Pharma needs to be patient centric but not treat patients as customers

The global Pharma industry is under serious pressure from a large number of innovator molecules facing patent expiration, a thin pipeline of new drugs, regulatory challenges and pricing pressures. As a result organizations are focusing on newer commercial models, adjusting cost base, strengthening value of medicine, adopting patient centric approach and paying greater emphasis on Pharmerging markets for future growth.  Some of these shifts are new and radical to Pharma industry and Pharma is looking towards other industries for guidance and ideas. Adopting Patient centric approach/philosophy falls under such category of change.

Over the last few years, there have been discussions and few initiatives by Pharma towards patient centricity. The good part is that some of these initiatives have worked well and have helped organizations to take the overall patient experience to the next level. Use of digital channels to reach out to patients, platforms facilitating interactions between patients and physicians and patient’s targeted programs are some broad areas under which all the initiatives can be grouped. Let us look at some of the initiatives:

Pharmaceutical companies have experience with physician-centric models where they can be said to have physician market knowledge. Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) usually fulfill the role of championing the voice of physicians within Pharma. Unfortunately, however, Pharma is lacking when it comes to Patient-centric champions who understand what consumers think and want.

  • Didget from Bayer: The new Didget bllod glucose monitoring system rewards kids for consistent testing with fun games they can play online or through their Nintendo DS.  The bottom line is “Test, Play and Win”, because being rewarded for testing is a simple win
  • PatientsLikeMe is committed to putting patients first. They do this by providing a better, more effective way for patients to share their real-world health experiences in order to help themselves, other patients like them and organizations that focus on their conditions. Companies like Biogen, Merck, and Novartis etc are partners to this initiative
  • J&J Health Channel: A YouTube channel by J&J focusing more on sharing patient experiences and helping in advancing health and well being of others around the world. They have weekly focus areas and range from obesity to serious conditions like leukemia etc
  • GSK’s Alli is a FDA approved weight loss aid. GSK has brought concepts of compliance, affordability, patient experience, discussions and education under one initiative called as MyAlli.

If we review all the above initiatives closely, the common themes are around compliance and persistency along with defining results in patient terms. We will witness more innovations in this area in the coming years as more and more Pharma companies adopt this approach. But with this enthusiasm comes a word of caution for Pharma Organizations.

Pharma should not treat patients as customers. There is a very fine line dividing a patient from customer as we understand. There are some inherent difference between a customer and a patient:



Does not undergo the complete purchasing cycle. i.e. traditional   marketing concepts and theory does not work Undergoes the complete purchasing cycle. i.e. Traditional marketing   concepts and theory works
Does not enjoy his/her current status i.e.  People don’t seek out medication without a   reason. Something is wrong and patients want to solve it and get back to normal.   It’s not an enjoyable state Enjoys his/her current status to a large extent i.e. likes to be   pampered
Collects information, but cannot take decision i.e. The patient   cannot make decisions, there are external factors ( HCP, Insurance etc) that   make decisions Collects information to make a decision i.e. this is called informed   decision making

Pharma Co. needs to appreciate the fact that the fundamental premise to their business does not mandate patients to be drivers of sales. Some examples in the market by Pharma Co. do indicate dilution of this premise.

In response to a generic competition; one large Pharma in one of the APAC markets ran a campaign focused towards patients, asking them to question physician on prescribing generics.  Termed as an awareness campaign, this surely seems to miss this objective by miles. It can be debated that the above example also falls under the ambit of patient centricity, but that can only be for the sake of argument and nothing beyond that.

The “empowered and informed patient” movement encourages patients to become informed and to take greater control over their medical care; but providing information, access and independence — so often successful in other consumer settings — do not necessarily drive better care or experience for patients. Walking this tight rope and creating patient centric programs and initiatives is surely a challenge that Pharma organizations are facing.


