Collecting ideas and thoughts slightly too big for @digital_pharma

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Posts tagged "Strategy"

No, wait. Just because this is going to be about CRM doesn’t mean you need to bring your call to action into the room. This will not be about computers. The problem is that we just see the acronym and not the words themselves. You think you know what CRM is, that it’s a big database filled with info about all your customers and it spits out all sorts of insights like what channels each target prefers and what messages they seem to respond to.

Except none of that is in the name itself: Customer relationship management. No tech. No servers. No database. No channel preference. It’s just a way to manage the relationships you have with your customers.

If you owned a bar, knowing what the regulars liked to drink and remembering that Ol’ Joe gets a little maudlin after his fourth – that would be customer relationship management. You wouldn’t need a server, because you would know many of your customers by name, by drink, and by story. That’s what a good bartender does, right?

So why do we need to inject databases into the concept? When you think CRM, don’t think servers and analysts, think strategy.

Because that’s what CRM is — a strategy. It is a way of thinking about your customers to help them have a positive experience, so that they come back for more. It is a system and structure that forces you to put the customer in the center of all your marketing thinking.

Allow me to be specific. You’ve got a target list. Maybe you’ve broken it down by deciles. And you are recruiting everyone on that target list to opt in to your email campaigns. Now, your email campaigns, are they a bunch of emails you send out every few weeks in a specific order? Maybe you occasionally interrupt that order with breaking news about a conference or a label change? Yeah, I figured as much. So what’s that getting you? Are you learning about your targets? No, you’re shouting at them. And worse yet, you’re shouting at them all the same way. The twenty email messages you’ve spent the last nine months crafting and pushing through MLR are to be sent in order, to everyone who opts in, are they increasing your prescription rates? Are they increasing your rep and sample requests? Are they increasing your target’s understanding of your brand?

I’ll buy you a drink at ePharmaSummit West this year if you can answer ”yes” to all those questions.

Let’s assume you’ve embraced an adoption path for all your targets, that everyone was either unaware of your brand; aware but ignorant of what the drug does; educated but unconvinced of its value, convinced of its value and prepared to prescribe; or ready to tell other people about their positive experiences with the brand. Which of your twenty emails speaks to which of those audiences? Are you sending your messages in a way that moves each target from one step to the next? Can you confirm that each target has moved to the next step before you send the next message? (Did you notice that every question asked where the customer is? This is what I mean by customer-centered.)

This is what CRM can tell you. With proper implementation, it can see that Dr. Smith is aware of the brand (because she went to a conference and dropped a business card in the bowl to try and win an iPad). So it sends Dr. Smith three emails in a row about what the purpose of the drug is. The system knows that after the second email, the doctor clicked the link to learn more and watched most of the eLearning video. This means that our target has moved to the next step, so skip the third ”brand awareness” email and move on to the campaign to get them to request a sample.

At the same time, Dr. Jones already is aware of the brand and it’s mechanism of action, so a series of messages are sent about requesting samples and formulary information.

This is how you manage your customers. The strategy comes first. We can figure out how to build the database and tracking system later.

Here’s the scary part: you can’t say that you don’t think CRM is valuable because every business tries to manage their relationships with their customers. It’s a cornerstone of building a good business. What you may object to is the way that strategy is implemented, but you can’t ignore the strategy itself.

So tell me: how are you managing the relationships you have with your customers?

Do you have a process or method for creating a new marketing strategy? I’d like to see what others are doing. I’m not asking anyone to reveal anything they don’t want to, of course, but help us all understand how common it is to have and abide by a defined process (and conversely, how many of us just “wing it.”).

Three questions (and one is a yes/no, so that hardly counts) that won’t take three minutes. 

Click here to take the survey. And anything you can do to spread the word is always appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

So I’ve been reading a slew of books about strategy. Why? well, mostly because I feel like there’s this gap between academic strategy (Porter, Mintzberg, et al) and stuff I do all day as a so-called “strategist.” 

