“I made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make
Pascal, Provincial Letters XVI, 1660
One of the things that used to drive me absolutely potty as a marketing director was reports masquerading as doorstops, as if more was better than less. 300+ pages of data… blah, blah, blah and no insights or analysis, leaving the hapless reader to try and figure out exactly what it all means and some seek some context for how it might actually be useful.
Sadly, I see the same thing happening a lot even now in competitive intelligence at scientific congresses. Gangs and posses of people marching round grabbing as many poster handouts as they can and illegally snapping as many photos as possible without getting thrown out by security.
Talking to some of those folk was really interesting; what do they do with all the data they gather? The blithe answer was, “Oh, we reproduce it all for our client and recreate the abstracts for them in a big report after the meeting.”
Uh? Right, and exactly was does the poor client do with the report? Use it as a doorstop probably.
And therein is the rub.
Information isn’t always power. Data is useless without context. Ultimately, it’s all about insights – what does this all mean to YOU given that your particular situation is unique? To process such a huge volume of information and give it contextual meaning requires a modicum of intelligence and some knowledge of the disease and therapeutic area in order to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
Some of my best client reports have been relatively short (30-40 pages or even less) from a conference with a clear focus on relevant insights, trends and learnings, what the implications are and what could be considered next. Short, sharp and snappy. No blah, but plenty of insights. Data with meaning.
Of course, sometimes the hardest part is accomplished up front in pinning the client down; “what exactly do you need to know?” The distracted stressed client doesn’t know what they don’t know and takes solace in volume, which adds to the problem.
My smart clients, the partner ones I really enjoy working with, are usually very precise when asked what they really need and are relieved to be asked because oddly, they know they can immediately stop fretting about the answer. It will come. This applies to conference coverage or ongoing market surveillance.
Insights analysis is a craft; making data sing is part art, part science.
It also, as Pascal noted, takes longer to be succinct and precise than it does to merely reproduce what is out there in copious quantities. Writing shorter, more impactful, reports based on data analysis takes more time too.
Once you’ve done a marketing or new products job in Pharma you know that deep down what matters is to keep moving, preferably faster than the competition, but with a clear strategic sense of what’s going on around you in the landscape and how market changes can impact you so that you can execute flawlessly.
Anything else is just irrelevant noise. Or doorstops.
What are you doing to filter the signals from the noise?