Marketing mindset differs among audiences

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Rivalries among colleagues in the same company are nothing new. Just watch an episode of The Office, and you'll see.

I have invested over a dozen years of my career in the biopharmaceutical industry, mainly focused on marketing to consumers. It has puzzled me why the tension between HCP and consumer marketers continues, going beyond the occasional personality conflict. In many companies it is systemic, often getting in the way of optimizing the marketing mix and serving the best interests of all.

In addition to competing for resources, this tension stems from fundamental differences in the marketing approach. I oversimplify, but HCP marketers tend to use time-bound campaigns using feet on the street, while consumer marketers tend to use integrated systems fueled by media.

HCP marketing teams are tightly aligned with the sales forces they support, often operating on a six-month cycle for sales rep focus, messaging and training. These campaigns are kicked off by a large sales meeting and supported by brand new promo pieces. This makes sense when the product and target audience remain static, so the marketing team freshens up the message and emphasis regularly. Sales meeting deadlines are non-negotiable. HCP marketers tend to rely on a single agency partner for key deliverables, and the sales force is the primary channel to reach a small number of high-value customers.

In contrast, many brands manage the consumer marketing function as a sophisticated machine made up of awareness, acquisition, conversion and retention programs that move a patient along a pathway from diagnosis to treatment. Each day, the team tinkers to make the machine better and more efficient, welcoming potential new customers into the system. Deadlines are driven by media buys, and the brand must orchestrate a team of partners. The sales force is not the primary channel for reaching consumers.

As brand teams continue to optimize resources while serving their customers, it's clear that pharma marketers of all stripes must move closer together, not farther apart. Each approach described above is uniquely suited to the current needs of its audience, yet I think that each type of marketer has lessons for the other. Lateral thinking can be a two-way street, and a marketer that understands both approaches will find innovative solutions that others may miss.

Joe Shields is product director at Pfizer

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