It's time to make pharma more customer-centric

Marketers in the healthcare space face a plethora of challenges as they strive to meet the needs of today’s always-on and always connected consumers. To stand out above the noise, pharma brands and marketers need to place the customer at the center of all of their activities, using deep insight to deliver more relevant, personalized engagement. I realize this is more easily said than done. But by leveraging both qualitative research and data analysis techniques, a more contemporary view of who your customers are will allow for a more meaningful engagement with them. So, where should we begin? This is a topic I recently covered at the PharmaForce 2014 in Baltimore. Below are some key takeaways from my presentation.

Start With What You Know.  Becoming customer-focused isn’t a one off campaign or even a strategy—it’s a mindset. It requires new thinking, positioning and prioritization. To begin, start with what you know about your customers. In pharma we serve three primary groups of customers: payers, patients and providers. We know that:

  • Payers are our most important customer and we understand them the least.
  • Patients are willing to trade away network and formulary access for cost savings.
  • Providers, such as individual physicians, are increasingly embedded in larger organizations, from group practices to hospital networks

Determine the Implications of Your Programs. Now that you understand your customers, you need to determine how your programs will impact them. To truly engage, we need to develop a new way of communicating with them. We’ve been perfecting the art of telling them what we want to tell them for so long that we’ve lost sight of what they want to hear. We need to bring the focus back the customer. Our programs need to be based on insights that can be of value to them. Let’s provide information that can be used to help manage against their new quality, cost goals and deliver better health outcomes – rather than promotional messaging.

Make Every Touch Count.  We also have to make sure that every touch counts. This starts with using the channels our customers are interacting with, in order to meet them where they are. We also need to ensure we’re taking every touch into account — no matter what channel that touch took place in. Ironically, this describes the highly individualized, dynamic relationships that our best reps used to have in the “Golden Age” of pharma. The difference, however, is now we have to do it across an incredibly wide range of live, digital and offline channels.

Become Outcome-Focused.  To create a truly customer-centric model, we are going to have to move beyond selling pills to delivering outcomes. This will require developing new service-oriented business models and loosening the grip of corporate finance. Across pharma today, use of capital is evaluated in terms of short-term impact on earnings. This approach consistently opposes the kind of investments in long-term growth and adaptive change that our industry urgently needs now. Again, becoming more customer-centric isn’t a one-off linear process. It’s a continual mindset that should inform and guide everything you do. As such, it won’t happen overnight. It also won’t happen if you don’t start somewhere. What to hear more from our pharma team? Click here to contact us.