Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day Two at #ePharma Summit, HCP Track

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This is the first day of the “big” conference, but my second. If you want the play-by-play for today or yesterday, just read my notes at bit.ly/epharmasummit. Feel free to share that link around.

At the end of yesterday's sessions, I saw some trends emerging, most notably, segmentation/targeting and the twin specters of mobile and social. We saw a lot of tactics, which served a lot of people very well (judging from the twitterverse response), and a lot of data to help people like me make better decisions in the future.

Today was a very different day. Today was a macro level view as opposed to a more micro-tactical view. The discussions centered on broad strokes and ideas, hints as to what the future of pharma marketing holds.

Here’s what I will be taking away form today’s conference:

One, pharma has been in a transition period for a long time now. How long have we been calling this “the year of mobile” or “the year of social”? Three years? Can we stop the buzz-word bingo? Speaking at a macro level doesn't mean glazing over deep truths, it means getting to the heart of the matter and distilling what’s true. Can we call a moratorium on pointing to mobile as a hot new channel? I've had an iPhone for four years (and I missed the first generation). Clearly, mobile isn't a new channel, it's just a channel. Same with social. Same with games. Next year, you’ll just sound like someone who still says “hotlinks” and “information superhighway.” You really don't want to be that person. Do you want to know who’s succeeding? People with a genuine sense of humor and dedication to solving problems. Some people seem to be more interested at cataloging the reasons to lament the future, to pooh-pooh what we all know is coming. Do you want to work with them? All problems are solvable, they just need to be broken down into pieces and dealt with.  Telling us not to be too focused on tactics or getting more focused on tactics isn't as useful as understanding when and where a tactic might be useful.

That's the same telling us all to be more strategic. You might as well tell us to be smarter or not to be too smart. The same goes for saying I should target and segment and track and analyze. That I should focus on the customer, that I should focus on what worked, that I should create efficiencies. Got it. Agree. Highly agree. Cannot agree enough... But we all already agreed when we signed up. What else? Find the golden nugget of truth and deliver it with the help of examples and data.

This is the world of multi-channel marketing, but are we living in a world of multi-channel analytics, where we measure each channel independently but also in conjunction with all the other tactics. Who among is is really doing this right now? Are we too busy arguing that this channel is better than that channel? Or kvetching that MLR is complicated (in other breaking news, many people use Facebook, budgets are getting squeezed, HCPs like iPads, and puppies are cute)?  William Gibson once said “the future is now, it just isn't widely distributed yet.”

That phrase came to me during the session on Quantitive Self, as I realized that the tools and ideas to do everything was already in all of our hands. It just isn't widely distributed because people refuse to see the value. This isn't a shot to those who disagree, as we are all strong with more opposing viewpoints. I was struck by how some voices dismissed the QS out of hand, as if it were threatening and scary. There’s no difference between what was said in the session and diabetic who measure their glucose every few hours, or the person who watches their caloric intake, or the person keeping track of their bench press. The bitter rejection smacks of fear and denial. And I know the people in my rooms are smarter than that.

Here’s what I didn't hear much of that I wish I had: Lifetime value of a customer. Two different people outside the events brought this concept up independently to me, and only one person even hinted at the concept’s existence. We are getting too focused on the efficacy of this tactic today versus that tactic yesterday that we miss that everything we do should be in service of the goal of understanding our customer in both the short and long term. Without that understanding, we are in danger of becoming the Crazy Eddie of marketing, shouting whatever it takes to get someone to prescribe. Is that the game you really want to play? Relationship Marketing. In attempting to understand our customer, we build a relationship with that customer. Even when we fail to understand them, the relationship exists, however dysfunctional and flawed. Why do we continue to pretend that this isn't true? It won't do pharma any good to stick its head in the sand and pretend that relationships can be solved by mobile or social (a medium it still isn't comfortable in). We must face the issue head on, plan and execute marketing that fosters relationships we want to be in. And while I appreciate a fresh point of view, a point of view uncluttered with even a basic understanding of the day-to-day realities didn't do me (or many others, based on the twitter response) any good.

Especially if the resulting advice is to “change faster” and “fail harder.” I don't disagree, but I'm not blind to the facts on the ground.  Far Better was the panel which discussed (among many other things) MRL on a level that I hadn't considered before. MRL isn't the enemy; they are partners we haven't brought into the fold yet, just as we haven't taken the time to learn what they can teach us. I will admit that my brain is pudding. I will be taking notes tomorrow, but since I'm traveling home, I'm not sure when I'll be posting my blog. Maybe Thursday. So enjoy the notes, and keep the twitter back channel going!
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