Quantitative Proof: Better Clients Get Better Work

The Good Client

When I was a client I subscribed to the better clients get better work theory. Then while working at Saatchi Healthcare I saw first hand how the best clients got the best people. Well-regarded agency personnel could actually refuse to work on accounts with difficult clients. Talent is that important to an agency. But it was not until I worked with 99Designs that I got quantitative proof of how being a good client results in better work.

99Designs is an online graphic design marketplace of over 300k designers who participate in customer design contests to create basic design such as logos, websites and collateral.  Customers purchase design packages offering different levels of designers, quantities of design and support. The design package I purchased for logo development promised I would receive 60 designs.

I received an astounding 273 designs from 62 designers. And at least 90% were on brief and attractive. When I called the 99Designs customer service department I was told that the amount of designs I received was unusual, but explainable—I was a good client.

Being a good client is not rocket science. It the same whether working virtually or in person. I provided good direction and feedback. But what was different was 99Design’s ability to quantify how good a client you are. The automated briefing feature allowed 99Designs to see whether I took the trouble to attach samples of logos I liked. They could also see that I uploaded additional creative instructions.

Most importantly, 99Designs tracked the extent to which I took the trouble to provide feedback using their automated rating system. I rated 99% of the designs I received, often adding a sentence or two in addition to using the 5 star scale.

As free agents, potential designers often watch a contest for a while to see if it is worth entering. If no one is bothering to rate existing designs, then the designers don’t feel the client is serious. In addition, ratings provide designers with additional direction about what might result in the winning design. Remember, designers are in it to win it.

Certainly there are 99Design “haters” in the design community who feel that asking designers to submit spec work on the hopes they will get picked is abusive. But I also think there is something liberating for designers getting to decide if a client is worthy of their efforts.

What my 99Design experience showed me was it is worth the effort to put time into providing clear direction and feedback. It is also worth the effort to train marketers on how to provide useful input, something that is rarely done, at least in the pharmaceutical industry where I have spent the bulk of my career. And finally, it is worth the effort to try these new crowd-sourced businesses. You just might get more for less, something every marketer is looking to do, no matter what industry vertical you work in.

Will agencies become obsolete?

A potential new model

Don’t get me wrong. I love creative agencies. I have hired them, been employed by them and even owned one. But I wonder if creative agencies will survive in their current incarnation.

Consider the following trends:

  1. Disintermediation by vendors with creative capabilities-A recent New York Times article on Facebook entitled, “How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil,” says it all for me. The article describes the “Publishing Garage” sessions Facebook holds with marketers. The purpose of these sessions is to develop “a big sweeping campaign,” as well as specific Facebook ads. Whoa! I thought that is what the creative agency did. Closer to home in the Pharma space, there is a multichannel marketing company, Metanexgen, that will shoot as well as distribute your physician videos, for a fraction of what an agency would normally charge.
  2. Evisceration of the agency strategic function-With client Sourcing departments manically fixated on achieving the lowest blended rate, the creative agency’s ability to bring their strategic staff to the table has declined dramatically.  And agency personnel, who are not at the client table billing, don’t’ last more than one or two cycles of budget cuts. Not with razor thin agency profit margins. A vicious cycle ensues. No longer staffed to provide the strategic firepower, the agency is rarely consulted on strategic issues. As one veteran pharmaceutical marketer told me, “What am I going to learn from a 28 year old account director with 5 years of experience?”
  3. Availability of open-sourced creative solutions-A Pharma friend of mine needed a logo for his pivotal Phase III study. Did he call an agency? No, he went straight to 99Designs and got a great logo for $400. He received submissions from around the world in a matter of 48 hours. Multiple rounds of revisions occurred at lightening speed and he was done. I had a similarly positive experience designing a new logo for a start-up financial company using 99Designs.

Working directly with an open-sourced creative source does however, take time and experience. At this point in my career, I felt totally comfortable. But at an earlier phase with fewer campaigns under my belt, probably not. And brand stewardship, a role generally assigned to the lead creative agency, becomes an issue when dealing directly with vendors like Facebook and Metanexgen.

That’s why I predict that a new “Marketing Integrator/Curator” agency (or creative consultant) will emerge in the future. The current agency business model can’t support a full creative staff by sending a few creatives to a two-day Facebook meeting. This new “agency” will work with clients to select the vendors that make business sense and curate the creative process.

In the pharmaceutical industry, where extrovertic does most of its work, there will always be a place for big agencies launching the big blockbuster brands. Big agencies have the process and scale and creative firepower to get things done effectively and efficiently.

However there will be fewer and fewer of these blockbuster budget opportunities. The emergence of smaller specialty and orphan brands, with their correspondingly smaller budgets, is forcing marketers to reconsider how they get things done. With client-side staffing unlikely to grow dramatically, there will be a critical gap.  Just as nature abhors a void, so do clients. That’s why the Marketing Integrator/Curator role holds a lot of promise for the future.


