Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

Good products do not a business make August 3, 2010

I love Mexican wine. Yep, you read that correctly, especially Mexican wine from the small vineyards in the Valle de Guadalupe on the Ruta del Vino. If you like wine, and haven’t tasted wines from this region yet, you are seriously missing out. 

I have a goal to visit and taste wines from all the regions in the world, especially the little known regions. Unfortunately, Mexican wines still qualify as ‘little known’. While wine has been produced there since the 17th century, it was mostly for and by the Catholic Church, after a ban was imposed by the Spanish government preventing ‘New Spain’ from producing highly palatable wine, through a heavy-handed political power maneuver.  Bless the hearts of those defiant Jesuit and Dominican priests for keeping a good thing flowing! 

Fast forward and thanks to Russian immigrants fleeing the czar in the early 1900’s, replanting and winemaking revived many years after the Mexican Reform War.  During this period many church holdings were confiscated by the state, and wine making was abandoned.  

Mexican wines are relatively new again, having taken root, so to speak  in the 1980’s.  I traveled to the region a few years ago to seek out these wines. The wines and the region were more than worth the trouble to get to them.  However, even some twenty odd years later, the wineries were just beginning to develop businesses around the wine.

Wine clubs, restaurant wine lists, tasting rooms, wine events and out of state shipping were not part of the early product offering.  Nor were winery cave tours, branded websites, restaurant lists where wines were served, locations of wine stores where it could be purchased or wine stewards recommending pairings part of the winerys product offering.   Spanish wine was still served for official state dinners at the capitol in Mexico City until the early 2000’s!  Mexican wine, good as it is, was a product, not yet a business.  Each vintner and winery struggled to build businesses, even with a good product.

This situation repeats itself in many life science startup companies. New and innovative products are developed and then introduced to the market with the fundamental wrappings of sales brochures, 800 numbers, return policies and training materials. Companies pin their hopes and earnings projections on the basis of the product being novel, leapfrogging the competition, and winning awards for best in class. 

But it takes more, much more for a good product to be successful and a company to become a business. For a twist in thinking about successful businesses based only on the most innovative  and novel products, read the post by Greg Satell on Crappy Innovation.   Note in particular the references to Charles Schwab – not a crappy product. 

To turn a good, novel or even crappy product into a successful business requires servicing the customer beyond the product.  For life science technologies that includes advertising, PR, education, training, clinical data, publications, technical and reimbursement support, at a bare minimum. 

To develop a strong business the product offering must extend beyond the fundamentals and the traditional offerings.  Servicing the customer must meet their needs beyond the transaction. Providing new services like co-marketing, data sharing, virtual training, community building, cross technology development, and even competitive alliances that facilitate physicians’ abilities and enhance patient outcomes creates significant intrinsic value. If a company is to become a robust business, the product is not the be-all, end-all. Rather a good product must be the beginning of creating a robust business for the customer.

A few final words on Mexican wine – should you find a bottle of Mogor-Badan Chasselas or Casa de Piedra’s blend of Cabernet and Tempranillo, drink them to good health and think of me.

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

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In the beginning… July 14, 2010

PSB Church

During a recent discussion about when to hire marketing personnel, my client responded with ‘we’re not really ready for marketing’. This comment struck me odd, as I had been working with them on market development and marketing strategy. So I probed the thinking behind the comment. The client replied ‘we are not ready to roll out the product yet, so we don’t need advertising’.

In discussion with colleagues I’ve found that this thinking is not uncommon, and that many companies associate the term marketing with advertising and little else. It seems that what marketing is – is bewildering to some; sales and marketing are often used interchangeably when discussing customer interaction.

Peter Drucker is credited with the following quote; “Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two – and only two – functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation create value, all the rest are costs.”

That quote perfectly defines my belief about business and marketing. I have long worked in marketing, the world of art and science blended to connect with and serve a customer.  I love that marketing consists of a wide breadth of functions and is core to a business.

The very definition of marketing through the four P’s defines the necessity of marketing early on and throughout the course of the product life.

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

While promotion is very important to the mix, it is the last in the list to master – and so much more successful if the other three are well attended to with hard core professional marketing.

