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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