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For pharma, the era of multi-channel marketing, closed loop marketing, sales force effectiveness, and market access is over

If health has a currency beyond the improvement of outcomes, it is trust.

Most participants in the health conversation on the Social Web are happy to agree about the importance of augmenting trust by maintaining a visible, approachable, open disposition.

Building credibility by refraining from promotion; providing high quality, balanced, accessible health information; embodying a desire to be the authority on one’s own portfolio of products through a commitment to dialogue in a responsible manner — these are the trust-accretive traits that progressive pharmaceutical companies are expected to manifest.

Whilst we are still a considerable way from being able to call these attitudinal dispositions mainstream, for some individuals, brand teams, perhaps even entire affiliates, this is becoming what we might call the new normal.

Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical industry is Janus-faced, and elsewhere counter-productive, trust-corrosive discourse is allowed to continue unchecked.

I cringe every time I read some earnest pronouncement about ‘multi-channel marketing’, ‘closed loop marketing’, ‘sales force effectiveness’, ‘market access’ and all the other toxic terms that continued use over time has come to validate unjustly.

It is time for the pharmaceutical industry to abstain from associating itself with such discourse while it considers fully how these terms sound in the ears of its audiences.

At best, none of these concepts mean a thing to patients or healthcare professionals.

At worst, their utilisation could call any number of motives into question.

More than that, however, it is my opinion that merely associating pharma’s activities with these concepts is tantamount to saying that the industry is actually far more interested in its customers as bars on a chart, sales targets and data points than as people with individual needs.

I invite any reader of this post from the industry who doubts the pernicious, trust-corrosive, massively counter-productive impacts of being seen to be associated with or employing concepts such as multi-channel marketing, closed loop marketing, sales force effectiveness or market access to deliver a presentation on them to an audience of patient advocates or healthcare professionals.

Having done so, ask your audience for their honest opinion of them, and whether they trust you more or less as a consequence of having discovered that you give credence to and utilise ideas that seem expressly designed to alienate pharma from those it wishes to connect with when considered in isolation.

In my opinion, it is nothing short of delusional for pharma to continue to organise aspects of its enterprise around notions which mean nothing outside of its own organisational structure.

In order to bolster rather than impede its credibility in the eyes of patients and healthcare professionals, the pharmaceutical industry needs to break its addiction to concepts which time and usage have seemingly granted an intrinsic logic to, but which have no extrinsic validity with reference to the needs, interests, and concerns of its patient, healthcare professional, and payer audiences.

The era in which pharma could expect to be able to speak of ‘multi-channel marketing’, ‘closed loop marketing’, ‘sales force effectiveness’, or ‘market access’ without being called out as to their relevance, coherence, or appropriateness is over.

As a consequence, pharma needs to get over them, too.

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5 thoughts on “For pharma, the era of multi-channel marketing, closed loop marketing, sales force effectiveness, and market access is over

  1. Well said, Andrew. I agree. I think that those marketing concepts were born in other sectors and were wrongly adopted by pharma executives, sometimes with a little help of some consultants. I’m afraid it won’t be easy to eradicate its use.

  2. Thank you, Andrew. I totally agree.

    I’m not sure if our recent chat on Twitter encouraged you to write this blog post, but it is certainly very timely for me. It’s good to know that there are others swimming in the same direction. I actively avoid the terms you mention and your clear explanation reminds me why.

    I also like the fact you picked me up on my use of the term ‘audience’. Another one I should be avoiding.

  3. Thanks for the article Andrew, it certainly stimulates debate and I think the central point about developing a more valuable and productive relationship between pharma and the broader healthcare eco-system (including patients) is easy to agree with. It is also easy to nod in agreement with the over-use of jargon with often sparse understanding of the concepts they are attempting to articulate.

    The terms you used to demonstrate this disconnect between pharma and its audience are interesting to me as they are all symbols of very disparate issues. Pharma, as any large industry, has always used multiple channels to communicate with customers. This has historically been centred on sales teams for which I agree ‘sales force effectiveness’ has always been a bit of a bad joke. Integrating a narrative across multiple channels in order to build real relationships is something we have still not achieved. The jargon is irrelevant but the concept isn’t if executed properly, with customer need at the centre.

    Similarly CLM at its best allows you to iterate content and experiences to provide the greatest value to your customers, that is not in itself a bad thing. It is just that virtually nobody is actually doing it.

    Market access is essentially an internal construct to differentiate different parts of the marketing lifecycle (achieving reimbursement as apposed to more mature marketing of products) and was a reaction to changing healthcare systems. Making sure that we communicate with all stakeholders (especially patients) before we launch products to enable the maximum number of people to be helped is essential and actually in line with your desire for a patient centred approach. Should we call it Market Access? Probably not anymore.

    Promotion is contextual, anything that could influence a patient to want a specific medication over another could be promotional so we need to have slightly different conversations with HCP’s than we do with patents. I remember doing some of the first social media engagement with patients and it is easy in the wrong hands to subvert the relationship between a patient and the prescriber, cause undue worry (side effects of older medications) or confuse if not handled in the right way. Promotion when of high value and to the right audience is fine, building a different conversation with broader stakeholder groups is a challenge we are now attempting to overcome.

  4. Pingback: Do Marketing Buzzwords Affect Pharma’s Reputation Among Patients & Physicians? | Healthcare News Blog

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