How to integrate social into your existing campaigns

It’s easiest to think of social as an opportunity to be a trusted voice in a very crowded and not always well informed room.  But the very first step you need to take is to make sure you are being heard.

Here is a checklist for you to use to make sure you’re grabbing the low hanging fruit:

  • Add the appropriate logo and user name to all printed pieces so patients know where to find you
  • Add social follow buttons to your website so it’s as easy as possible for patients to follow you
  • Be very active in the networks you use, and don’t forget to use hashtags
  • Make sure you are consistent in the hashtags you use and that they will help you be found
  • Don’t be afraid to share other peoples relevant content
  • Get out there and join the conversation!  It’s already happening with or without you

And remember, we are always available to provide some advice on how to navigate the social space, sell in the program or even conduct a Social for Pharma class for you and your extended team.

Thanks for letting us share!

Jared Shechtman

Senior Director, Digital Extrovert

Your branding is missing something

Sound. Do you know what your brand sounds like?

Article after article encourages marketers to get visual. But in many cases sound goes hand in hand with visuals.

Consider the following uses of sound:

▪   Sound as confirmation of functionality: Think of the camera click that occurs when you take a screenshot on an Apple computer, or the swoosh sound that confirms your e-mail has been sent

▪   Sound as a product experience: You know that satisfying crunching sound you get when you’re eating potato chips? According to my friends at CORD, a sonic branding company, 80% of a person’s perception of that crunchiness is the result of sound rather than mouth feel.

▪   Sound as a reinforcement of brand attributes: Consider the sound of an electric toothbrush. When one manufacturer redesigned the buzzing sound of its toothbrushes to more closely communicate “clean, gentle, and white,” sales jumped.

It is surprising that sound and music have been missing in the healthcare marketer’s toolkit. Consider music therapy, defined by the American Music Therapy Association as, “An established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.” Included among music therapy’s uses are alleviating pain, counteracting depression, inducing sleep, and promoting movement for physical rehabilitation. Clearly, sound has a relevant place in healthcare.

And the need for sound may be even more critical as one of the most prevalent sounds, namely the Pharmaceutical Reps voice, is declining in the healthcare arena. According to Industry figures, the number of pharmaceutical representatives in the US has declined 40% in the last 8 years. So how can you fill the sonic void? Here are three thought-starters:

  1. Incorporate music into your relationship marketing programs. What if your e-mails came with different sound elements corresponding to the different time-points in the patient journey? For example, you could embed an encouraging 4-note tune in e-mails that are meant to buoy patients at tough points in their treatment. Or, use a song that helps convey a “You did it!” message once they’ve successfully completed treatment
  2. Use sound to brand a video series, whether it’s product- or condition-related. Video is an increasingly important venue for healthcare communication. Work towards having a consistent look, feel, and sound to your videos
  3. Think about the sounds associated with a disease state, say coughing or heartbeats: What could be a sonic signal of improvement? Can certain sounds be associated with progress?

So, when it comes to incorporating sonic branding into your branding, do any of these ideas ring your bell?

Permission to speak – How to sell in social now that the floodgates are open

The FDA has opened the door, but we still need to walk through it.  In order for your brand to step into the social space you’re still going to need to sell it in internally.

Easier said than done, right?  Medical/Legal is NEVER going to go for this, you are going to need to demonstrate ROI and also layout a process where you will be able to communicate in REAL TIME (or close to it) with the patients.

This may sound like it’s going to be an exhausting process, but it doesn’t have to be.  And in the end you will come out one step ahead of the competition.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

  1. Involve all stakeholders early on in the discussion
    1. Social is about having a conversation, something you’re already doing via nurse hotlines and KOL discussions
  2. Remind them that the patients are already in the social space, what they crave is an informed/trusted participant in the conversation
  3. Social can be tracked in many different ways.  Agree on your KPIs upfront and set realistic objectives
    1. Likes, followers and clickthroughs are only scratching the surface.  You may want to consider periodic studies on sentiment
  4. Start with appropriate exercises to determine the tone of your social media voice
    1. This is a great opportunity to include all of the internal stakeholders
  5. Have an open and honest discussion about content, and which types of responses need approval, and what that process will look like given the nature of social
    1. Strongly consider a list of pre-approved messages that will come up on a regular basis (ie. @patient – Thank you for your response, for more information on that please visit www.brand.com or @patient – For a detailed response please DM us with your phone number and a nurse will be in touch shortly)

In the immediate future it may be easier to take a disease education approach to social until everyone has had a chance to accept social as part of the pharma marketing landscape.

Make sure to check back in for our third post in this series on social:

  • Starting simple – how to integrate social into your existing campaigns

Thanks for letting us share!

Jared Shechtman

Senior Director, Digital Extrovert