One of the things that struck me as I read Communicating Strategy by Phil Jones is that strategy has become… Well, not a buzz word, but a word that has been bent and shaped to mean almost anything. It’s a noun, verb, adjective and adverb all at once, meaning about a dozen different things. It’s like when the Smurfs used to talk about how they were going to Smurfs that Smurf smurfily (that sentence is making my spell check fidget). For some people, a strategy is a plan. For some it’s a means of looking at things from a slightly higher perspective. For others is about a process of making choices. And when two or more people get in a room to talk about strategy, I’ll lay odds that unless they know each other well, they are each talking about strategy in a different way, which is problematic to say the least.

But I’ve been thinking about it in two ways that I havent seen in the literature yet. Strategy as metaphor and strategy as system.

I’ll talk more about strategy as metaphor some other time because I’d like to talk about strategy as a system here tonight (it’s 11:15pm in Philly and I should be getting some sleep for the CBI Life Sciences CRM forum. If you’re here, find me! I’ll be twittering the whole thing, probably).

What do I mean by strategy as a system? In many respects, what a company does and does well is less a function of rational/premeditated decision making and more a function of it’s culture and practices. I mean, if IBM made candy, it’s inherent in their nature of who they are and how they like to do things (which attracts people who also like to think that way, thus perpetuating the culture) that would lead them pretty quickly to be selling enterprise-wide candy solutions to multinational companies. It’s in their blood, so to speak.

If that’s true, you can’t change a companies strategy by dropping a new proposal on them and saying “that’s how we’re gonna do it from now on” unless it’s already pretty close to how the culture already thinks. Apples strategy will never be to corner the market on enterprise computing (I mean, how many years has the iPhone been out? How is it that BlackBerrys still do a better job of Exchange integration? Because Apple doesn’t care about that market), just as IBM fails almost every time it tries to appeal to consumers. Again, it’s in the blood.

So if you want to change a companies strategy, you have to change the system that created (grew organically, more than likely) the old strategy. This means that strategy shift occurs because you can successfully define and articulate answers to the following four questions:

What have you systematically been doing to get yourself here?
What part of the system will you change?
How does that change affect the system?
Where will this changed system go?

Yu got to “here” somehow. And even if you didn’t have a specific strategy in mind, your lack of strategy is a strategy none the less and here you are. So what strategy ended up getting you here? 

What changed since the last time you had a strategy? Do you have more resources or constraints now? Did you get good at something recently that you can build on? What will you add, remove or edit to the system? New hire? New skill sets? New vendor? New distribution model? New audience? New market? What’s changing?

Since you’re now making conscious choices about what you’re changing in the system, how do you expect these changes to affect the system? What will you be able to accomplish that you weren’t before? What’s the value you want to get out of these changes?

If strategy can be thought of as a means of getting to where you want to go, knowing your resources and limitations is only a part of the battle. Understanding the competitive landscape is only part of the battle. A large part is how you can adjust to the new strategy, and that happens at a cultural level. If every employee can’t describe your strategy, what strategy are they pursuing?

So that’s what I was thinking about.

As per usual, comments are open and you should twitter me, even if it’s to tell me you think I’m nuts and should get more sleep.

I’m gonna stop the song and dance about social media and how pharma can use it, because we’re all struggling with a mostly unspoken issue.

As marketers, we want to be able to get our message into every channel we can: we know that it’s not the first commercial that causes people to buy, it’s the tenth (or twentieth or hundred, depending), so we know being in every channel increases the odds of hitting that magic number of impressions (yes, it’s not about sheer numbers. A clever message can cut the number of necessary exposures from a hundred to two. But that’s not the point here).

But good marketers know that in order to work, our message needs to abide by the rules of the channel. Not much value in a TV commercial without video, a billboard that’s only four inches tall, or a banner ad that doesn’t link to anything, right? These are the rules of the medium, and marketers can bend them some times, but otherwise, they have to respect them.

