A view to a pill

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Many individuals outside the pharma industry have a maniacal vision of our senior executives. Imaginings of Blofeld-like characters stroking white cats in throne-like chairs, hell bent on monstrous profits all at the expense of the patient, are not uncommon. The reality might be far scarier. The leaders of the companies that drive the world's medical solutions are actually just like us. Gasp. And as we are susceptible to confusion, excitement, and distraction, so are they.

Trying to keep order and organization around the challenges of healthcare is PhRMA which "represents the country's leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier and more productive lives." 
Amongst members, the topics sometimes focus on the challenges/opportunities we face as marketers. For example, a C-suite group had a discussion on social media, healthcare reform and regional market variability and they agreed that solutions to any challenges around new channels or initiatives would have to be both scalable and relevant. It would be the only way to make these integrated strategies executable...a word much mentioned, but less followed. (Ernst & Young reported that 66% of corporate strategy is never executed.) 

PhRMA knows that the healthcare professional is demanding value beyond the Rx and is hungry for relevant tools and information, while the sales/marketing disconnect continues to grow and with fewer resources on both ends. With ever shrinking marketing budgets—resource optimization, differential resourcing and locally relevant yet scalable solutions are now priority No. 1.

But execution challenges are created from within. For example, many of the key executives responsible for these regional initiatives have grown up in the field and are acutely aware of the differences that exist within an individual market. They can describe these differences anecdotally and can quickly lament why national marketing programs, with their "one size fits all" approach, often fail to move the business forward for a specific brand within a local segment. Hence, if national programs fail to resonate with regional needs, the regional sales and marketing people may elect to ignore the programs. The company then asks: "Why can't the field simply execute with what we've given them? Why is the field so resistant to change?" Essentially they are asked to be half-monk and half hit-man.

In reality, regional variation should amplify the national strategy—not detract from it. After all, share variability is the result of multiple key drivers such as payer, provider, population, prescriber, product and place. Hence, the regional strategy is based on information patterns peculiar to the region, but they must align with the national vision and central marketing plan for the particular brand. This was the other common factor that the PhRMA C-suite agreed upon—they crave partners that will integrate with their existing plans as opposed to provide incremental strategies. 

Easier said than done. There are many companies who can provide a grouping of disparate tactics but those that provide a one company solution that enhances the national strategies will be valued above the others. In doing so, the leaders of our industry can effectively focus on providing good, usable information and products to patients without the distractions of internal strife—all without any lairs built out of hollow volcanoes. 

David Zaritsky is managing director at HRM
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