That is why marketing long had an aura of being an intuitive profession: good marketeers are people with good gut feeling, people who can read customers and the market, a mix of experience and insight, the origin of which is not always clear. Should pharmaceutical or medical devices companies concentrate on finding and hiring these people with that somewhat unclear talent? Or could it be possible to rely on the more objective discipline of working with research data and rigorous analysis in marketing? There will always be room for creative thinking but more and more we see customer data at the core of marketing models. And these are not one-size-fits-all models: customer-centricity is market-specific, product-specific and stakeholder specific.
A customer-centric strategy and customer-centric attitudes are not achieved through a clear-cut format to be implemented in any given circumstance. On the contrary, it is a highly volatile concept that requires specific research and models for every product and constant monitoring as markets and stakeholders’ interests evolve during the lifecycles of products.
More than 15 years of real market experience in the pharmaceutical sector in many countries has taught us that the way to leadership in customer centricity in a specific market requires customised, predictive models based on customer data research. High-quality surveys with healthcare professionals lay the foundation for rigorous and systematic analysis of a wide range of data. This way of working has proven to be very accurate and can explain 75%-85% of the variance in market performance.
Many elements can have an impact on what is driving customer-centricity in a market: we see variations depending on the region you are operating in, the type of stakeholder you are interacting with, in the competitive environment and the lifecycle phase your product is in, just to name a few.
The research methodology will provide guidance in a complex market reality and will demonstrate which elements will have the most effect on establishing a sound customer-centric marketing model fitted for a particular product in a particular market. Our experience has taught us that results can be highly unpredictable and more than once contra-intuitive.
… and practice
Effective data capture and analysis models are holistic by design and capture the major themes that impact market performance in pharmaceuticals or medical devices. They look at messaging about product characteristics, at relationships with the stakeholders and the channels used to interact with them, at the external environment, at the influences of patients etc.
In practice, the main challenge to remain in the lead with customer-centricity is to work with research and analysis in a volatile environment. The competitive landscape is prone to change and each of a product lifecycle stages has its own dynamic. Industry professionals usually know what the major marketing efforts could be to maximize return on investment. But it is not always as obvious as would seem at first sight.
We measure what your competitive position to other companies is in the different elements constituting customer-centricity.
Many marketers have the tendency to focus on bridging gaps with competitors that perform better in certain elements. They concentrate on improving perceived weaknesses. But this is not always the best choice: it may just as well make more sense to protect or widen the lead you enjoy in other elements. Careful analysis of competitive positions will show which efforts to take. That is what marketing models, based on customer data, are best at: a very specific and individualised approach.
Find out what customers think of you and your products
A good example of how volatile markets can be and how important it is to collect quality data about your customers’ perceptions is the following: one of our customers launched a game-changing product, that offered superior benefits compared to products already on the market. But a similar product – offering similar benefits – was launched by a competitor a few months later. Our customer was focusing on brand-related messages (comparison with standard of care, superior efficacy, better side-effect profile,…), which seemed logical given the fact that it was an innovative, break-through product.
Our customer surveys had shown, however, that customers did not really make a distinction with a similar product from the competitor. The physicians were already convinced about the benefits of both new products. This reduced our customer’s advantage of being first on the market. It also meant that their product choice could be determined by performance and perception of the company.
So our customer shifted its efforts to bring more quality in the interaction with the physicians. Only two years later the messaging was shifted back from company-related elements to brand-related elements because by now physicians had experience in using both competing products and the differences between both products had become clearer.
Do not only trust your gut feeling, have it checked! Spend your efforts and investments where it is needed most.
This article is written by Catherine De Witte. Reach out to her if you want more info!