One of the strangest concepts to me when I started in biopharma marketing is that of the POA, or Plan of Action, which many brand teams that focus on healthcare professionals (HCPs) and the Sales team refresh every six months or so. And by “refresh” I mean throw out all of the plans, insights, programs and creative assets and start over. Every six months, year after year.
One reason for this is the belief that the target audience (primarily doctors) doesn’t change much over time, therefore the messages need to change regularly to stay fresh, relevant and somehow different to the customer, even though the underlying clinical data rarely change after a certain point in a product’s lifecycle.
Another reason is that sales reps and brand managers get bored telling the same story after a few months, and their agencies are more than happy to crank up the machine that conducts market research, message testing, creative design, asset and program development, media planning and sales training—all activities on which they make money. Incoming brand managers also want to make their mark on the brand, so they clear the decks of their predecessors’ ideas and investments and start designing their own.
“The secret to Marketing is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.”
Contrast this with the prevailing approach to biopharma Consumer marketing, which assumes that the target audience churns (changes) continuously, and therefore core messaging and creative campaigns have a longer life. In fact, it is sometimes a year or two before an incremental refresh is needed, because the changing audience doesn’t hang around long enough to get bored or annoyed (the exception to this may be DTC TV ads that tend to ignore recommendations for optimal frequency). This enables many Consumer teams to focus on building a marketing machine – a system – that continuously learns and gets a little better every day.
A marketing system, even a simple one, becomes a capability that has several advantages over a series of discrete campaigns:
- Business Rules – Codifies and enforces organizational priorities into a unified set of rules. For example, it prioritizes brand messaging and limits frequency if several brand teams want to speak to the same customer in the same time frame
- Continuity – Provides team continuity and organizational memory in the event that a key member departs unexpectedly, or you change agency partners or IT providers
- Efficiency – All of your marketing elements may be monitored in one place so you can track holistic performance as well as tweak discrete campaign elements and observe what happens
- Integration – Using a system exposes open loops in which interest is generated but leads are not captured, and it helps marketers really understand the “job” of each tactical element and its contribution to the overall return on investment
- Learning & Optimization – Enables a longitudinal view of individual, segment and aggregate customer behaviors, and helps you understand what is working and what is not through A-B testing, behavioral data, conversion rates, etc.
Brand marketing also requires a sustained investment in a system over time to produce the best results. For example, if you are a Sales leader, would you put your reps in the field for 2 months, give them 3 months off and them put them back in for another 3 months? Unlikely. Customer relationships, competitive awareness and brand equity grow steadily with a sustained, continuous effort. This not only applies to Sales, but to the entire marketing mix — congresses, medical education, digital, direct mail, DTC, social and journal ads.
Finally, marketing systems are essential to enable personalization and protect your customers’ privacy. By tracking customers’ preferences and opt status in a single place, marketers can more easily manage the continuous updates triggered by customer behaviors and business rules, and produce an audit log if required.
Author: Joe Shields
Photo credit: Pexels.com