Beyond the C-Suite: 3 ways to build customer focus

One of the most encouraging signs of progress in Pharma is the addition of C-suite level Customer or Patient Officers. While the impact of this new position remains to be seen, making a change at the top is a good start (see blog post, “Chief Customer Officers: Fancy New Title or Path to Meaningful Change”).

Customer

But it may take some time for C-Suite initiatives to trickle down. Meanwhile, what can be done at the brand level? Here are three ways to jumpstart customer focus on your brand:

1.  Create unified view of all customer feedback and interactions: Outside of Pharma, this practice is known as “capturing the voice of the customer.” Marketers go outside their functional silo and collect information from any department that has customer contact. In pharmaceuticals, this should include digging into Adverse Event Reports, long the providence of the Safety and Medical departments. A unified view of the customer is created by collecting the following information in one place:

  • Incoming customer contacts. For added texture, your call center can enable you to periodically listen in on calls
  • Survey information. Does anyone beyond the brand manager responsible for CRM see the CRM survey responses?
  • Social networks and community conversations.  Are your social listening exercises widely distributed and meaningfully communicated?

Once the information has been sourced, there are many companies that can help you automate the data collection for a real time view of your customer interactions.

2.  Interact with customers every chance you get: Vertex was particularly good at this. They did everything from regularly having patients visit their office for small group meetings to spending full-blown research weekends with patients. It is one thing to read that your patients have trouble with basic life-skills and another to get a panicked call from the patient at 7 am because she is worried about her hotel bill.

3.  Change your metrics to reward customer centricity. The time has come for the pharma industry to adopt the net promoter score, which measures the degree to which customers would recommend your brand to a friend or a colleague. Extensive research across industries demonstrates that as the net promoter score goes up, so do sales and margin growth. Changing metrics will change behavior. Marketers will be incentivized and rewarded for solving customer problems rather than producing pretty PowerPoint presentations. Right now, Marketers serving the needs of internal customers, like the Field Force, get more recognition than those meeting external customer needs.

Customer focus isn’t intuitive for pharmaceutical companies. Many brand managers aren’t even allowed to attend customer research in person any more. While all the rest of health care is focused on getting closer to the customer, it often seems that Pharma does everything they can to separate their marketers from their customers. That has to change at all levels from the C-Suite to the brand manager.

Thanks for letting us share,

Dorothy

Chief Customer Officers: Fancy new title or path to meaningful change?

Now that health reform seems here to stay, pharma companies are racing to get on the customer focus bandwagon with new Chief Customer Officer (CCO) positions. The most recent example is Sanofi’s new Chief Patient Officer position, which is promoted as  “a First for a Top 10 Biopharmaceutical Company.” This announcement follows Intarcia’s creation of a Chief Customer Experience and Outcomes officer, publicized as “an officer level position for which there is no precedent or analogue in the Bio-Pharma industry.”  Companies are stumbling over each other to be seen as the most customer focused pharmaceutical company.

Image by Bill McChesney

What remains to be seen is whether these CCO positions actually alter the practice of pharmaceutical marketing. How many times in the past have pharmaceutical companies announced progressive new initiatives only to have the ideas wither on the vine from lack of resources and insufficient political clout? Think of the multicultural marketing plans gathering dust in bookcases all across Pharmaland.

It will be interesting to follow Sanofi and Intarcia as the two companies embark upon their customer centric journey. While both companies operate in the diabetes space, they couldn’t be more different. Intarcia is an emerging biopharma company with a novel diabetes treatment/technology in Phase III. Sanofi is a pharmaceutical giant with a full portfolio of diabetes medications and devices.

Business history would suggest that Sanofi has the steeper climb to meaningful transformation. Corporate culture has proven to be an innovation killer across industries. Take for example, the News industry. Online journalism has flourished in independent start-ups but proved to be an uphill battle in established organizations like the New York Times and Washington Post. According to former Washington Post journalist, Ezra Klein, the reason is in part due to an entrenched “culture of journalism,” centered around the print product (see recent New York Times article Vox Takes Melding of Journalism and Technology to a New Level ).

Similarly, pharmaceutical companies have deeply rooted cultures in direct sales to physicians. This direct sales culture explains why “non-personal promotion” took so long to take hold despite the explosion of no-see doctors. Much like the newer media companies who designed their news organizations around the Internet, new pharmaceutical companies like Intarcia have the opportunity to build an organization from the ground up around a patient focus.

But even emerging companies need to be vigilant against importing internally focused sales cultures into their organization. Witness Vertex pharmaceuticals. Despite an early focus on developing an innovative commercial model, the traditional sales force culture managed to marginalize many of the newer, patient focused initiatives. The Antidote by Barry Werth, which chronicles the Vertex INCIVEK launch, is a good read about stymied efforts to create a new kind of pharmaceutical company.

