Sunday, June 27, 2010

Making people happy

Pharma marketing is tough, it is like a comedian's life! A comedian does not have the liberty to wallow in sadness, in spite of his personal troubles, because it is his duty to make people laugh. The same is with pharma marketing, whatever the troubles of the pharma marketer may be, at the end of the day, he should make his doctors, pharmacists and patients happy.

The pharma marketer's life is something like Raj Kapoor in 'Mera Naam Joker', where Raj Kapoor makes people happy despite personal tragedies:

Does it mean, pharma marketers are jokers!? No, by all parameters, they are very serious people in a very serious business, it is just that their objective is to make people happy, in spite of any personal challenges they may face from the company or at the personal level or from other market operators.

When I asked a very senior MR how to make doctors', chemists (ie., pharmacists), and patients happy, he paused and replied: 'Don't make them sad or angry!'

Well, that is interesting I thought, but the point is how to do it?! For an outsider, pharma marketing is not something you associate with happiness. Doctor's are in the serious business of treating diseased or ill patients (ie., making them better), pharma marketers offer products and services to help the doctors do that. Pharmacists or chemist shop owners want to provide the best goods and services, and earn hefty margins. So how to make all these people happy?! And is there any place for cheer in pharma marketing, after all?!

1) Two-way communication

The pharma marketing mindset is hinged on the 10/5 concept. The communication concept in pharma is to recruit a MR, give him a bag, a visual aid, lbcs (leave behind cards or literatures), samples, and small complimentaries (like Rx pads, pens, immunization cards, antenatal cards, pen stands, stationaries etc) and get him to make atleast 10 doctor calls, and 5 chemist calls per day. This the MR does on a regular monthly basis, to a preselected pool of doctors (In pharma marketing language we say these doctors are in the MR's territory). However, this pharmaceutical marketing approach, which forms the backbone of pharma marketing, can be tweaked a bit to make it a two-way process. This will engage the doctor better during in-clinic activity.

Thus, the focus of the in-clinic activity will not just be the MR's representation of talking points, and giving away of other inputs, it will be to obtain a specific feedback that gives an indication of the unmet need. This can then be followed up to delight the customer. For eg., a doctor may want a specific OBG medical journal as a gift - which may not be on offer from the company, however, if the company wants to go the extra mile and delight the doctor, then the pharma company can offer the journal gift to the doctor. This will make the doctor happy.

2) Feel-good factor through brand building efforts

Brands are covenants of trust, they are a bridge between doctors and the company, brands can delight or put off the doctor. It is interesting to note that product brands and corporate brands are very vital emotional bridges that improve business prospects in pharma industry. A doctor writes a specific brand because he feels good doing that. The doctor has confidence on the quality, safety, efficacy, and supply or availability, and other services associated with the brand. This creates the feel-good factor, and makes the doctor happy. Hence, brand building generates happiness in customers (doctors, pharmacists, and patients) and generates business.

3) Humor makes customers happy

A dash of humor, does help in the AIDA (attention, interest, desire and action) process. Humor is used to make doctors/pharmacists happy. In this story, a writer details how he uses humor as a tool to make doctors happy. The writer cites an example where he even jogs in situ to make the doctor happy! I think that is taking things a bit too far!!

4) Empathy always delights

Empathy (ability to think and feel as the customer, ie., being in the shoes of the customer) is the most vital factor that helps deliver happiness. It takes a lot of knowledge and understanding to empathize with the customer. Empathy requires listening skills and keen observational techniques, which unfortunately get buried in the need to accomplish one's own targets. Empathy leads to a refined communication that will be well received, messages better perceived, and customer delight is consequently ensured.

When one develops empathy, the direction of marketing activity is better oriented towards customer delight. Empathy requires emotional intelligence (EI). This not only implies the ability to identify and manage one's emotions, it refers to the ability to understand and manage others emotions too.

When a MR or marketing person, empathizes and takes appropriate steps, the result is: marketing that delights! So an empathetic MR will visit a doctor when the doctor is not preoccupied rather than meeting a doctor when it is convenient for the MR! The MR will provide inputs that are useful to the doctor rather than what is available with the MR. The empathetic marketing person too provides strategies and promotional inputs that are truly delightful rather than doing convenient things.

All in all, we observe, making people happy, is not easy. It invariably requires going the extra mile, and is an intense experience. Nevertheless, the pharma marketer's commitment is to move in this direction. And this makes the job challenging.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Continuing Pharmacy Education

Continuing Pharmacy Education

The other day, my esteemed friend from Mysore, Mr. Vivek Balse, PSO, Pfizer rang me up and asked a quickie ... DOES METFORMIN INCREASE THE BODY WEIGHT OR DECREASE IT?

He wanted the answer, preferably, fast and accurate. He had confidence in me due to my identity as a pharmacist, and my qualifications. Hence, he expected a good answer from my end.

