Old ideas for the new world

Share this content:

My friend and former colleague, the late Steve Gross, was having dinner one night with the head of rheumatology from a major teaching hospital. 
The doctor asked Steve if he knew the "Five Rules for Success." Steve said "No" and the professor went on to explain that each year, newly minted medical school graduates arrived for their residency at his hospital all full of themselves—extremely bright, very well educated, but short on real-world experience. 
So, he would ask them if they knew the "Five Rules for Success." And, when they didn't, he would show his flip-chart that said:

Be on time.
  2. Do it now.
  3. Do a little extra.
  4. Look it up.
  5. Learn from your contemporaries

Some years earlier when I was a new detail man in Richmond, VA, one of my early calls was on the chief of medicine at MCV, the Medical College of Virginia. He told me that he only saw 10 reps. When he met a new one that impressed him, he bumped one off his list and replaced them with the new rep. I lucked out and remained on his list until I left.
Years later, I was telling this story and someone lamented: "He knew the Roman Rule of Tens." 

Supposedly, it was the Roman Army which determined that a leader could learn all he needed to know about how a campaign was going from a trustworthy group of 10 people. 
The point is that in your business career, if you're lucky, you will find 10 people who's word you absolutely can bank on. 
If you are one of someone else's chosen 10, that's your "value add," the little something extra (see #3 above) that makes seeing you worthwhile. 

When I was preparing to make some remarks at the recent Association of Medical Media Nexus Awards luncheon a few weeks ago, I was reminded of another old saying about the difficulty of selling something to someone who has a closed mind: "The most difficult thing in the world to change is the mind of a person who has had great success under the status quo." 
I was reminded of it when I realized that there is an entire generation of product managers now who have grown up during the field force arms race. 
They've been pretty successful while the dashboard was showing all systems "Go!" but they've neglected the most studied and proven medium of them all—medical journal advertising—while they were focused on the new toys that out there: DTC advertising and the Internet.

It's even more surprising to me, because the evidence is there for anyone to see. The Association of Medical Media website has loads of it (www.ammonline.org). Medical journals may be considered low-tech by the Twitter set, but they continue to be high value—rated number one as the most important source information for practicing physicians to stay abreast of new medical developments—by the people who write prescriptions. 
So, maybe the way forward to marketing success for forward-thinking product managers is to go back to the future with renewed enthusiasm for medical journal advertising. 

Harry Sweeney is an unrepentant copywriter and managing partner of SouthPennSquare Associates
Share this content:
Scroll down to see the next article