As large pharmaceutical companies go, Sanofi has embraced change, altering how it organizes its R&D (see extrovertic blog post “Four Lessons in Change from Inside the R&D Organization), rapidly adjusting the pricing of its medications in the face of market outrage and its adventurous approach to social media. So I wouldn’t count them out in the race to be the most patient/customer focused diabetes company. What remains to be seen is if the practice of either company changes enough to make a meaningful difference in patient lives, at a reasonable cost.

Thanks for letting us share!

Dorothy

 

3 steps towards multicultural marketing

Amping up the spend on multicultural marketing is a no brainer given the expected flood of multicultural consumers into the health care market. However despite the rational arguments for investing in multicultural consumers, my fellow attendees at the recent Multicultural Health National conference in Washington D.C. felt selling multicultural investment in a pharmaceutical company is still an uphill battle.

The data supporting the business building opportunity of multicultural marketing keeps getting stronger. However, the funding for multicultural marketing programs within Pharma still seems to be managed according to the LIFO accounting principal, last to be funded, first to be cut. This has to change.

It is estimated that over 40% of the 33 million newly insured Americans by the health care exchanges will be multicultural consumers. Additionally, there are a multitude of ACA initiatives aimed at the different health care stakeholders designed to better serve the multicultural consumer including:

  • Patient Surveys: There are Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys specifically designed to assess the cultural competency of providers. It now matters that consumers feel respected and actually understand what the HCP is telling them. Materials in multiple languages will no longer be a “nice to have.” Your payer and HCP customers will demand them.
  • Multicultural HCPS: ACA expands initiatives to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the health-care profession. Companies will need to have plans for communicating to an increasingly diverse HCP universe.
  • Government Offices:  ACA elevates key multicultural health organizations within important governmental offices such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That means these multicultural organizations have more power to put policies in place that effect drug coverage and marketing.

As the marketplace shifts to better serving multicultural consumers, so should pharmaceutical marketing departments. Here are three ideas on how to get started:

  • Consider reviewing the CAHPS cultural competency questionnaire and brainstorm how your product and service offerings can benefit the patient experience.
  • Partner with an institution to help them raise the cultural competency of their staff. For example, The Cleveland clinic has a multi-faceted approach to building cultural competency from physician education to forging ties to the community.
  • And last, but not least, protect your multicultural investment. How about a new accounting principle? FILO anybody? First In, Last Out.
Thanks for letting us share,
Dorothy

Scrap the core vis-aid, it’s a patient-payer world

This is the twelfth and final blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

There’s a strong patient and payer bent to the topics I chose for this blog series. That’s because I believe we are coming to the end of physician marketing, as we know it.

From now on, it’s going to be a patient-payer world.

There will of course be communication to physicians. But rather than providing 20 glossy pages parsing minute differences between drugs, I believe promotional efforts will increasingly revolve around improving the patient experience, outcomes and costs. And payers, not physicians, will be the primary arbiters of what constitutes acceptable results at a good price.

In the future state, there will be virtually no “work around” solutions for products that don’t have a real value story.

And I am not alone in my views. At a Marcus Evans conference I attended,

Kurt Graves, CEO Intarcia, said the decision to launch a product now comes down to one question, “Is there enough value in this product for payers to pay for it.”

Physician marketing will also have to change, according to Steven Pal, Corporate Vice President, Global Strategic Marketing at Allergan. In his Marcus Evans talk, gone says Pal, are the days of the large mass-market field force. Instead, companies need to deploy, “smaller, more agile sales forces that are more attuned to customer needs.”

Patients will be at the forefront of any value equation in the future. In fact, according to Ben Haywood, co-founder of PatientsLikeMe, it will be patient value that defines market value, His company is helping industry incorporate relevant patient reported outcomes (PRO’s) into their drug development efforts.

Patients are finally getting the information they need to assess the price/value equation for the healthcare services they consume.  The Health and Human Services Secretary release of the irrationally variable costs for common in-hospital procedures was a first good step. Across the country, the public’s eyes have been opened to the need to price shop, given the wide variability, even within the same city.

And quality of services, long held to be outside the ability of most patients to evaluate, is more readily available and digestible. For example, in Minnesota, patients can compare how individual clinics fare in helping patients meet their diabetes management goals.

Pharmaceutical marketing in the future will need a radically different game plan, one that is decidedly patient and payer oriented. Healthcare is evolving as we speak. Substantial change will happen regardless of how the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” is implemented. The outsized and often irrational costs of our current system have brought us to the place where the status quo is no longer possible.

