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Redefining pharma marketing processes

Dr. R. B. Smarta
Wednesday, July 30, 2008, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

It was only ten years ago that James Thompson, an unassuming biologist at the University of Wiscouncin, grew the first human embryonic stem cell in the lab. Although controversies are going on, yet it's a fact that the science is finally hitting its stride.

Last year brought a sudden discovery of human adult skin cell can be reprogrammed into cells just as potent as embryonic stem cells, with no embryos harmed. This embryo-free approach still needs a lot of time to mature, but it has potential to end the ethics debate.

You can imagine how important it is to look at "ethics" even at a stage when it saves life!

Marketing concepts to prescribers
You can imagine how difficult it is to disseminate the information about stem cells, the knowledge about products derived from stem cell technology, their proper education to prescribers, prescribers' existing paradigm of me-too nature of products! It will be essential to make them feel the distinction between what is this embryo-bound or embryo-free approach! In such a case, you need to redefine marketing processes, SOPs, and practices. Is it happening today? If not, which type of marketing practices are in vogue today? Are they ethical?

Usually, when people ask me the difference between ethical and unethical marketing practices, I always give an answer to them that it only matters to those who are practicing them! These practices are based on two basic aspects:

1. Available skills of sales force to adhere to the values of the organization.
2. Feeling of sales force for paucity of resources, inadequacy to stay in an adverse condition.

In India, there is an immense competition for every molecule and every generic brand today. You will also find marketing practices differing in variety. Many are not bothered about processes, practices and at the cost of nature of practices, they need results. Means they are not as important as ends! It's universal.

How inclusive science is in marketing practices of pharma today? Are ethical aspects included in marketing practices along with science?
It has come to a stage all over the world where pocket guides for US sales professionals of Amgen, Pfizer and other multinationals have started reinforcing ethics and integrity. As they are very important facets to keep at four front of how you conduct business with customers.

While being in consulting, I have witnessed that a global industrial products company owners and directors were ready to close the operations and stop such practices as the values were not matching. Through innovation, the same company could find alternatives and gave a difficult direction to the business. It needs tough decisions on the part of owners / directors.

The changing scenario
On one hand everybody in pharma marketing complains that prescribers do not have and give time, you will be surprised to witness that one of the international organisations have started taking marketing initiatives with the sales force of medically sound sales force of providing enormous medical education on just a common subject like diabetics. As a result, even the prominent prescribers are investing 2 to 3 hours out of their busy schedule to learn more on such a usual subject like diabetes.

What it really means, you need to identify which knowledge needs to be disseminated, how should it be done, who should do it, what will be an impact, how cost-effective it is, should you do it or not and do your values match with the investment you would like to make in marketing? And will it yield sales?

Well, as you redefine pharma marketing processes with these questions you will understand the strength of process, possibility of gathering insight, and perhaps you will answer this question on your own.

Perhaps this is the time today to invest in pharma marketing, by redefining marketing practices.

Moment of truth & health
When you define marketing processes, you need to identify all "transactions" of business while developing marketing processes. In today's parlance, many such processes get included in "business generation processes".

As old definition may include 4Ps, later on classically we spoke about people and today we speak about pace to be included. Now is the time to create a "transaction base" and its flow to give you more insights in marketing and business development processes.

In transactions - we need to identify transactions on the basis of science, technology and touch points of the industry and nature of business. In case of pharma, we need to identify all transactions which are responsible for business generation at a time individually or in group with all stakeholders. We need to plot them and prioritise them for actions.

Once we prioritise and identify the transactions, we need to stimulate their transactions through our sales and promotional strategies. When the stimulation process acquires a sizable momentum, we need to facilitate these transactions and lastly we need to value these transactions for better equity, trust and goodwill to repeat these transactions.

At every level, stage and contact of these transactions are the moments of truth. It is important for pharma marketing process owners to give more truths with evidence to all stakeholders of health.

(Dr RB Smarta is the managing director of Interlink, a business & management consulting firm.)


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