Marketing happens in the earliest stages of a company.  An idea, a product concept or a service is presented to investors for early stage financing support, this is concept marketing.  Demographics, profiles and current practices provide a backdrop against which a new product or service is contrast; this is market definition.  Investigation into customer needs, behaviors, and loyalties is market research.

Marketing continues throughout the development phase of products and services, with a product requirements document, this is product marketing. Branding, product naming, product promotion, product training and service are all marketing functions.  All customer support and engagement are marketing. Public relations, education and training, pricing and promotion and market development are all marketing functions.  Even the discontinuation of a product or service is a marketing function.

Eric Brody, author of the blog Healthy Conversations, recapped the July Fast Company story about 10 lessons from Apple.  Among these key lessons is that ‘Everything is marketing’.  The recap and post can be read here.

It is true that my client is not yet ready to do advertising and should thoughtfully consider which marketing talent to hire. The best hire is someone who can do the marketing that is essential to the business at this point.  However, they have begun marketing, and if they are to be successful they must continue to do so.  Marketing starts in the beginning.

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

Baking from Scratch April 13, 2010

Recently a client asked me to design the ‘ideal marketing organization’. Specifically they wanted to create a marketing department that would serve customers and become the go to provider for all customer needs. This kind of challenge only happens in marketing dreams – or with a very forward thinking company. One would expect this type of request to come from a new startup company; however, this client is a large, well-established and respected company.

I eagerly accepted the challenge, relishing the thought of defining a dream team of talented professionals who could implement clear and effective marketing strategic plans.  I was asked to take a blank sheet of paper and from scratch, design a marketing organization with a full complement of the essential members baked into the structure.  No limits or restrictions applied.

At first glance this challenge appears straightforward.  Draw an organizational chart with boxes that contain titles and connecting lines establishing relationships one to another. This part of the challenge is relatively clear cut, but before populating those boxes and setting off to fill the positions, establishing the why and how such an organization is needed is crucial

Why = Goal

Two key business elements must be established to ensure that a marketing organization will be successful.  The first is a clearly stated goal.  It is the why element.  Why is a marketing organization with specific skills, talents and structure needed?  The goal is the accomplishment the team will need to achieve.  The actual accomplishment may be multifocal and many layered, but the goal should be clear, simple and succinct.

How = Strategy

The second element is a sound strategic plan. This is the how element. There are many ways to achieve a goal. Goals can be achieved without plans; however, planning significantly increases the likelihood of success. A sound strategic plan defines the methods to achieve the goal and identifies the essential means to do so. A team of people that can implement the strategy is essential.  The skills and talents of the team are implied in a sound strategy. 

With these two elements in place, the challenge of designing of an ideal marketing organization is straightforward.  Without establishing these business elements first, the concept of defining the ideal organization is half-baked.

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

Ready or Not? March 22, 2010

Filed under: Corporate Preparation,DTC,Lisa,Market Planning — Lisa Pohmajevich @ 9:36 pm
Tags: , ,

DTC campaign here I come!  You’ve sweated the small stuff.  Well, not really small stuff, big stuff actually. And a lot of it. You took a step back and assessed the physician’s needs, your product benefits and your promise to the patient. The focus has been on attending to the physician – rightly so, ensuring they were ready to assume the staff of authority with your product and procedure.

You trained them, encouraged them and supported them. The reimbursement and insurance coverage gaps around the product are closing. Scientific and clinical journals have published clinical data and there are go-to clinicians, who are actively performing the procedure that new customers can contact.  Lastly, you’ve resolved distribution challenges and simplified the purchase process. 

And now you believe your company is ready to launch a DTC campaign.  If that is the case, you can confidently mark ‘yes’ next to the following 10 checklist items.

© Scholastic, Inc. October 1999/ Art by Gioia Fiammenghi

Company Preparedness Checklist                                              

1.    ALL departments agree it is time to launch and are ready to do so.

2.   Regulatory and clinical affairs are available to handle patient and consumer concerns customer needs.

3.   Sales is well prepared to support and manage customer needs

4.    PR, regulatory and legal are in alignment with their responsibilities and messages to address market reactions.

5.   Marketing is ready to support and usher customers, consumers and company personnel through the process of fulfillment.

6.   Manufacturing is able to respond to inventory ebb and flows.

7.   IT has everything online working and significant bandwidth committed to supporting demand.

8.   Customer service knows precisely how to handle all callers and questions.

9.   Finance is committed to releasing funds well in advance of actual media event. 

10.  Senior Management is well versed in the campaign purpose and goal and all employees are aware of their responsibilities.