As the popular saying goes, “People don’t change when they see the light, they change when they feel the heat.”   Pharmaceutical marketers are now feeling the heat with shrinking budgets and sales forecasts. My intention with this blog series is to provide a little “light at the end of the tunnel” by demonstrating how others have addressed similar problems. Extro-analogs aren’t brain surgery. All you have to do is use the 3 e’s:

  • explore industries beyond pharmaceuticals
  • extrapolate the core idea, eliminating the excuse of regulatory limitations
  • export the idea in a “pharma-safe” way into your marketing

I hope this blog series is helpful in sparking some new ideas and thinking. Let me know! Love to hear your comments. 

Thanks for letting us share,

Dorothy

R&D: 4 lessons in change from inside the R&D organization

This is the eleventh blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Change in Pharma is possible.

To become a believer, you only need to explore what is happening in R&D organizations across the country. After the lost decade of drug development where too much money was chasing too few good opportunities, big pharma R&D has shaken up drug development. Gone are the large evergreen budgets. Gone is the stovepipe R&D organization that operated independently of any commercial considerations.

In May of this year, I attended Convergence East, the Life Sciences Leaders Forum held on in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where, extrovertic, was a sponsor. A good portion of the attendees were from the big pharma R&D organizations, including Astra Zeneca, J&J, Millenium and Sanofi to name a few.

Big pharma R&D is using four key strategies to bolster their R&D productivity:

  1. Looking outside for solutions: No more navel gazing for pharma R&D. When asked about what percentage of their drug development efforts were external versus internal, the answer ranged from 30-50%.  To paraphrase a representative from Shire R&D, “the NIH mentality is not going to cut it anymore, too much money and personnel.”
    • This external focus also involves importing leadership that infuses a more entrepreneurial spirit into their organization. For example, Sanofi has hired  biotech executives like Katherine Bowdish, Vice President, R&D on board. Prior to Sanofi, Ms. Bowdish worked at companies like Permeaon Biologics and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, successful biotech companies.
  2. Convening diverse perspectives. J&J has set up four innovation centers around the world designed to create relationships in integrated communities of academics, research institutions, early stage biotechs, venture capital and entrepreneurs. The remit of these innovation centers spans J&J’s three business units: pharmaceutical, consumer and devices. The goal is for J&J to become the partner of choice when there is an opportunity to be commercialized.
  3. Investing further upstream: Sanofi is investing in early stage high-risk opportunities that can use Sanofi assets in the process. One of Sanofi’s earliest success stories their partnership with a prominent Harvard professor, Dr. Gregory Verdine, to create Warpdrive bio. Warpdrivebio has a proprietary “genomic search engine” to identify “powerful drugs that are now hidden within microbes.”
  4. Customer focused development: Drug development is no longer a purely academic exercise. For example, to better focus its R&D investments, Cubist takes their scientists into operating rooms with their surgeon customers. Deborah Dunsire, CEO Millennium, spoke about innovation as beginning with the patient; about reverse engineering what is wrong with the patient, focusing on the patient’s unmet medical need and determining what solution would make the biggest impact on the patient’s life?

The same laser focus on innovation must make its way to the commercial side of the business. Change in the commercial model needs to occur everywhere—from reorienting the rabid focus on the physician at the expense of payer and patient marketing to creating new definitions of a pharmaceutical “product” offering. Think about patient marketing, do we really need more branded commercials running on the evening news?

The core idea to extrapolate from these R&D reorganizations is to turn to outside institutions, experts and customers to provide a fresh perspective on your business challenges So here are a few thought starters about how to export these R&D strategies and pump more innovation into the commercial model.

  1. Start from the patient. What are the upcoming changes in how patients consume media, search for healthcare information, pay for healthcare and use healthcare products and services? Once you have a “vision of the future state,” you can start to think about potential solutions.
  2. Gather a group of innovative thinkers from outside of Pharma and let them take a whack at some of your biggest issues. Convening thinkers from various disciplines is a time honored innovation strategy. In fact, I have been invited to participate in an effort to develop new approaches for eradicating polio by a multinational non-profit health organization. This organization is bringing together a group of thinkers from a variety of disciplines and industries to provide a fresh perspective on an intractable health care problem.  
  3. Create a portfolio of early opportunities. Allocate a portion of the annual budget to new and evolving technologies. Traditionally, pharma innovation centers tend to have little budget and authority. This has got to stop. Top management has to be actively involved with the change agenda. I have seen too many smart marketers spin their wheels in these innovation centers. Without top management active involvement, innovation just doesn’t happen.

Check back on Tuesday for the twelfth and final post in the twelve part series, “Scrap the core vis-aid, it’s a payer-patient world.” This final post coalesces the arguments for change in the face of health care reform and changing customer expectations.

Thanks for letting us share,

Dorothy