Ability to Create Multi-Channel Ecosystem: Overlooked Challenges

The struggle to create the much-needed Multi channel ecosystem to reach out to targeted customers continues, and organizations are grappling to unravel the mystery. As per Gartner’s survey one of the top business priorities for CIO’s is to “attract and retain new customers”, but strikingly when this translates to Technology Priorities, Multi-Channel enablement does not even figure in the top ten. There is a clear contradiction. Is this because, organizations have given up on creating this eco system or are they so naïve not to understand the repercussions of not enabling this? I think it’s more of the former that the latter.

There has not been one business discussion where business leaders do not stress on the merits of a having a holistic multi channel strategy and enablement and they generally get good response; this makes me believe that the benefits are recognized. The issue  starts when organizations sit at the drawing board and start sketching their future business architecture. The challenges this exercise poses are three-pronged, viz. People, Process and Technology Challenges. Organizations generally make the mistake of overlooking the people and process challenges and all efforts are spent in identifying and resolving the technical challenges viz. Platform, vendor, Products etc.

Recently I was fortunate to work with William Band, Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, so I bounced this thought with him for his opinion. Bill says “I agree with your premise that the core issues that stand in the way of effective multi-channel management are people and process issues. Most companies are not organized to manage across channel silos, and functional silos (as you know)”.

The easiest challenge to overcome is technology and organizations need to think and strategize more on overcoming the people and process challenges. As a discovery exercise, organizations need to first answer the following questions and gauge the exact nature and extent of challenge that they will face.

  1. What is the business objective (enhance reach, provide seamless experience to customers, etc) behind enabling a multi-channel environment?
  2. Is my structure (organization) ready to support this initiative? What changes do I need to bring to my organizational structure?
  3. Do I have process defined with proper entry and exit points?
  4. How would channels interact to each other and what is the overall business architecture?
  5. How would I engage each channel, maintain a uniform message and use them on their merits?
  6. Have I identified the different stakeholders and mapped them in terms of resistance offered and change needed?

The above questions are not the complete set, but surely the reference point to start. These questions are hard-hitting and require organizations to put on the self-evaluation hat to answer and create logical and realistic next steps.

Skipping this first step will result in creating a multi channel ecosystem that either does not function or functions in absolute silos. Over the last few years organizations have managed to deploy multiple channels but have failed to create a Multi-Channel ecosystem.

Its time organizations start this discovery exercise and rethink on their multi-channel strategy.

Special Thanks to William Band for taking out time to review this post and provide his comments.

Some Suggestive Reading on this topic

Chinese Pharma Market: Experienced and Evolving

I was in China for a brief assignment for a Major Pharma. It was Just the right opportunity to understand the Chinese Pharma market. At the onset let me tell all that the China Pharma Market is different when compared to the Matured US or European Market or Developing markets like India. Having said that, this does not by any way mean that the Chinese Market is “Novice”; the correct term to define this market is “experienced and evolving”.

I plan to write a series on this Market based on my experience and discussions with various individuals at various levels in the organization. This being the first in the series, I will focus on the broad highlights of the Pharma Market in China and follow that with much more details on each area.

Sales is Experience based and not Fact based: Having sales reps to promote Pharma products to doctors remains almost universal, but doing it in an organized and scientific manner is not what Chinese reps practice. Segmentation, targeting, territory Management, coverage and frequency are well understood concepts, but hardly practiced. Multinational Pharma companies face huge challenges in terms of leveraging their best practices and creating a fact based culture. To further worsen the problem, the industry is facing a whopping 27% attrition rate.

Availability of Data is a big concern: There are data providers in the market. Cegedim, IMS are available, but the Pharma companies are reluctant to subscribe. Pharma companies believe that such subscriptions are two ways hence the company might lose their competitive advantage by sharing their contacts with these data providers. Data will be important over long-term because the turnover of the sales representatives is still high, resulting in pharmaceutical companies losing important influences with their representatives.

 Lack of Basic IT Systems: Chinese Pharma market is growing at an average rate of 16-17% over the last few decades, and at this rate China will be the world’s largest market by 2020. But recently many Multi-National firms are facing challenges in achieving these numbers and are finding ways to work more efficiently and smartly, whereby saving cost and adding to bottom-line. This would need proper tools to support various business functions. Currently majority of the firms have either had a bad experience with IT systems or are exploring options to have one.

