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Redefining marketing research

Dr RB Smarta
Wednesday, August 27, 2008, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

While I do not anticipate that pharmaceutical marketing will change overnight, I am quite confident that it will change through the process of modification and transformation in response to many forces. The process of pharmaceutical marketing and thereby the decisions which marketers need to take will have to modify their responses to deal with many factors.

These factors are:

● Declining number of genuinely new molecules
● Decrease in demonstrable return on investment
● Rising number of prescribers and physicians who do not give time or not even see pharmaceutical company representatives
● Increasingly negative pressure on pricing and profits
● Increasing pressure on regulatory issues of all aspects of business including marketing promotion
● The projected growth pressure in developing, developed and emerging markets.

As market and marketing research by design needs to facilitate distinctly marketing decisions as well as activities for the revolutionary markets, market research based on revolutionary principles will have to be conducted to take care of revolutionary changes in the market and competition.

In order to really provide meaningful direction to future marketing decisions, pharmaceutical research needs to redefine and incorporate new areas to investigate.

Much of pharmaceutical marketing research conducted day-to-day is more about the way pharmaceutical marketing used to be and is conducted today. However, as we are by nature more in the process of penetration and conversion of prescriptions and relatively less in the process of creating new markets, the decision support system for marketing is becoming more complex. It is left to executives to make it relevant in the dynamics of present market conditions.

Ten areas to redefine
Marketing researchers need to redefine and provide in-depth insights in the following ten areas and then on the basis of those insights provide decision making support to pharmaceutical marketers so that they can plan their own activities and budgets to maximize potential market and business returns.

Marketing research needs to look at new needs of the marketers and redefine the boundaries of deliverables on the basis of marketing research processes and methods. These ten new areas which marketers need to decide to forge forward and take decisions for tomorrow are:

1. Therapy understanding with all protocols
2. Segments / prescribers' attitude towards therapies (new, old and existing)
3. KOLs usage and behaviour of different therapies and use of drugs / brands / generics
4. Prescription insights of specific prescribers
5. Role of patients and families alongwith usage and attitude of the patients for few therapies
6. Regulatory research in terms of packaging, labelling, promotion and communication.
7. Metro city understanding for therapies and companies in competition
8. Promotional budget utilization based on ongoing research (customized)
9. Ongoing customized competitive positioning, mapping of competitors and communication
10. Post marketing surveillance

All areas are quite focused and there is no need to elaborate as they all form a collectively exhaustive set.

Global view
Overtime by 2020 the global pharmaceutical marketing will double in value with the growth primarily resulting from improved economies in the developing countries as also demographic and epidemiological trends worldwide.

As a result, the domain of pharmaceutical marketing research cannot remain constrained by sheer current aspects of business. It has to encompass bigger vision such as needs of developed countries, developing countries and also emerging markets. Continuous research on the needs, transformations and variations taking place in these countries need to be plotted and relevant information needs to be sourced and used.

Few questions to introspect
Can market researchers start preparing marketers with predictive insights today by providing relevant market and marketing research findings for such evolutionalised pharmaceutical market? Can they provide insights for tomorrow than for doing research for yesterday?

Forecasting is becoming complex. It is a hard but true fact that forecasts are not becoming realities and yet, without forecasting not a single enterprise can even survive.

Can market researchers provide tools, techniques, in-depth insights, variables to make marketers stronger to forecast?

As new treatment and therapies areas are likely to crop up, can market researchers provide value propositions to reckon the new changes?

Can a marketer look at the market researcher to provide him an insight to develop such new markets?

Can market researcher provide more accurate patient and prescriber as well as family profiles (it may be just emerging in India) which will help them to rationalize their ways of looking at these patients?

Can research provide tools to maximize returns on investment (ROI) by utilizing and optimizing promotional A & P budgets?

Can researcher help marketers to look at positioning of new molecules when it is in the womb or at R&D level?

The detailed research should address ROI basics, operational skills marketer need for measuring marketing effectiveness, tools and best practices that make a difference, measurement principles that drive successful marketing measurement and methods to propel strategic execution and growth at bottom line.

If this kind of support system is provided to marketers, it will uncover practices to predict how and when pharmaceutical marketing and sales investment will yield highest market share and market share price.

This entire relook at research will redefine pharma market and marketing research.

(The author is founder and managing director of Interlink - A business consulting firm in pharmaceutical & healthcare industry based in Mumbai.)


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