Start anywhere, ask stupid questions and fail early

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Four marketing research company CEOs reflected on the future of their industry, that of pharmas and on their firms' relationships with pharmas at the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group's annual national conference in Orlando, FL in March.

Healogix founder Harris Kaplan said the pharma industry in the US and the EU is moving toward a utility model with increasing regulatory oversight and pressure from payers. Medical and legal affairs departments are challenging basic terms like “differentiation,” “segmentation” and “positioning.”

Kantar Health's Lynette Cooke said that with the increasing focus on niche therapies and personalized medicines, marketing research firms need to focus more on patient outcomes.

GfK's Richard Vanderveer urged his colleagues to loosen up and think like designers. “They say go out, start anywhere, ask stupid questions, fail early,” said Vanderveer. “That's the only way we'll progress into the future.”

Quintiles practice leader Jim Kirk said firms need to stand out in today's environment. “It's fine to be a large multinational full-service firm,” said Kirk. “It is also fine to be a small specialty shop that is very good at cardiovascular or KOLs or patient emotional drivers research.”

Moderator Brian Cain, VP of global customer insights at Merck, observed that the skill set needed for effective marketing research is fast evolving. “Just a few years ago, we would want people who are experts in all types of market research, we would want incredibly good project managers and we would want people who know the marketplace,” said Cain. “We still need those things, but now, we need to lay in a whole additional set of skills to be effective in this changing marketplace.”
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