Selling Model is Tender Based: In order to bring the overall cost of healthcare, government has mandated a bidding process at province level. This bidding process is annual, and is mandatory for Pharma companies who wish to promote and sell their drugs in that province. This is an important function in the commercial space for Pharma, as pricing fixed at one province affects the pricing with other provinces and thus also impacts pricing at national level.

Ongoing Government Reforms: The Chinese government continues to invest in reforming its healthcare ecosystem. A key element of these reforms is the essential drug list (EDL), intended to reduce drug costs. The EDL environment has created challenges and opportunities for pharmaceutical companies, pharmaceutical distributors and hospitals, as well as trigger changes in how they operate and compete.

Distribution Network and Challenges: The distribution market in China today is still very fragmented. There were more than 9,000 qualified distributors in China in 2007, including numerous small- and mid-size operators with varying level of sophistication.  Although China distributors are consolidating, they still have much room for improvement compared with peers in developed countries. Huge demand from basic healthcare service providers in both urban communities and rural areas challenges distributors’ capabilities and in light of government regulations, distributors are facing an array of price and cost pressures.

Local Competition is stiff: Although half of the top ten pharmaceutical companies in China are multinationals, none command more than 2.5% of the total market share. Many of the most popular products in China are traditional Chinese medicines and they are growing faster than prescribed drugs. Multinationals are losing share — they’re growing nicely, but they’re consistently losing share.

The Pharma market in China is evolving and with the ongoing government reforms and governments commitment to expand the healthcare coverage to the large Chinese population, there are challenges and opportunities for various stakeholders. The overall environment is undoubtedly becoming more regulated and demanding for key stakeholders.

Can Organizations have a Global CRM?

Having a global CRM strategy is  one of the most important steps towards operating as a global organization. The next question that comes to mind is “Why do organizations have to operate as a global organization?” There are various reasons, but one of the primary reasons is the saturation of US and European markets clubbed with the rise in the disposable income in newer markets. Organizations have realized: To achieve growth and to provide return to the shareholders they need to explore opportunities beyond the conventional markets. These markets are different and so are the customer preferences and needs.

There's no such thing as a global customer

Just extending the CRM strategy “AS IS” to these markets many a times will not be the most intelligent idea. But contrary to this; Organizations in the past have done this and have burnt their fingers. An example:

 British coffee chain Costa Coffee has reworked its India strategy to turn profitable and expand its footprint. The new strategy involves closing unprofitable locations, Customer segmentation strategy for different locations, changing the look and feel of outlets and customizing the menu to better suit the Indian palate.

 According to Santhosh Unni, who took charge as the CEO of Costa Coffee last year, the company went through its share of mistakes before setting the model right.

“The biggest mistake was to try and replicate the same UK model in India, when it was launched in 2005. We found that the UK model is not working in India where people look at coffee shops as a meeting place. So we had to alter the format and the ambience of the chain,” Unni said.

The chain had also made the mistake of opening stores at wrong locations. Read the full article here

So does this mean that one cannot have a global CRM strategy? I think there is nothing like a “Global Customer” and a customer is  “stranger” and his/her behavior changes over time, age, sex, demography, etc., but  having said that, organizations should create  the CRM strategy to know this “stranger” better and predict his behavior. This can be the global guiding light. The operational level changes to this strategy are keys to achieving a true and successful CRM in each new market that the organization expands its operations to.

At operational level also organizations invariably face the challenge of maintaining the balance between the core philosophy and local market needs. Organizations need to appreciate the fact that there are very few possibilities to effectively develop global customer segmentation profiles and global sales and marketing processes. But if organizations do try to create a global CRM at operational level, one of the following is bound to happen:

  • Each market ends up with its own customized version running locally. This is a politically acceptable compromise, which if properly managed, usually works satisfactorily
  • There is a single version running centrally, with all the attendant difficulties of managing a one-size-fits-all solution with various flavors for various countries, with serious technical/operational issues resulting in a costly, complex and rigid/inflexible solution.