So what are the rules of social media? Simple: people connect to people. That’s what the Social in Social Media is referring to. You can make an emotional connection to a brand, yes, but you can’t really talk to a brand and get a response. Plenty of people have an emotional connection to the Apple or Google brand (or Lexus or Audi or Skullcandy or Twilight or Twitter or or or…) but though I love Twitter and what it stands for, I don’t expect the brand to have a conversation with me. I will never meet Twitter at a party. I will never run into Twitter walking its dog.

I can have a conversation with anyone on my friends list. I might see them at Starbucks. I can be social with them.

But since the world went social, marketers have followed, trying to bend the rules of social to work for brands. Old Spice Guy. The Most Interesting Man In The World. I, myself, once was @BuckyBadger for the University of Wisconsin. I could interact as a person pretending to be the brand, but its was very limiting.

Once, before the advent of good Twitter tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck, I accidentally porn-spammed a thousand people (porn owns every typo version of Facebook, fyi) and fixed it five minutes later. I made a joke about how hard it was to type with big fuzzy fingers. The joke was funny and no big deal, but should the brand be making jokes? Can Coke make a joke? No, the people behind it make jokes. So marketers have realized that the key to successful social media is to make it a person in charge of the brand presence. Give them the brand a persona and let it interact (FYI: Colonel Tribune is a great example of this).

Here’s where thinks get super difficult. Pharma brands can’t interact. They can’t talk about what’s off the label, they can’t put themselves in a position where someone might report an adverse effect and they don’t see it immediately. Pharma rules are very strict in this regard. They have to be, because we all know that without regulations, pharma would be involved in the process, tainting it with… something.

Here’s where I suggest a different approach. I suggest we all embrace the idea that we’re all in this together, that pharma has all the data on its product (or at least 95% of it) and it should share. In return, they get a seat at the table in talking about their product. Of course, they can’t claim it solves problems it doesn’t, but to treat them like they aren’t a player is ludicrous. We need pharma to be involved as much as pharma needs a regulatory agency to keep everyone honest. This means that pharma can brand and talk about their brand like Coke or Disney does. They can be on Facebook and be given the benefit of the doubt that they can interact with people on it without breaking rules. That a big link that says “please send adverse effects here and not on our Facebook wall” is enough. That they can misspeak so long as they fix accidents with all due diligence just like Honda or Home Depot. 

Making pharma transperant solves the social media problem, but it has other effects: it removes barriers between company and regulatory and customer. It fosters innovation. It builds smarter companies. If Google can, why can’t Pfizer (who have very similar market capitalization)? 

Lets focus less on building more walls and build more transparency in pharma.

When the gods of marketing sent down their stone tablets (since they were marketing gods, they expensed the marble and had a lavish party; Kanye showed up) to illuminate the basics of all marketing, they were simple: Product, Place, Promotion and Price. For all the talk and writing and cocktail party stories after that moment, it seems to always come back to the fundamentals. Everything else serves as footnote to the Four Ps.

Surprisingly, there are a lot of parallels between marketing and strategy. The goals are about capturing territory or market share. Marketers are expected to use brute force and cunning to capture that territory. Many control armies of sales reps or distributors that perform orchestrated maneuvers on the battlefield to control as much territory as possible and get the most out of that territory.

The Price and Product are means of Positioning, they spell out how and where you intend to fight. Let’s say you were fighting a battle with a great navy, you could build your own navy and fight on the seas. That would be a positioning strategy. Of course, you could not build an navy and instead send your army to attack and control the ports of your enemy, rendering their navy useless (which, is what Alexander the Great did when taking on the Phonecians).

When Apple wants to expand beyond laptops and get people to try their interface, they could just lower the price of the laptop, or introduce a lower model at a lower price (which would be like building a navy to fight their navy). Instead, they moved into the consumer electronics market, embedding a version of their software into smaller devices, avoiding doing battle with low-end laptop makers.

