, store, track and share, payers, physicians and patients are insisting on greater transparency around real-world evidence and outcomes to support decision-making. Staying relevant and differentiated over time has never been more challenging, and marketing has a critical role to play in achieving this.

The reality, however, is that most marketing functions are failing to adapt fast enough. This is typically a result of companies:

a) being comfortable with the status quo

b) underestimating the speed of change and size of the emerging gap or

figure 1c) recognising the need to change but adopting a piecemeal, incremental approach that fails to deliver. All three create problems and a growing gap (see Figure1) which demand a different approach.

Digital is revolutionising marketing in many ways; not only redefining customer interaction but also demanding a new set of skills, capabilities and ways of working to address customer needs efficiently and cost-effectively. Now is the time to make necessary investments in new capabilities to future-proof your marketing function and position it to thrive.

Spotting common leaks

When judged within the context of a traditional commercial environment, it may appear that your marketing function is performing well - a common mistake when the changing environment is underestimated or not well understood. Lack of a reference regarding what ‘good looks like’ also adds to this misconception. Here are 10 telltale signs that you may be falling into this trap:

  1. Your marketing function is still very much divided between ‘digital’ and ‘the rest’, heavily dependent on third parties to do the ‘thinking and doing’
  2. You have no clear marketing vision for the organisation and no predefined development path for marketers or clear articulation of what good looks like
  3. Marketing planning is brand-centric with limited alignment across customers or functions, leading to sales force and digital activities designed and deployed separately
  4. Collaboration with other functions, such as market access or medical affairs, is ad hoc and spontaneous
  5. There is no governance around customer experience, leading to haphazard design and execution
  6. Your approach to digital is reactive and conservative, with teams opting to do nothing rather than run into potential risks
  7. Services are developed in silo, fail to scale and are not linked to a clear health outcomes strategy and contracts
  8. There is an inability to measure and prove the value of digital, resulting in under-investment
  9. The business struggles to move beyond collecting and integrating data and is therefore unable to understand customer impact and return on investment (ROI)
  10. Attracting and retaining top talent becomes challenging.

Time to start reconstruction

Figure 2Overcoming these challenges requires a strong vision, new capabilities and a different operating model. Thriving in the future demands a set of capabilities to ensure your marketing teams are more innovative, agile, efficient and relevant (see Figure 2). The complexity of the journey to marketing excellence varies depending on the maturity of the capabilities in each company, but the time, effort and investment required to achieve true excellence should not be underestimated - it requires, on average, a two-to-three-year transformation journey.

Here are five suggested steps to getting started on this journey:

  1. Establish and agree a clear vision for the role of marketing - create a shared view of success, aligned key performance indicators (KPIs) and budget
  2. Define the ‘gold standard of marketing’ - be bold, demanding and set optimum marketing capabilities and skills
  3. Clarify skills, roles and responsibilities - be clear on who needs to do what, use your gold standard to define a competency model, evaluate every marketer against it and put in place practical development plans
  4. Accelerate capability build - put the right operating and service model (process, tools and structures) in place to accelerate target capabilities and support markets
  5. Industrialise best practice - create a universal marketing taxonomy (along with tools, processes and frameworks) to drive innovation and excellence.

Acknowledging the need to change and starting on this journey will not only accelerate building the right capabilities to succeed in the future but, ultimately, turn marketing into the dependable engine of growth and differentiation it needs to be.

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. For more information on how our Global Life Sciences Team of more than 15,000 sector-focused professionals is helping clients make a real difference to their patients, customers and employees, visit

The views reflected in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organisation or its member firms.

Aaron Bean and Victoria Serra Gittermann, Life Sciences, EY UK and Ireland

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13th December 2017

From: Marketing



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