In addition to the above readiness states, the following conditions also need to be in place.

  • A call center is prepared to handle all reactions from respondents
  • All customers are informed about the planned campaign
  • Referral physicians have been informed about the procedure and know who in their network performs it
  • All patient education materials are downloadable
  • Physician spokespersons have been identified and are prepared and willing to respond to press requests
  • Reimbursement references are available to assist with coding and coverage questions

These conditions are key in preparing the company to support a consumer reaching campaign.  All parties deserve information about the campaign, preparation to support the campaign and continued communication about the progress of the campaign.  Launching a DTC campaign should only be done when you can confidently declare ‘here I come!’

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

First things first; the importance of taking one step at a time February 22, 2010

Lisa’s recent entries on the right time to start a direct-to-consumer campaign raise some great points. Since a DTC campaign should include public relations as well as advertising, I thought I’d bring up a few points to consider.

Typically, when an in-house marketing person is talking about doing a DTC campaign, they are thinking on a national scope. But just as it’s true that advertising campaigns are often best started and tested on the local or regional level, so too can—dare I say should—PR be started on a local level.

I was recently in conversations with a prospect. After several months of discussion, the prospect determined they were not ready for “PR.” What he meant by that was that he did not feel the company was ready for a national public relations effort. On one hand, he was smart enough to recognize that the company did not have significant physician adoption of the product, nor did the company have an adequate sales force, or even a well-staffed call center to handle the inquiries that would come from a national campaign. Unfortunately, this company never gave us the chance to show them how the right public relations campaign would have helped them drive both physician adoption and build awareness among potential consumers.

It all starts with building awareness among physicians who will use, prescribe or recommend your product. Many companies do this through trade shows or medical conferences.  Building relationships with trade media is key during this phase of the adoption cycle.

The second step often involves taking a local market approach to supporting physicians who have adopted your product or technology. Picking a physician to be a spokesperson can be tricky if more than one physician is using the product in that market. But the real key to success of this approach is often the patient.  Finding a patient who is willing to share their story publicly and who is articulate enough to do so isn’t always easy.  Still, it’s often the best way to build awareness and the emotional connection that would be completely missed if all we did was pitch a straight product announcement.

Look for more information and some basic rules to follow on selecting the best physician and patient spokespeople in a future entry.

 

She Who Must Be Obeyed February 11, 2010

Illustration by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse

Horace Rumpole, the lead character in the British television series Rumpole of the Bailey, secretly refers to his wife Hilda as ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed.’ Hilda is considered formidable, thus the tongue-in-check endearment. The definition of She Who Must Be Obeyed, abbreviated to the acronym SWMBO, is a woman in authority’. The character Hilda could be easily considered the poster person for this title.

Companies promoting new healthcare solutions – products and services, would be ahead of the curve if they recognized that women hold collective membership in the SWMBO sorority. Women are formidable in their pursuit of answers to problems or healthcare concerns, particularly so in the management of their families health and welfare.

In a recently survey conducted in 2009 and published by the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, the use health information technology (HIT) in U.S. households was assessed. Some of the findings include:

  • 61 percent of the sample used the internet to search for health or medical information
  • Women are more likely than men – 58% vs. 43.4%, to look for health information on the internet
  • Women are more likely than men – 4.1% vs. 2.5%, to access online chat groups to learn about health topics
  • Women are more likely than men – 6.6% vs. 5.2%, to request a prescription refill on the internet
  • Women are more likely than men – 3.5% vs. 1.8%, to make an appointment using the internet
  • Women are more likely than men – 5.6% vs. 4.2%, to communicate with a health care provider over email

The findings of this survey indicate women are actively seeking information, interaction and resolution to health care issues, using online means to do so, much more than men.  The survey summary can be found here[1].

There are a few companies that recognize women customers control the success of their products. These are companies that market and distribute women specific products such as contraception, breast care, and incontinence treatments. Some of these companies make the effort to connect with women customers by directing communications to them, providing information about products and identifying resources that may be useful in their search for solutions.