The final marketing P is Place. In marketing, place is where a customer can buy your product. If you sell alarm systems, trying to get into grocery story checkout lanes to be an impulse buy is a pretty bad idea. But if you’re a candy manufacturer, it makes a lot of sense. Understanding where people will want to buy your product helps you claim the battlefield. You’ll notice fast food joints congregate around highway exit ramps, because people who want food fast will be travelers. This where the ground war if your strategy might happen. For example, Apple used to be available on the phone, online, and in a select number of computer stores. That MacBook, when sitting next to a Dell laptop, which similar features and size, will look very expensive. It’s hard to communicate the fundamental differences between a Mac and a pc in the 5x7 card in front of the model, especially since Apple didn’t control the message on that card. So they shifted the battlefield. Where as most computer makers were battling to see how many stores they could get their products into, Apple walked away and built their own store chain. Now, they have virtually unlimited room to define themselves and the differences between them and everyone else. They have products that are diverse enough that different people will come in and look at (your average iPod nano buyer is very different than your MacBook Air buyer), but while there, they will look at other things. 

So in strategy, instead of talking about about the four Ps, we talk about Power and Positioning. Power is the ability you have to do what you desire. Within power is your size, your ability to get a product to market faster or to more outlets, your industry cache (for example, if you called a press conference tomorrow, would anyone come?), your brand and your brand promise.

Above that is your ability to wield those items to achieve victory. That’s your ability to be strategic and implement effective tactics. 

Part Two tomorrow. Comments: open. Twitter like you got something to say!

Today in MarketingProfs, an article about how the “human voice” in social media builds customer relationships.

I’ll just file that under “DUH” again (this folder is getting kinda full).

The reason social media works is that it’s powered by people. That chatbot you have to talk to when you want to “chat” with your cable company? No fun. Chatting with a person at Zappos? More fun. The web is people-powered. Every good web site you’ve ever read, every game you play, every flame war that made you giggle: People powered (Note to self: re-write The Police’s Every Breath You Take for the internet).

Here’s the problem, though. All those pages you ready that suck? A person wrote them, but while they were trying very hard not to sound like a person.

Example? Here’s something I found in five seconds on IBM’s website:

Implementing a cloud computing model means encouraging innovation by simplifying and standardizing underlying infrastructure. It entails the creation of efficient yet flexible IT foundations that can support the development of new services and the consistent delivery of quality user experiences. And it demands a focus on ensuring interoperability, resiliency and security in an integrated fashion.

Um… I’m a geek and I can kinda parse that stuff, but what I really take away from it? “This is a bunch of text that sounds impressive and says nothing you can hold us to later because the lawyers have taken my grandma hostage and won’t let her go until I remove any trace of humanness from this article.”

We. Hate. Reading. This. Stuff.

Insurance Explanation of Benefits? Hate. Contracts?. Hate. Terms and Conditions? Hate. Most business writing? Hate. 

Bring me the people! Oh, it’s the internet and the people are someplace else… okay, bring me the human voice.

This is why you spend time on Facebook and Twitter: Real people’s voices! This is why the sales writing at a is so good. 

But pharma is in trouble because pharma is terrified of the human voice because it terrifies the lawyers which are terrified of the regulatory agencies who are terrified of the people they are supposed to protect.

So the question isn’t “What will the fed let us do on social media” because even if the fed let us do anything and everything, if it’s not built in the human voice, it’s all worthless. It’s all so much Explanation of Benefits in social media form (eww). The question is “How do we find a more human voice with which to talk to our customers? 

Funny thing is: there’s already an answer. But the answer is as complicated as the question. The answer? Get HCPs online and in social media!

[Sorry, I didn’t realize this would be such a long post when I started it.]

Yes, we need to get HCPs active on Facebook and Twitter. But they, like the rest of us, as terrified of the lawyers and getting sued, so they stay away in droves. They even try and force a copyright violation on people who complain about them online. 