On many other occasions, when I visit my relatives or friends, health issues are discussed, lab reports, and prescriptions are shown, and they seek clarifications or explanations. The other day, my couzin, rang up and asked why the brand of sitagliptin he is consuming is costly, and why there are no cheaper branded generic alternatives. Then we had a telecon on Indian Patents Act, 1970 and its modification in 2005 to include product patents, preventing reverse engineered copycat brands.

The above are typical and regular situations that pharmacists find themselves in.

In the eyes of relatives, friends and acquaintances, a pharmacist is a trained healthcare individual and he or she expects a certain level of expertise power in a pharmacist. Hence, the image of a pharmacist depends on the way he handles such transactions.

In this context, it is unfortunate to note that we, the pharmacists, do not have a viable continuing pharmacy education program. It is all up to us to learn and keep ourselves updated. For eg., when I checked my Satoskar and Bhandarkar (a textbook of pharmacology purchased by me during my B Pharma years) there was no mention of Metformin! Phenformin was mentioned. Wikipedia did help me to learn more about Metformin. But the point is we pharmacists need a nice, inspiring, motivating and engaging continuing pharmacy education program ...

Now let us dream: !magine!! The Dept. of Pharmaceuticals, GOI, IPA (Indian Pharmaceutical Association) and PCI (Pharmacy Council of India) get together to launch a cogent annual Continuing Pharmacy Education program for pharmacists - THIS INITIATIVE WILL NO DOUBT DO YEOMAN SERVICE TO PHARMACISTS.

How can it be done?


The business model of an interesting journal called Current Medical Journal (CMJ) can be used for the purpose of embarking on a Continuing Pharmacy Education program.

CMJ is a monthly published from Chandigarh. CMJ positions itself as the journal of Continuing Medical Education (CME) program to improve the day-to-day clinical practices of family physicians. It is a knowledge packed journal written by invited medical experts. CMJ claims to be the only medical journal in the world to give MCQs (multiple choice questions) for every article. CMJ is in its 16th year of publication.

CMJ, as it appears, is not a glitzy print product, publicity hungry venture, it is a quiet no-nonsense knowledge oriented journal. It is a good model for us to follow.

The suggestion here is for Dept. of Pharmaceuticals, PCI and IPA to jointly create such a monthly journal with MCQs. The proposed pharmacy journal should be general and not oriented only for clinical pharmacy, retail pharmacy, etc. It should cover all pharmaceutical topics so that the world view of the pharmacist reader expands and the pharmacist becomes a contemporary person. Topics such as biopharmaceuticals, latest developments on the regulatory front etc, should be present.

It is well known that after completing formal pharmacy education, the pharmacist becomes a frog in the well, a marketing pharmacist is more in to marketing, and a decade later loses touch with industrial pharmacy ... and so on! Hence, it would be ideal for Dept. of Pharmaceuticals, PCI and IPA to create a continuing education pharmacy journal with a global view.

So what happens after a pharmacist reader goes through one calendar year's supply (ie., 12 issues) of this journal?

Well, the subscriber pharmacist becomes eligible to write an objective cum descriptive exam on the topics covered. This exam can be conducted at various locations in India. It will also be exciting for pharmacists to gather under one roof under this pretext. Learning together becomes fun!

If the exam is internet based, you are not sure whether the examinee is copying and writing or taking help of other people. So a written traditional type of annual exam is ideal.

Why should a pharmacist write the exam?

This voluntary participation in the exam will offer the pharmacist cum continuing pharmacy education learner a chance to pass the exam and get a CERTIFICATE endorsed by Dept. of Pharmaceuticals, GOI, PCI and IPA. This certificate will certainly be worthy of displaying at the premises, or office, and the pharmacist will cherish it.

Why will such a venture succeed?

The main reason is that this CPE (Continuing Pharmacy Education) venture will provide an opportunity for pharmacists to update ... and it will fulfill many other psychological needs.

As per Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory, individuals have the following needs: physiological needs, security, social, esteem, and self-actualization. This exam and journal experience will provide pharmacists a platform for all the above needs. Hence, the success of this project has bright chance.

Security (safety): Knowledge is power! The ability to influence and control events, resources, and behaviors requires knowledge, and updated knowledge through the CPE program will improve one's sense of security!

Love/belongingness: This exam will certainly promote belongingness to the profession of pharmacy, and professional friendship. But may not promote sexual intimacy directly!!

Esteem: is an important need, and the knowledge polish that this exam can apply will make the pharmacist shine!

Self-actualization: to tap one's potential is an innate need in us. This exam will provide a power boost to the career of pharmacists.

Why should Dept. of Pharmaceuticals, PCI and IPA do it?

It is important to understand that authorities have a lot of influence. If the continuous pharmacy education student receives his certificate having PCI, IPA and Dept. of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India logos, then we can imagine the immense positive impact it will have on the pharmacist community.

If we examine the root of all thoughts - the single common thread is the HUNGER FOR PROGRESS in all of us. Career progress, the growth of our children, advancements in the organization, increase in family income ... and so on ... all these thoughts are centered on a common platform: progress. Certainly the CPE will make the pharmacist community progressive, it will then play a major role in educating society; empowering pharmacists through CPE is a major constructive program. I hope the Dept. of Pharmaceuticals, PCI and IPA will come together to create CPE program, and markets it well so that CPE becomes a major part of pharmacy life.

