Giving an under-served sector what it deserves

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Bob Harrell
Bob Harrell

Bob Harrell
VP marketing, healthcare, Appature

Marketing has been one of the most under-served functions in the industry over the last 20 years. When it comes to enabling capabilities, sales and finance have been the focal points for investment. Many Life Sciences marketers still don't get the support they need from their organizations, including tools and processes to access data, execute campaigns across channels and track performance.

This needs to change—and within the more forward-looking organizations it is. Why now?

To answer that question, we have to look at how the nature of the promotional mix and the role of marketing have evolved. More so than in other industries, the commercial model in Life Sciences has been sales-force centric, with a priority to provide sales tools and support POAs. This tracked with the focus on investment in sales force capabilities described above.

Sales is still the largest lever in influencing share, but its influence is falling while the opposite is true for digital channels and other forms of non-personal promotion. The balance of power is shifting to put marketing closer to the “editorial center” of the commercial model. Sales remains an important channel, but a channel nonetheless. This is reinforced by expectations to deliver a cohesive customer experience across every contact.

The second factor is the growing complexity of our marketing efforts. It's a math problem. If you have X number of segments, Y number of promotional assets, and Z number of channels, the number of possible combinations are only manageable when X, Y and Z are small numbers. What happens when that changes? As each factor increases—as they all are—the possible combinations, and thus the complexity of campaigns, grow geometrically. Manual processes break down. Sending materials to simple lists no longer works, giving way to automated campaigns and business rules.

These complex campaigns generate an inordinate amount of data—the “Big Data” problem everyone is talking about, where pulling together data manually and generating meaningful reports goes out the window.

What this means is that marketers will need organizational support for tools and capabilities that let them execute more insight-driven, multi-channel and personalized efforts.  It will require them to navigate beyond their function to get resources from groups such as Commercial Operations, IT, and Marketing Analytics.  With the right level of internal advocacy, Life Sciences marketers will get the support that they deserve.
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