Suggestion: We need a federally mandated “Good Samaritan Law” for HCPs online. And HCP is allowed, encouraged and expected to answer questions online, knowing full well that if they are acting in the best interests of the “patient” and with the best possible knowledge they have, they are protected from lawsuits. They can answer any health care question (with links to their info, so I don’t accidentally ignore an oncologist in favor of an answer by a podiatrist when asking a question about cancer) using their full name and licence, based on whatever information is presented to them, based on the best knowledge they have at the time and you can’t touch them because they are acting on good faith. The patient accepts responsibility for asking a good question, getting follow-up when something is misunderstood, and have the good sense to stop lurking online when clearly the right answer is to see a doctor.

How does this help pharma? Now HCPs can talk openly about medicines, what they like and don’t like about them, recommend (gasp) off-label uses that might be beneficial, and can talk openly about what they’ve seen.

This means that pharma can focus on the one thing they’re supposed to do: make good drugs.

It’s a long weekend coming up, but you can still disagree with me at @digital_pharma or in the comments.

In Health Care Communication News, Chris Boyer lists 5 mistakes hospitals make with social media.

  1. Don’t participate enough
  2. Participating too much
  3. Confusing social marketing with traditional marketing
  4. Try to control their brand in social media
  5. Not aligning social media strategies with hospital marketing strategies

I’m gonna add a few more to the list. I think they should be at the top of the list.

As a social media guy for a whole lot of years, I get lots of people who ask me to help with their social media strategy. The first question I ask is always “Why do you want to use social media? (or: what do you want to get out of it?)” Usually, they tell me how excited by a new technology they are (let’s say Twitter in this example). Great! Excitement is helpful. Then I ask: How long have you been using twitter?


The great thing about social media is that any idiot (including this one) can jump in for free. As I used to say, even Ashton Kutcher is good at Twitter, so what’s stopping you?

My other favorite answer is “because everyone else is doing it.” Uh huh. You just follow along and hope that no one notices you have no idea what’s going on. Good plan.

When I ask what kinds of two-way conversations the hospital would have with someone, or who that someone might be… blank stare. Hospitals (like most large companies) aren’t well-equipped to have a two-way conversations with someone. Too many lawyers, executives and marketers want to get in the way. They want to control the message, which is fine. But you can’t control a conversation (trying makes you a jerk — test this theory sometime at a party!) so stop trying.

Finally, even the biggest company in the world who is successful at Twitter (and other social media) has a well-defined voice. Usually that voice comes not from a committee meeting, but because one trusted person was given control and authority to make decisions. They ended up being the voice of the company online, a voice that grew over time.

So here’s my proposed list of top mistakes hospitals (and most people) make in social media:

  1. The person proposing social media has never really used social media (worse: treats it with disdain or like it’s a toy)
  2. The ultimate reason for using social media is because everyone else is
  3. No idea what a hospital might talk about on social media (not, “say.” “Talk about.”)
  4. No idea what someone might get out of following/friending a hospital on social media.
  5. Not giving authority to someone to have a conversation in the voice of the hospital.

Is there any wonder why some people can’t figure out how to see the ROI on social media?

As per usual, comments are on, and you can hit me at @digital_pharma any time.

Some of you are waiting for the feds to issue guidelines on what pharma can do in the social media (in my mind, you’re building forts make of couch cushions and blankets from the guest room). 

Allow me to suggest that you start a hobby, because you are goign to have a lot of time on your hands.

We already know what we’re not allowed to talk about, so why are we waiting for what we are allowed to talk about. In my mind, if the feds have delineated what’s off-limits, then everything else is fair game, right? Up until the feds say “no,” they are saying “yes.” QED.

So here’s what you should be doing right now to get into social media.

