Sunday, November 14, 2010

Marketing is win-win empowerment


We live in a society with a distinct trend towards TRANSPARENCY. It is a media and information driven society. Technologies like latest mobile phones are breaking the information barrier. One can get information from the internet, media and acquaintances in a jiffy. Transparency is a result of this media explosion. Transparency is leading to an age of the EMPOWERED SOCIETY.

Concept of empowerment

Power is the ability to influence and control resources, events and behaviours. Power comes from one's competencies (ie., knowledge and skill sets) and position. When a person gains a particular position in a workplace, club, NGO, or Govt. system, the role comes with a package of associated powers. Thus, the position of the person creates an ability to influence and control resources, events and behaviours.

Empowerment is the process of investing a community or individual or set of individuals with power. This can come through mechanisms that strengthen or create new competencies or granting certain positions, when a person gains the position, he gains power. New Media (internet, mobile, social communities on the web, etc) and flow of information has created a gigantic infrastructure for empowerment in society.

This has changed social life and the game for marketers.

Marketing: which way ahead?

Marketing is a value delivery process, it stimulates consumption of goods, strengthens brand equity, and facilitates exchange processes (goods or services are exchanged for monies). When a person does not have access for information search (and thus, getting empowered in the buying decision process), the marketer has an obvious upper hand. The marketer can educate customers and influence the buying process more easily.

The situation of customers, patients and prescribers in the contemporary world is different. There is an enhanced network available for information flow. 25 years back, a GP had to book a trunk call to a city based consultant to get advice on treating tricky OPD medical cases. Today, when in doubt, the GP can give a call on the mobile and if patient is lucky, ie., if the specialist is free, the doctors will discuss the case on real time basis and institute appropriate therapy to improve the lot of the patient. In this tele-conversation, brand names get endorsed or recommended. Marketers can ill afford to ignore such mobile based or internet enabled conversations. Empowerment is not only through the pharma marketing process, there are other connecting media with prospects and customers (target doctors and doctors).

Marketing as an empowering process

In a recent conversation with an ad film maker, he asked me a basic question: Why do doctors meet MRs?

The obvious reasons are as follows:

a) MR gives positive strokes, appreciates, gives a 'face to the medicine brand', builds confidence through conversations and detailing on the brand; creates emotional bonding with promoted brand/company
b) MR positions himself (unconsciously or consciously) as a person who is there in the clinic to help the doctor provide a better service to the patient
c) MR provides freebies (samples, small compliments that help in clinical practice, books, reading material, compliment gifts that are a great help at home, sponsorships to conferences, vacation trips and so on)
d) Talking to MRs helps the doctor jog his memory. MRs act as sparks who rekindle memories of medical knowledge, this is a great help to doctors

The above list may not be exhaustive but covers most of the points.

In essence, we notice that marketing activities conducted by pharma companies through MRs or through other media are basically empowering.

The pharmaceutical company's marketing activities, enhance the power of a doctor. By promoting products, giving literatures, and knowledge material, there is a contribution to the doctor's expertise power. Freebies enhance the material power and resources of a doctor. In essence, empowerment is the final objective of pharma marketers (or other marketers).

When a customer shells out monies to purchase a product or service, on the emotional side it is for satisfaction, and on the other side, the act of purchasing, enhances power of a customer or empowers the customer.

Conclusion: The tact for marketing success is win-win empowerment!

The marketer should empower his customer through marketing or value delivery activities, and the customer should feel empowered (not weakened or exploited). This is a great lesson of marketing. When the marketing rhythm is lost, when the customer does not feel empowered, but gets a weakening feeling of exploitation, customer is displeased.

When the marketer feels that the customer has exploited the marketer and bargained too much, then again the marketing game is not win-win and there is a sense of loss in the mind of the pharma marketer.

The point is pharma marketing game is about empowerment. Both marketers and prescribers or chemist retailers are in the game of becoming powerful in each transaction. When there is win-win empowerment, there is a successful transaction.

When a MR has to provide extra sample adjustment, site facility (or extra days to retire payment) to stockist or institutional purchaser, the marketing game is a distress game, not a win-win empowerment game. When a MR feels a sense of loss, he will surely avoid gaining similar experience in the future.

This process of win-win empowerment is not just at the stockist or distributor level, it is at the doctor level too. When a MR simply does not provide any material inputs, only details and asks for prescriptions for a product, the process can go on only for some time. After sometime, the doctor will surely feel that the MR transaction is not empowering him (the doctor). That is when the doctor will lose interest in the pharma marketer. Thus, maintaining win-win empowerment relationship is the key to successful marketing.

Empowering is a process that should make both parties in the transaction feel empowered (get the feeling that they have strengthened).

