Our marketers face a real challenge. Genuine functional differentiators rarely exist, Physician, Payer and Patient attitudes are cautious and resourcing pressures demand that skillset and role are broader than ever. Are we doing enough to support our people to deliver in the complex world of pharmaceutical marketing? In this article I will provide a perspective on marketing capability in our industry and suggest a stepwise approach that will help prepare marketers for success.
Everyone knows that good marketing is critical in any business and that brands rarely deliver upon their full potential if the marketing strategy and solutions are weak. It is therefore a concern that whilst there are exceptions, most pharmaceutical companies do not provide knowledge and skill development that is specific to marketing in our industry.
Marketing Excellence departments are usually responsible for the development of marketers. Unfortunately, Marketing Excellence teams are generally under resourced. This is particularly true within affiliates meaning that time intensive coaching of marketing fundamentals has become limited. Alternative solutions such as external courses where you review the giant cola war are fun, but not specific to role. Because of this, marketing excellence is generally now more of a vision or expectation with accompanying templates and timelines, where the focus is not marketing expertise, but compliance to an annual cycle and internal reporting processes.
Considerable investment is provided for sales functions to ensure sales effectiveness. Whilst I wholly support such investment, what is the value of a high performing sales team if the underlying marketing solution is sub optimal? This is like trying to make a race car go faster by adding a bigger engine, when really a different driver is all that is required for a winning performance. Brand Performance is compromised unless appropriate emphasis is given to implementing core marketing principles. If we truly want our brands to deliver to their potential, we need to invest further in our marketers.
What good Marketing could look like.
- How do you support and develop new in role and established Marketers?
- What is your Marketing specific investment per head vs other functions?
- Does your company attract high calibre external marketers?
One fundamental marketing competency is positioning. To comment fully on positioning would require an entire article and this complexity is probably why very few marketers within the pharmaceutical industry get this right from a strategic perspective and I’ve seen even fewer examples rolled out well.
A good positioning strategy should be the summary of detailed insights and strategic thinking of brand, customer, account, patient, access and competitor insights, finally culminating in an approach that is clear, specific and aligned to a defined target segment opportunity with a distinct element of differentiation. Marketers should understand that positioning is not just a paragraph for a brand planning template, but the result of significant strategic thinking and analysis across a wealth of complex data sets and scenarios that is adhered to across all marketing channels. Although important, provision of templates and timelines can eliminate strategic thinking as new or inexperienced marketer will update previous iterations of slides without understanding why. Any marketing excellence programme needs to be specific and detailed enough to support individuals in strategic thinking, the tools that are available and the understanding of “why.”How do we get there? Appraise, Map, Develop.
Marketer development is critical to ensure our Brands are successful. If we were to invest in such development plans, what might they look like, and what would be their focus?
Clearly this would be different for every individual and every team. Capability and needs will be diverse within and across organisations. The first step in understanding what development needs are required is to map out what good marketing looks like in your company across its key elements. This map should also illustrate what not so good marketing looks like and every step in between. The descriptions should be objective to enable appraisal and mapping of marketers on a scale resulting in accurate benchmarking. This will provide training needs for individuals or groups of individuals and appropriate development plans can be formulated.
Sales team capabilities are often interrogated in similar ways with sales clinics and field visit assessments, so we should follow a similar intense process for marketing. I see no reason for a different approach and every marketers capability should be mapped. This will help the individual understand their strengths, development needs and will re-enforce a structured pathway and goals for their marketing career.Reflection points
- How do you assess the capability of your Marketers?
- How do you reward/recognise your Marketers?
- What does good Marketing look like in your organisation?
A starting point for competency mapping should be to identify the core elements of marketing for your organisation. These could be clustered into groups such as insights, strategy, implementation, measures/performance and people. Within each of these elements identify fundamental capabilities that are critical to deliver marketing excellence. When developing these maps, it is really important to take learnings from external experts and industries as well as internal requirements to ensure that your competencies are not just historical or internally focussed and do not restrict our discipline. It is also very important not to over complicate with some of the best examples of marketing excellence are where the fundamentals are done well. A best practice map should consist of only 30 competencies to cover the essential aspects of our craft.
Once you have created a map of what good looks like and you have mapped individual’s capabilities across fundamental marketing elements you can benchmark your marketers and if necessary cluster into development need subsets. What should follow is the implementation of a coaching or preferably a mentoring programme to develop individuals or small groups where their marketing needs lie. Ideally this will be delivered by someone with solid marketing and coaching experience in industry and utilise tools and best practice examples in line with a SMART development plan. Mentoring will cement knowledge and skills within role and within brand, avoiding hypothetical scenarios where relevance to “my brand and my job” are difficult to ascertain. Mentoring in other skills such as Leadership is hugely valuable in preparing individuals for success. Mentoring in marketing will prepare individuals and our brands for success.