Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Pharmaceutical Marketers Can Learn From Perfectionists

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This article was originally published on the Physicians Interactive blog by Guest Author Ken Locicero, PhD. Vice President, Physicians Interactive. Physicians Interactive is a media partner of ePharma Summit 2015 taking place February 24-26 in New York City.

Hey, Product Manager… Are you pursuing success? Or fleeing failure?

In the late 90s, I had the chance to research and publish on Perfectionism. It’s a broad area and very entertaining. Everyone always seem to know who the perfectionist is in their family, work group, or social group (if they don’t readily identify themselves as a perfectionist), and some interpretation of what it means to be a perfectionist. However, if you cull down to the core of perfectionism, it’s really about simply setting very high standards.

Perfectionists can be sorted into two distinct types: Adaptive and Maladaptive. The basic difference between Adaptive and Maladaptive Perfectionists is essentially how they react to achieving—or not achieving—the high standard they’ve set. For example, think back to your time in school and that Marketing 101 final exam. Perhaps you set a goal to get an A. For the perfectionist, the goal is to ace the exam. Anything less—even 99 out of 100—is a slippery slope to failure. But now, let’s consider how a maladaptive’s experience differs from an adaptive’s experience in relation to the outcome of their lofty pursuit:


Hmmmm. Exhilaration or Relief. The Adaptive Perfectionist tends to pursue success. The Maladaptive Perfectionist tends to flee failure. We can learn a lot from our perfectionistic friends and loved ones about how we engage at work.

Are you pursuing success or fleeing failure?

In the last 17 years of supporting pharmaceutical marketing teams with HCP engagement solutions to drive business, I’ve worked with many ‘perfectionists’ of both types. Those that pursue success are the ones that always seem to be on the crest or ahead of the wave in the industry. The fleers perpetuate the same cycle of choosing the safe route and ultimately “bask in the glory” of non-failure. In the marketing world, we might call this “exceptional adequacy” (we could also call it complacency). The pursuers are the ones who understand that when something is broken, they have an opportunity to take calculated risks and lead change— fully embracing the notion that success is derived from is the opposite of complacency.

Today’s life sciences marketing is rapidly changing to solve the issues related to the broken commercial model. Digital HCP engagement has been propelled to the forefront of what is required to support medical practice in the HCP workflow — and to do so cost effectively. Accelerated by electronic health record (EHR) adoption, HCPs spend increasingly more time engaging with technology to support education, treatment decisions, and patient outcomes. Consumers and patients have been there long before the recent HCP surge. Opportunity abounds. And yet, most life science company partners either show reluctance to embrace the change, merely providing lip service, or they actively marginalize results by perpetuating a siloed point of view:

“I don’t believe in digital.”

“I’m not convinced about mobile.”

“We know we should be integrating digital, but we still don’t do it or just don’t know how to.”
“Our customers are different; they haven’t really adopted digital and still heavily rely on our sales force.”

With the brightest and most innovative minds in the life science sector, many partners are still holding onto the mantra of “Let’s be first to be second.” How is it still possible, or acceptable, to move so slowly in adapting to the real change that is happening?

Perhaps a more important question: How does leadership inspire an innovative culture of accelerating promotion that better aligns to today’s digital revolution?

And, finally, whether you are or are not a perfectionist, the most important question you can ask yourself every day: Are you pursuing success for your brand or fleeing failure?

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