Global organizations should try and define in concrete terms — rather than in vague and all-embracing concepts — just what business objectives they’re trying to achieve and whether standardization of CRM is the best way to go about it.

What do you think? Is there a global CRM?

Four Steps to Social Nirvana

Last night I was on Twitter and read this fantastic blog from Social Media Today  A very good step by step guide to create a successful social media strategy and put that into action. I have my own three steps towards social Nirvana.

Step 1: It’s important to be present on this Media: Is there a choice? Forrester considers “Social CRM” as one of the Top 10 trends for 2011. Organizations need to plan, evaluate and implement these channels as a part of the overall CRM strategy. Organizations need to be serious about this initiative and be responsive to the typical demands of these new channels. There are three types of Organizations in the Social Space:

  1. Organizations actively involved and using Social Media to support multiple customer engagement objectives (Listening, Talking, Energizing, Supporting and Embracing).
  2. Organizations just using the medium for a subset of the above objectives
  3. Organizations have joined the bandwagon without much thought and are now either Dormant or Dead

Organizations need to aim to support multiple customer engagement objectives after doing a due diligence of their typical Business ecosystem.

Step 2: Get used to the chaos of the social media: The space is Messy. There is no Order. At present there is lot of churning and eventually there will be Order as an output. Organizations need to be aware of this fact and plan their move accordingly. There cannot be a strategy cutting across multiple years, without any mechanism to evaluate and provide input based on the changes in the environment. What organizations can do is to create a strategy that is evolving with tollgate criteria to evaluate the strategy on a regular basis.

Step 3: Imbibe the culture across your Organization: The concept should be all pervasive. Organizations need to adopt this as a habit and should make this as a DNA. Do not expect to climb the maturity curve without internal adoption of the concept. This will also help organizations gather internal feedback where by refining the strategy further.  

Step 4: Look for an Elastic Platform: Expect the unexpected is somewhat normal in the social space. Organizations should therefore look for a platform that can scale up and down based on the need. The idea is to implement the strategy on such a platform that can provide the length and breadth of services across various social channels and help to collaborate effectively.

Add to this list and let me know what you think it takes to get this right.

Four Important trends in Mobile CRM Space

Last week one of my colleagues bought an iPad. He is currently gripped by something that people call the iPad syndrome. Ipad has helped people understand and appreciate the concept of mobility…in fact it has taken a giant leap in the mobility space. I have been receiving requests for mobility CRM much more in the last 2-3 months as compared to last year. Is it because of Ipad? Not sure, but the requests do translate into providing Mobile solutions that can run on mobile device; 1 out of 3 requests specifically for Ipad. One of our friends has put his thoughts around this revolution (read here).

I have been thinking off late on how should we go about designing the overall Mobile CRM solution? What should it contain? How should it be deployed? How will it provide enhanced value to organizations?  

Four Important Trends in Mobile CRM:

  1. Mobile CRM has moved beyond SFA on PDA: It is just not “Contact Management”, “Call Planning” etc. There are Features like Inventory/stock management, order reconciliation & tracking, Service Request Management, Real time analytics and “on demand” collaboration between field sales reps, service reps and customers. The new Mobile CRM needs to support much more functions and not just be a trimmed down version of the enterprise CRM system.
  2. Mobile CRM needs to be componentized: As organizations move away from the typical “arms race” in the sales function, where the sales volumes do not have linearity with the size of the sales force, and small groups of specialized sales force evolve; the need for CRM to accommodate the specific needs for these groups will increase exponentially. One solution fits all is not valid. What will work here is to have a bouquet of functionalities that can be made available depending on the end user need. End users pick and choose what he needs to be part of his Mobile CRM solution.
  3. Mobile CRM solution needs to be “On Demand”: The new age Mobile CRM solution needs to be available to the end user “On Demand”. Nearest parallel that one can draw is the “Blackberry Apps world” or” Ipad apps”. Organizations will maintain (can be a service provider) an application store and users can download needed application or components, use them and get rid of them from the mobile device after use.
  4. Mobile CRM solutions will drive the functionality: There was a time when the Mobile solution was a replica of the CRM solution with lot of restrictions w.r.t functionality and usability. Those days are gone. On Premise or Cloud Based CRM solutions will just provide robust backend and will not limit the Mobile CRM solution scope. The Mobile CRM solutions will have its own identity (the way functionality is achieved and enhanced usability features) and will integrate with the available CRM solution.

