Four unique strategies for data in pharma

A significant share of our business focuses on data. We build and manage marketing data analytics and reporting platforms for pharmaceutical brand leaders. What we’ve learned is that this effort requires much more than just data wrangling. It also involves a commitment to nurturing the right kind of “data mindset” among our clients.

We’ve worked with numerous pharma marketing operations and centralized digital marketing teams over the past few years. As a result, we’ve developed a clear appreciation for the range of commitment levels to data analytics. Based on that understanding, we know what makes for a successful data engagement. And it starts with a minimal level of organizational readiness.

Organizational Readiness

When we are discussing a new data reporting or analytics initiative with a client, we’re looking for “organizational readiness.” Putting one’s commercialization organization on a data analytics platform involves considerable change. It introduces a new experience of marketing transparency and insight. That can threaten conventional assumptions about channels, messages, agency partners and targeting strategies.

Not every marketing organization is ready for these changes. We’ve experienced our share of difficult engagements when working with a client who isn’t ready.

But we also know what it’s like to work with committed leadership that is ready and willing to reinvent their future.

We’ve begun to recognize patterns across these experiences. This has led us to identify four distinct strategies or “mindsets.” These mindsets often foreshadow how transformational a marketing data analytics initiative will be.

1. Low impact

The first mindset, which I put in the category of low impact, is when a business owner on the pharma side says, “My boss needs a Big Data story. Do you have a set of reports that I can drop into a PowerPoint presentation? Leadership here is old school, so we don’t have a big budget for this, but if the reports look good enough, I’m sure I can find more money.”

This approach tends to be tactical and project-oriented. It involves a narrow look at a specific trend or channel. Funding is at the product manager level and rarely has significant senior leadership support.

In this case, the organization and its leadership are not ready for true multi-channel data analytics. We will only cause friction and heartache for both of us if we try to force the issue.

2. Aspirational vision

The second mindset recognizes that marketing data is important but leaders feel like they already have most of what they need. The company may have an in-house business intelligence unit that is analyzing existing information. The focus is on short-term marketing ROI.

We’ll often hear, “Your approach to multi-channel marketing reporting is interesting, but we already have a team that’s doing this in-house. We don’t need someone from the outside.”

With these clients, we inquire about the comprehensiveness of the data analysis. Is the in-house team pulling and integrating data from all the sales and marketing channels? Is there a focus on trends and anomalies that could lead to a more competitive market response?

Occasionally we find a robust multi-channel marketing (MCM) effort in place, but it’s rare in pharma. The biggest barrier to comprehensive analytics is often an overworked and understaffed internal team. Their response is often code for “My plate is full and I don’t have the bandwidth to process more data.”

They affirm the vision but don’t have the capacity to execute.

In those cases, we are likely to engender a feeling of competition with the in-house team. That can result in frustration and a lack of mutual respect. That’s not a recipe for a successful partnership.

3. Critical thinking

The third mindset has real potential for success, and these are the companies with whom we like to work. They offer the potential for creating real value.

This mindset starts with the acknowledgement that the organization needs to complement its internal business intelligence team with better reporting and targeting. It is looking for a partner that can fit into its agency model and support the brands, other agencies and the centralized marketing ops group.

We have many clients who are like this — they recognize that they have in-house resources but need to complement them with external tools and expertise. They need a firm that can work side-by-side with their other agencies.

There can be tension if the other traditional and digital agencies feel threatened by a commitment to data and reporting transparency, but with the right leadership in place, partner relationships can be managed in a way that everyone wins.

This approach has been very successful, but it can get better, which is why there’s one more mindset — transformational.

4. Transformational

Clients with a transformational mindset start the partnership with the sponsorship of the senior management team. Leadership commits to leveraging sales and marketing data analytics throughout the company.

Senior leadership knows that comprehensive reporting and insight can be strategic at both the brand level and the enterprise level. They are looking for a distinct competitive advantage. They recognize the sooner they begin to capture longitudinal marketing activity, the greater the advantage over laggard competitors.

The client team likely has a mandate to build both external partnerships and internal resources to make this a full competency. The company’s future may depend on it.

When we get a client who is using language like this, then we know this initiative is not discretionary. This isn’t a flavor of the month or the checking of a box. This isn’t being led by someone who happens to be sitting in a marketing role for a few months and then is going to be rotating out.

This mindset suggests that the company, from the very top, has made a commitment to changing the way they manage their commercialization strategy based on data. When we find an organization with a transformational mindset, it’s a good fit. We know we’ve found a pharmaceutical company that is ready to partner. There is a shared vision to do the heavy lifting that comes with implementing a multi-channel marketing data analytics platform.

When we have clients that fit into this category, it’s exciting.

Mindset Evolution

What happens when we discover that a client is approaching data analytics from one of the less successful mindsets?

If there is a willingness on the behalf of our client to consider change, then we will work together to encourage evolution. We will create ways to inspire the client through examples of what organizational readiness looks like.

Our goal is to help seed a transformational mindset that will nurture a robust data culture. A culture that will lead to a clear competitive advantage. One in which leadership bases all business decisions on data.

This is, simply, the future.

Related Thinking

The 3 Questions that Data Should Answer for Successful Pharma Marketing

Related Offering

HCP Digital Playbook


David Ormesher, CEO

Founder and CEO of closerlook, a recognized leader in creating innovative relationship marketing solutions that help pharmaceutical companies get closer to their most important customers. Learn more about closerlook here.


Tags: data, pharma

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