Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Digital Nervous System and Pharma marketing

Marketing is a dynamic field (cliché!!). The dynamic nature of marketing is such that the concept of marketing is defined differently today. The yesteryear classical definition of marketing is: Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals. (American Marketing Association). The contemporary definition of marketing is that Marketing is an organizational process to create, communicate, and deliver value to customers; and manage customer relations in ways so as to benefit the company. Thus, the latest definition of marketing addresses it as an organizational process (not departmental!) of value delivery.

Value is from the customer’s point of view!

It is important to realize here that the concept of value is from the customer’s point of view, and not from the company’s angle. What is believed to be of value may not be so from the customer’s angle. It is another issue that it is the marketing communication efforts of the company that augment the perceived value of a product of service offering.

One cap fits all: is it value delivery?

Pharma companies are noted to follow a typical “one-cap fits all” strategic process of value delivery. In a market showing niche behaviors and microtrends this most certainly is a contra approach.

The concept of Pharma marketing is typical: a MR is recruited, given a tough leather bag filled with a visual aid, promotional literatures, samples, and gifts (complimentaries). It is then left to the MR to gain detailing time, negotiate, and bring in sales. So the hapless MR pursues the target doctors with the above said communication process and ammunition. He chases a chimera called sales target, and is sandwiched between the company and the doctors/chemists.

If sales are not in line with the preset target, the MR resorts to more head banging, shoe- in-the-door approach, persuades, pressurizes, adjusts with samples – gifts…and ultimately tries to gain the monthly sales target.

And add to this typical challenging field situation, MRs miss calls, doctors do not give sufficient detailing time, or the MR gets transferred to other territories or may be even leaves the company or the profession itself.

In the end, the company loses all learnings’ gained by the MR with respect to the territory, and has to restart the sales call process once again with a new MR.

Now let us picture a situation wherein a Pharma company knows the territory doctors through its information system (that has recorded the profile and other aspects of the doctor)...and based on this knowledge a MR launches a new brand to the doctor with a field call every 20 days to the target doctor, and in each visit gives an exciting therapeutic update promotional literature and nothing else. After 6 months the MR sponsors the doctor to a CME...voila, the doctor increases his prescription patronage many times over. The MR has won over the doctor based on the business intelligence given by the company about the doctor. IS SUCH A SALES SITUATION FOR REAL...IS IT POSSIBLE...IN REALITY?

In the ordinary course a MR would have gone the routine way, used all his tactics to get detailing time with the doctor, launched the brand, sampled heavily (since he is a target doctor) and even given the doctor a complimentary telephone no. book (since it was the strategy of the company to give the same), which the doctor would have thrown in to the dustbin...and the MR would have felt happy with himself for all the good work, but at the end of the day, the company is dissatisfied with the business results...one more brand launch has fizzled out... SCARCE RESOURCES HAVE GONE WASTE...(MR time, samples, complimentaries have failed to achieve the strategic results...the blame game has begun in the company).

IS THERE A WAY OUT OF THE ABOVE VERY COMMON PICTURE IN MANY A COMPANY? Is it possible to institutionalize market learnings? How to convert data in to information and then in to actionable approaches or ideas? How to leverage on information for the best ROI? How to spot micro and macro trends from data and create successful campaigns? How to hit it right every time?

Yes there is a way out...one can get a better bang for the money...the answer comes from BILL GATES... the author of Business @ the speed of thought where in he introduces the concept of DIGITAL NERVOUS SYSTEM.

A digital nervous system is the corporate, digital equivalent of the human nervous system, providing a well - integrated flow of information to the right part of the organization and at the right time.

Let us imagine a MR dynamically and effectively implements campaigns, and the result is an avalanche of prescriptions that clear the stocks at retail and stockist shelves. The MR happily relaxes the last week of the month, as the company is not able to replenish stocks that have been cleared. Moreover, getting a scent of the MR's success, three competitor companies launch their campaigns, so by the time the stocks have arrived, the prescription cycle has been broken, and slow moving stocks pile up at the MR's stockist level adding to the woes of the company. Probably if the digital nervous system was good, such a situation could have been avoided.

A digital nervous system consists of the digital processes that enable a company to perceive and react to its environment, to sense competitor challenges and customer needs.

Let us say a doctor wants to clarify the dose of a brand of loratidine to an elderly patient...he logs on to the brand website, and gets the required information...the brand website is another touchpoint between the doctor (knowledge worker) and the company.

A digital nervous system requires a combination of hardware and software; it is distinguished from a mere network of computers by the accuracy, immediacy, and richness of the information it brings to knowledge workers and the insight and collaboration made possible by the information.

Here the digital nervous system connects the doctors (knowledge workers), product promoters (MRs and the field force), and the company together - collaboratively. Let us say a doctor has a query, and informs this to the MR. By evening the MR through his e-mail conveys the query to the company, in turn, the query is processed and the answer is transmitted by e-mail, sms (if possible the complete answer or the alert is through the sms) to the doctor and the MR.

A digital nervous system connects fast, strengthens bonds with customers, and facilitates value delivery instantly...SO WHO WILL BELL THE DIGITAL NERVOUS SYSTEM CAT?!

Obviously the top management, and the marketing domain leaders of the company. The possibilities of application of digital nervous system to processes in Pharma marketing companies is only limited by imagination. Pharma marketing is now on the cusp of a digital era...the digital nervous system paradigm is on...

Quiz: Which Indian Pharma company has made strong advances in the concept of Digital Nervous System?

Ans.: As per market talk, it is Cipla. (Comments on this point are welcome).

This blogpost is dedicated to Bill Gates and the concept of Digital Nervous System, please scroll down and read all blogposts below, and by clicking on Older posts.

3 comments:

Gurpinder Singh said...

Mr. Sunil, the points are well described. There are lot of opportunities on Digital Marketing in Pharmaceuticals but somehow not many companies are willing to come out of orthodox working. I am working with Cipla and initiated eMarketing segment and can relate the content well. I am very Hopeful that soon others will be on board with eMarketing. Long way to go...

Gurpinder Singh said...

Mr. Sunil, the points are well described. There are lot of opportunities on Digital Marketing in Pharmaceuticals but somehow not many companies are willing to come out of orthodox working. I am working with Cipla and initiated eMarketing segment and can relate the content well. I am very Hopeful that soon others will be on board with eMarketing. Long way to go...

Gurpinder Singh said...

Mr. Sunil, the points are well described. There are lot of opportunities on Digital Marketing in Pharmaceuticals but somehow not many companies are willing to come out of orthodox working. I am working with Cipla and initiated eMarketing segment and can relate the content well. I am very Hopeful that soon others will be on board with eMarketing. Long way to go...