This morning, I was reflecting on one of my favourite quotes from the Wharton business school marketing professor, George Day, who said:
“At the heart of a market-driven organization is the deep and enduring commitment to the philosophy that the customer comes first.”
It's also a strategic goal that many of us have strived for because ultimately, if you focus on your customers, the rest will take care of itself, including revenues.
Money follows satisfaction.
Back in my Pharma days, we listened to our customers and patients almost every single day. We learned how they felt about the disease, the treatments, the company and even our brand while it was undergoing clinical trials. Patients are wonderful and tell you how well (or not) they are responding, what side effects they have and what their hopes and aspirations are.
I can hear Pharma having wobblies right now at the mention of side effects. But they aren't always bad things, sometimes that knowledge is valuable insight.
How so, you might ask?
Well, imagine a world where people talk openly about their rashes, their swellings, their headaches, their muscle aches and pains etc. We can empathise with those things because no drug is free of side effects and we've all experienced them at some point ourselves when we take our own prescriptions. Suppose you take those shared thoughts as valuable real life insights and also ask the KOL's what they are seeing in the trials too? You then put a big picture together and realise that actually, many of them are uncomfortable, but manageable. Strategically, it makes sense to put adverse events in context for everyone in a rational, fair balanced way.
Imagine taking these insights and working with your clinical and medical affairs teams and the investigators to devise a practical guide for side effect management for patients, advocacy groups and other doctors in the broader community via practical patient brochures and clinical papers. Your review team loves education rather than promotion, so do your stakeholders. You now have a proactive strategy and executable tactics working together to help patients and doctors with potential outlets across multiple areas of the organisation.
That's marketing, not sales.
The patient insights I'm talking about came from social media sites. Yes, the same social media that everyone seems to get in a tizzy about.
Why is that?
When you stop and think, it's not entirely adverse events per se. It's often the risk that deep down, some review teams are worried that some brands are more focused on sales and promotion than marketing or education. They're probably right in that assumption sometimes, but it isn't true for everyone. Some are pragmatic and focused on common sense.
Action speaks louder than words.
Respect is something that is earned, from actions, from programs, from interactions. So, if the review team is up in arms, ask yourself why? Are you truly coming from a strategic and educational perspective based on insights and customer feedback or are you trying to use social media as yet another channel for more tactical push marketing and promotion?
It doesn't always have to be that way.
Some of the greatest moments I ever had in Pharma came from sitting down with patients hearing their personal stories about life, despair and hope or attending an advisory committee of patients, physicians, advocacy groups and others, hearing their perspectives and what they thought at the same table, even though I vehemently disagreed with some of them. We debated, we listened, we problem solved, we created joint strategies and we created solutions. Together. It was a truly amazing experience.
Openess, listening, insights, collaboration, impact.
What you learn from your customers and consumers in real life in real time is invaluable. Forget the dingy market research focus groups and hiding behind dark windows; get out, listen, talk to doctors and patients. Prof Day was bang on the money, but the problem is, many of us have to do it to see and believe it.
It's absolutely a life changing experience for a marketer though, and
once you see the tangible benefits to your brand and organisation, you
never want to go back but you do want to make more of a difference to patients lives.