Women respond to these overtures by sharing their experiences, out loud – with other women.  This sharing includes discussions about anything and everything related to the product experience – credibility of the information about the product, the availability of the product, access to the product, interaction with the medical provider of the product, and so on. Nothing is off limits. Women take the lead in the discussions, just as energetically as they investigated the products before they purchased or were prescribed them.

In a 2008 survey conducted by Burst Media, women were identified as heavy users of health related forums, blogs and other websites when searching for information about a problem. The summary states “They [women] tend to be more proactive than their male counterparts seeking out family healthcare solutions as well as personal ones.” More of the findings can be found on the BizReport.com site, here[2].

Women search and research healthcare concerns. Women lead the charge for treatment and care of healthcare concerns. Women seek resolutions for their families as well as themselves. The road to reaching the consumer dealing with a health concern is typically traveled by a woman. She may be the wife, mother, daughter or friend of someone who needs help or answers for that which they suffer.

I know these descriptions of women and their pursuit of information and solutions to be true. I experienced these activities first hand marketing women’s healthcare products. I am also a daughter, aunt, godmother, sister, partner and friend of many, for whom I have done the same. I have gathered information from far and wide, and then armed with it I have navigated and negotiated the best available solutions for many a healthcare concern.  We women are resolute and formidable.

Companies that want potential patients to request their products, would benefit from remembering there is quite likely a woman in the mix, looking for answers for the patient. It is not just women specific products that women research. Any product or service that is intended for a patient, will be subject to review if relevant to someone they care about. Developing a well-planned strategy and communication plan, that takes into consideration how and where women go to get answers, makes good sense.

The declaration that ‘women rule the world’ may be ever-so-slightly premature at this point; however, if a direct path to the right patient is desired by a manufacturer, making it easy for her to gather information and access the product is strongly advised. Crafting a strategy that submits information and resources at her fingertips is the best way to enlist She Who Must Be Obeyed.


[1] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/healthinfo2009/healthinfo2009.htm

[2] http://www.bizreport.com/2008/07/women_rely_on_internet_for_health_information.html

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

The velocity of revenue is a direct result of the speed of confidence February 2, 2010

Filed under: DTC,Lisa,Market Planning,Physician Preparation — Lisa Pohmajevich @ 11:16 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Image credit: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New products released into the market have cleared many hurdles. Clearance from the FDA indicates that the product meets safety and efficacy requirements. This milestone in a product life cycle typically follows extended research, development, design, testing, and refinement phases. Companies that have invested and toiled over the development challenges in anticipation of a market release are understandably eager to realize revenueAs much and as soon, as possible.

To that end, planning discussions turn to training, distribution and marketing. This is frequently the point in time when the acceleration question is raised.

How fast can we ramp up sales?

Should we do DTC advertising to increase demand?

What kind of promotions can we offer to encourage volume purchases?

I believe these questions are premature. Ideally, DTC advertising and promotional programs are part of marketing strategy that includes market development and preparation. They are most effective when conditions for market adoption of a new product have been optimized.

The best time to advertise to patients and consumers, introduce promotions to encourage purchases and increase sales activities, is when physicians have reached a state of confidence with a new product. Confidence represents the final stage in customer adoption of new technology.

New product introduction requires physician training. The three stages of adoption are defined by the state of accomplishment the physician achieves during training on a procedure with a new product.

Stage one – Capable
The physician understands the product concept and purpose. They can successfully deploy the product with support of a trainer. Use of the product is occasional.

Stage two – Competent
The physician correctly performs the procedure using the product with limited training support. The physician is proficient performing the procedure and use of the product is intermittent.

Stage three – Confident
The physician has mastered the procedure and product use. No support is required.

Confidence occurs after the physician has enough positive experience and good patient outcomes with the product. The confident stage is also recognizable beyond performing the procedure without support. Two hallmarks signal the physician has reached a state of confidence.

1. The physician routinely incorporates the product in their treatment regime.
2. The physician proactively discusses the product with patients in which treatment including the use of the product is appropriate.

When physicians reach this stage, DTC advertising and promotional programs are good strategies to employ. The physician has been appropriately supported by the company and is well prepared for new patients investigating the advertised procedure. The questions regarding increasing revenues should first center on the physician and accelerating their state of confidence. The best time to do advertising and promotional programs is when the market is optimized with confident customers.

Comments welcome.

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

 
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