What do you think? Do you think that the Mobile CRM space is slowly transforming? Let me know your thoughts and comments.

Multi-Channel Marketing an Example: ETIOS by Toyota

So how many of you are not aware that Toyota has launched a Vehicle named “ETIOS”? I have not met many. I am a person who can endlessly browse the web to find news related to new cars and their reviews. I followed the complete Toyota ETIOS story very closely. I personally feel that this is one of the best examples for Multi-Channel Marketing. I am no expert at this but with my limited knowledge this is what I felt…

Given the importance of this vehicle for Toyota globally, Toyota created a campaign that engaged and informed the customers over the last 10 months.

Jan 2010…Toyota showcased the vehicle at the Delhi Auto Expo. The same day a TVC was launched to communicate about ETIOS. They came up with a very innovative Logo…The “I” in ETIOS has been written as the Indian TEEKA( a symbol of good luck and blessings of victory). The tag line also was chosen to aptly describe the essence of the vehicle “India First World First”. The whole positioning of the vehicle was very Indian. High time Toyota realized that India will play a major role in their Global Position as a Market leader. At the same time the Facebook and Twitter accounts were created. The initial buzz was created. Challenge at hand was… how to maintain this till the launch that was scheduled for the year end.

Again a very innovative TVC and Media campaign…”Q Promise” a campaign focused at demonstrating and placing Toyota as a Quality driven organizations. This was followed by an all India Tour “Q World Caravan” with the ETIOS concept. The choice of cities was very unique here…Chandigarh, Lucknow, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Cochin, Chennai, Bangalore, Calicut, Goa, Hyderabad, Vijaywada, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Siliguri, Guwahati, Varanasi, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Indore, Surat. At first glance one can make out that this is just not a random selection of cities, these are cities that hold lot of potential and are slowly turning out to be biggest markets after the metros. This event ended at Surat on the 15th August 2010…symbolic gesture to project that the ETIOS is for India.

In the mean time the social channels were very effectively used to drive the concept and the research that went behind creating this car. Social channel is the only channel that has the strength and merit of creating a 2 way communication. Toyota rightly used this to create a community that can discuss the Car and provide feedback and reactions to the ongoing campaigns. Exemplary use of social channel to inform, listen, and respond. I am not sure but I believe; these channels also enjoyed some exclusivity in terms of information. The exact launch date was first communicated here followed by a press release.

End of September the New ETIOS website was launched. Facebook and Twitter users were the first to know. The website provided information on the ETIOS concept and had games, quizzes (all focused towards INDIA First concept). Winners were awarded with some ETIOS branded stuff… (I was not lucky to get one). Website used as a teaser and to further strengthen the India First message. The launch of the vehicle was live on this website. One will be surprised to note that the content of the website changed the minute the vehicle was officially launched @Bangalore. Such meticulous planning and exemplary execution.

In the history of car launches in India, I cannot think of any other example that can either match or come a near second to this.  Analyze this information and one will find some best practices for Multi Channel Marketing:

  1. Use the channel as per its Merit
  2. Each Channel needs to have its unique message but with a single objective
  3. Distribute the three key functions of Marketing( Inform, Engage and Listen) across channels
  4. Create an ecosystem to provide seamless experience to the customers
  5. Continuously monitor and study the channel effectiveness
  6. See if channels can be provided some exclusivity

I am not sure of the sales figures that ETIOS will have in future, but for the time being the marketing team has exactly delivered what they would have envisioned 10 Months back. Great work … This campaign is also INDIA’s FIRST …

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