Training, an empowering process

In this vein, training too is an empowering process. When training is viewed by trainees, as a process by which they are gaining strength, confidence, and power, the training modules and program will gain appreciation.

On the other hand, if trainers work to expose the weakness and ignorance of trainees, create an atmosphere where trainee feels he is facing weakening situations, the training will surely fall flat and fail to achieve its objectives.

Marketing tools are meant to empower, not distract or cause burden

Pharma marketers work hard to provide tools for selling, marketing and brand building activities. Visual aids, CDs, literatures, reminder cards, gifts, samples in special sample cache (or catch) covers and various other product promotional materials are given for the "magic bag" of the MR. If the MR feels that these inputs are mere distractions or burdensome materials, the marketing tools will fail to deliver their objective. Ideally, marketing tools should provide a sense of purposeful direction to the user, and help the MR in his in-clinic, in-stall, in-chemist and in-stockist activities.

If the front-line sales personnel or doctors themselves do not get any value from the marketing tools, they become burdensome marketing inputs. The central idea is that the value delivery marketing tools or inputs should in the final analysis create a feeling of empowerment in MRs, the front-line sales personnel, and customers (doctors, chemists, patients and stockists or distributors).

Marketing is surely becoming a process of empowerment, a process of establishing win-win empowerment through transactions. It is not just about value delivery, or facilitating exchange processes. Marketing should empower, customers and marketers alike, with mutuality.

Why are Americans very successful marketers?

If we look at contemporary or modern business history, we see Americans as the most successful marketers. They really know how to sell! Americans are constantly inventive and creating interesting products and services to sell more and market more. But why are Americans successful?

As such, with every product or service that these Americans sell, they are not there to merely satisfy the customers. In fact, their information based labeling and packaging techniques, their product communication and advertisements are all meant to make the prospect or customer feel empowered through the product/service (the customer should feel that he or she is gaining something that is going to make a powerful difference in his life and will empower him).

This is what the master marketer PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, did when he came to India. He said Jai Hind in the Indian parliament. President Obama talked all right things: Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda ... he said the right things at Hotel Taj Mahal, Mumbai ... Obama talked about India as a super global power ... basically he, as a master marketer, made Indians feel very special ... very powerful. Obama talked about India becoming a part of UN Security Council. What a master marketing stroke!! Obama did all this to create jobs in America, to help American marketers get better access to the Indian market ... Obama did all this as a patriotic American, a loyal marketer of Americanism. Truly, the India visit of Obama was a testimony to the fact that marketing is a win-win empowerment process.


Hope this blogpost has created a satisfied feeling of empowerment in you, for more food-for-thought nuggets, kindly scroll down, read all other blogposts, click on older posts as and when required, feel free to empower your acquaintances by recommending my blog. Thnks in advance.


Salil Kallianpur said...

Sunil, you make impressive points about information dissemination and therefore transfer of power from buyer to seller. I think that you must also make a mention of the asymmetry that threatens to creep into information dissemination during transactions. While this is not always about dishonest transactions, this could be a negotiation tactic used by a party (buyer or seller) to gain an advantage in a deal(unfair/otherwise is another debate). This is often seen in geo-politics or in M&A deals or even in smaller day-to-day happenings such as buying a house. It is probably this asymmetry that also causes a trust deficit to build between doctor and MR on most occasions. Drs trust peer information more than MR promotion since they feel MRs do not adequately represent facts, hence the success of CMEs and conferences. While you are spot on about marketing being everything about win-win empowerment, it is important to acknowledge how advances in tech such as internet access and the ubiquitous mobile phone can be utilized as tools to create greater transparency in patient-doctor, patient-patient, doctor-doctor, company-patient and company-doctor interactions thus acting as opportunities to bridge the trust deficit and build greater credibility of pharmacos with doctors and patients. Regards, Salil

Sunil S Chiplunkar said...

Many thanks, Salil, for your nuggets of profound thoughts!

The challenge in pharma selling is of course multiplicity of media and the possibilities of interconnectedness.

Just now, I talked to the Adgel pen vendor (corporate accounts). He suggested a pen that has some biochemical data on the body of the pen. In addition, the body of the pen can have a sms no.

If doctor types brand name and biochemical parameter value and sends the sms, the response from the sms no. will be on the suggested dosage of the brand!

For eg., if Fasting Blood Sugar is 145 mg/100 ml, the response can be start with Brand X 40 mg

How successful this campaign would be, is anybody's guess. But what is interesting is the

a) creativity and technology in this marketing exercise

b) the ability to of this approach to involve the doctor in the brand persona

Even if a doctor tries this just once, for fun, it is that much more brand engagement!!

Anyway, before I am accused of digressing, the point is there are more media available for win-win empowerment marketing processes, starting from the surface of a pen to a mobile!!

Thnks and have a great time!!