1) No one cares about your company. They might care about your brand. What they really care about is themselves. They are sick (they care about that). They know that a drug will help (okay, that’s kinda interesting). They have no interest in the company that makes that drug (or worse, they think the developer is a greedy bunch of bastard who would shake them by the ankles to collect their loose change before giving a sick person access to their medication). The only people who are friending your Facebook page are employees who are trying to suck up.

2) Stop channel dithering! Yes, you could spend time developing presences on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Orkut, Bebo, Reddit, StumbleUpon, FourSquare, Plurk, Plaxo, Digg, Vimeo, Ehow and epinions. But don’t. That’s a waste. Pick one, maybe two, and build. If you’re good, people will find you (and you know that Google indexes social media, right?).

3) Talk. Not about you, talk about them. If people want to talk about themselves, that means they aren’t talking about what’s not on your label. They don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing the relative merits of Actos and Amaryl.

Here’s a list of what a diabetes patient will want to talk about instead of your drug: Diet, sugar, cards, glycemic index, aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, test strips, blood sugar spikes and drops, OTC supplements (you know, some of them have positive effects on insulin), new tech in the pipeline, etc. That’s a long list and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

4) Scared of AE Reporting? Build something that allows anyone to report an AE to a place that’s monitored 24/7. Then link to it like freakin’ crazy. Don’t be shy, be a respectful and engaged participant in the process.

5) You’re saying you don’t know the concept of a “third party?” Perhaps someone is asking about an off-label use. You know you can’t say that that’s okay. Maybe you’re uncomfortable pointing to references that talk about it. But we can’t ignore the Google. Since the user asked you, tell them that it’s not what it’s prescribed for, that you’re legally not allowed to discuss off-label uses, but that if you Google a term like “[drug] [use]” you might find that there are people who are doing some interesting research in that fiend trying to determine if its useful.

(This last point will probably bring disagreement. If you care to disagree with this post, kindly talk to me via @digital_pharma. I’m no zealot and can be persuaded to your way of thinking. I’m also a delightful conversationalist!)

So get to it!

Morning! I just got back from two days worth of conversations about an integrated insurance company/provider network (no fair guessing who) and after talking to a dozen people well-placed through the organization and strategy, I had an interesting realization.

For a certain type of product, usually new products, one of the biggest obstacles you have to overcome to get people to buy your product is fear. That’s why infomercials work: after 30 minutes of “seeing” the product, we feel like we have enough familiarity with the product to evaluate it on it’s merits. Cutting edge technology? Fear was the biggest hurdle for the iPad: yes, the fanboys will buy it, but… what about everyone else? Will they understand how this new computing niche can fit in their life and actually displace other technology? Luckily, a legion of fanboys and fangirls were around to show it off and explain how much easier business travel is if you ditch the laptop in favor of the iPad, for example.

There are certain industries in which fear is endemic. The health care system is a great example. Not only are we terrified of the mammogram and colonoscopy, what about surgery? Recovery statistics? Human error in the hospital? Long physical therapy? Needles? There’s very little in health care that doesn’t cause most people’s heart to beat a little faster in fear (ask a nurse what percentage of people raise their blood pressure in fear of having to take a harmless blood pressure exam).

And that’s true on the insurance side. Can you explain why one thing is covered and something else isn’t? Of course you can’t. Insurance companies have servers that do nothing but process the rules to determine what’s covered and what’s not. Can you explain to a teenage what a formulary is? No? What about a medical deductible? That phone book of a set of policies and rights when you enroll makes organic chemistry seem like a cake walk. All fear inducing.

So here’s my pitch to any and all insurance people who might read this: You want a winning strategy? Make sure everything you do, every slip of paper you produce, every phone call or text message you send, every bit of your website, every sign in your office, every communication to every patient and provider does one thing: lower their fear. The fear of misunderstanding. The fear of payment. The fear of limited coverage.

Do that, sail by that star, and everything will fall into place. 

Medicine is scary enough. Your coverage should be the least of anyone’s worries.