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Pharmaceutical marketing is a sea of sameness in which clever key messages, celebrity spokespeople and p-values do not compensate for poorly differentiated products. Do marketers and their agencies simply fail to understand their customers, or do they really believe that the science will sell itself? I concede that one major difficulty in differentiating an Rx brand is that the product itself fundamentally doesn’t change during its brief patent-protected life. Uses may expand, formulations may be tweaked, new data may be generated, and patient support programs may be created—but it’s the same medicine with the same properties it had on launch
While working at several leading biopharmaceutical and medical device companies over the past twenty years, I participated in hundreds of pitches from suppliers of all types. It was sometimes frustrating for me to sit through their presentations without intervening to help improve the offering, the value story and the marketing communications. Now that’s all changed. I recently left pharma to help create an agency designed to support both suppliers that are trying to break into life sciences, and well-established ones needing to improve the way they go to market. So I’m writing this regular column for suppliers as an ‘insider,’
The Sales team has one of the most mission-critical roles for any company. As the front-line hunters who turn prospects into signed deals, salespeople supply the rest of the company with the fuel that keeps everything else moving forward: Revenue. And as almost any executive outside of the venture-funded world of Silicon Valley can tell you, a failure to generate enough revenue will quickly end a CEO’s tenure, or even kill the company itself. But for many suppliers in the biopharma industry, there is often so much emphasis on salespeople and the Sales department or function that the larger goal
If you run a company that sells to pharma and biotech companies, or if you’re the person responsible for sales or marketing in a life science “supplier” company, you know you’re competing in a crowded market where buyers and influencers have increasingly tight budgets and limited time to learn about, understand and evaluate what you sell. I understand your challenges, because I’ve been doing it, with success, for a very long time. During a career that started over 20 years ago, I’ve served as the buyer of services and solutions in positions that ranged from brand manager to VP of Marketing, and I’ve sold those services on the supplier side in leadership roles that ranged from VP of Marketing to CEO.
I’ve lived most of my life in the Northeastern part of the US, and autumn is a special time of the year. Despite a few weeks’ delay likely due to climate change, most of us still look forward to the change of seasons and the fall colors that paint the trees like dominos falling from north to south. I took the photo above a few years ago in Philadelphia, and each time I look at it I hear that classic Hall & Oates song. Change is natural and inevitable, and humans have adapted for a very long time. In the