Tune up for tough times

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In these troubled times, it is important to remember that some things are within your control, while others are not. Troughs in the economic cycle provide an opportunity to assess where you are, decide where you want to be and develop a plan for getting there.

For years, the fundamental marketing skills have been widely acknowledged—positioning, segmentation, media planning and the like. More recently, the competent pharma marketer has added data management and analysis, social media and specialty markets to the list. Here are five more skills that may help shore up your already solid foundation:

1. Perfect Pitch
Venture capitalists invest in ideas, and especially people, in which they have confidence. It's similar inside large organizations, only instead of VCs you have “senior management.” A critical skill is acquiring the necessary funding to “do marketing.” When pitching your big idea, consider former Apple exec Guy Kawasaki's 10-20-30 rule: “A PowerPoint presentation should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points.” Sell, don't tell.

2. Location-agnostic Productivity
A recent issue of Business Week reminds us, “Work is not a place that you go, it's something that you do.” You probably spend more time out of the office (OOO), but have you adapted your processes, systems and tools to maximize productivity on the road? In addition to a phone and a laptop, what else do you need to work as effectively in an airport lounge? Soon you may find that being in your office is a strange and novel concept, and OOO is the new normal.

3. Design Thinking
Popularized by Palo Alto,CA-based design firm IDEO, “design thinking” is an approach to business problem solving that considers the role of good design in everything from organizational dynamics to defibrillators, from automobiles to autoinjectors, from engines to emergency rooms. Design is rather intrinsic to function, usability and value as determined by the end customer. Ideation gives way to rapid prototyping, often with end users, in order to quickly test and improve rough concepts in the physical world.

4. Managing White Space
Your marketing team may consist of partners from many companies, scattered around the globe and strung together through an informal patchwork of real-time and asynchronous communication channels. Identify the stakeholders on a flip chart, putting you at the center. Now notice the white space between you, your partners, suppliers and customers. Imagine you are a traffic cop that coordinates decision making, doles out resources and regulates the flow of communications along the invisible pathways that connect the nodes. You may be the glue that holds the entire network together.

5. Telescoping
In the book Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, Steven Johnson introduces the concept of “telescoping.” Telescoping is doing multiple interlinked actions with a single objective in mind. Experienced “gamers have mastered the ability to keep all these varied objectives alive in their heads simultaneously,” according to Johnson. Generations raised with video games do this naturally. How can you apply this to your business?

Joe Shields is product director for Enbrel at Wyeth

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