Some more progressive thoughts!

IMA: a misleading name!

I do feel Indian Medical Association (IMA) is a misleading name. IMA should actually be renamed as Indian Allopaths Association. How can allopaths take control of the word MEDICAL? This is a global name. Ayurvedic doctors, and Siddha medicine practitioners are also medical specialists. IMA is a misleading name, as it is an association of only ALLOPATHIC PRACTITIONERS.

BAP: a mantra of entrepreneurs

An entrepreneur disclosed his basic formula of business success. It was BAP standing for:

a) Bulletproofing: ensuring protection of his business process, through legal, marketing and other processes.

b) Asset value increase, including the brand asset value

c) Profits

Thanks for reading these progressive thoughts on pharmacists, IMA and entrepreneurship, please do read all other blogposts, kindly recommend my blog to your acquaintances.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Marketing and Organizational Development

The above image from here.

Delivering value to the customer is now the sine qua non of organizational functioning. The value delivery system is now a pan-organizational activity rather than being a departmental function, so customer-centric marketing has become a very vital organizational activity. To deliver value an important approach is ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (OD).

What is organizational development?

OD is a planned effort, conducted by process specialists who improve the organization's diagnostic skills, coping capabilities, create a culture of mutuality and create linkage strategies through semi permanent systems. The product of OD efforts is to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.

It is similar to consulting a physician, who audits the body parts and describes the state of functioning. Diseased or sick organs are then treated to improve overall body functioning.


The starting point of any organization is the vision of the founders or major stakeholders. It is of course a common thing in business enterprises that the ultimate reality is that the major stakeholders want cash ie., profits. To get that cash and a feel-good factor the major stakeholders have various organizational objectives to achieve. These are in terms of market share, sales, brand equity and ROI. However, the foil is the vision that the major stakeholders have for the organization - this vision for the organization is what drives all efforts. Clarity of vision gives rise to a clear shared value system for the stakeholders and other employees.


Vision gives rise to the value system. Values are a silent driving force, an inner framework that makes a person commit to a choice from the available alternatives. The direction and intensity of effort is also influenced by the value system. Desirable or undesirable behavior of employees is due to the value system. Hence, corporate values systems are internalized and actualized through induction and special intervention programs to ensure a common set of shared values.

Unity of action

Common values have a great impact on employee working. Core corporate values generate UNITY OF ACTION. This means employees and organizational members share the values and this creates action in concert. The shared values and unity of action, enables achievement of the organizational vision, cash profit goals and other objectives of the major stakeholders.

For eg., when Piramal Healthcare Solutions was planning to sell its major brands, in line with this vision, the marketing values were evident in their activities. The field force at Piramal were heavily in to market penetration activities - gifting for Rx generation, POB through special chemist centred benefits and so on. All this helped Piramal Healthcare generate good brand valuation and thereby the major stakeholders got a good deal through the sale of the 350 brands of Piramal Healthcare Solutions.

OD interventions required

Abbott after purchasing Piramal Healthcare will need to embark on an extensive OD intervention strategy to cope with the stresses of integration. Process specialists will have to work hard to establish shared values and ensure reallignment by all employees. Only then will Abbott deliver the marketing value. OD will help create synergy and improve customer-centric functioning that is so vital for Abbott now.

Purchasing a company is one thing, however, integrating is the other big and major challenge. Only a finely strategized integrating process and OD based intervention will ensure financial justification for the pharma purchase of the millenium in India! (ie., purchase of Piramal Healthcare Solutions by Abbott).

What will an OD approach entail?

OD intervention will kick off with information gathering for a preliminary report. There will be observation reports, interview with key personnel, surveys, attitudinal mapping activities, culture diagnostics, and process understanding activities undertaken by the process specialists. Finally in the first stage, the OD intervention experts will create a preliminary report on the state of the organization. This will lead to a debate on the basic elements of an OD approach.

The second stage is problem identification. OD specialists will identify specific problem areas through interviews, sharp observations, motivational patterns, mindset analysis and other data gathering instruments. Based on the data, strategy will be devised on how the overall efficiency and effectiveness can be improved.

The third stage is specific intervention. This refers to a planned stuctural group of activities to achieve the goals of OD. This will include marketing strategies, product management strategies, team building, organizational structural changes, and any other means of resolving problems.

The fourth and final stage is that of collaborative culture. The end productof OD intervention is enhanced collaboration between various individuals and other intra organizational entities. This is done through keen analysis of data, reviews and restrategizing till an acceptance of the change is attained.

Hence, we see above the importance of OD approach to enhance marketing value or customer-centric functioning. OD helps re-engineer values and will contribute a great deal to improve general state of organizational functioning and overcome integration challenges in case of mergers or acquisitions. Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down to read other, click on older posts when required, kindly recommend this blog to your colleagues.