Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Every vendor/provider should seek to be outstanding in at least three ways:

  1. An outstanding track record of success and great service;
  2. An outstanding and focused set of clearly-understood offerings;
  3. An outstanding message that makes clear what you’re about.

Many companies are good at 1., but not so good at 2. and 3. For example, here is the generic and unfocused language used by one training company I recently found on the web:

generictrainingUmmm…what’s the differentiating message here? None. Nada. Generic, vague biz-speak (they even claim in the text above that they “don’t subscribe to the routine or generic” – ha!). It’s a bad case of JATS (Just Another Training Supplier) marketing.

If your description could fit just about any other company you’re competing with, then you don’t stand out. You need to discover your fit in the marketplace and express it with clear differentiation.

I’ve worked with many of my training partners to help them define their offerings, refine their message, and focus their marketing (see Clarity Therapy). If you need something better than generic branding, let’s talk. Commodity messaging won’t make you stand out, even if you are outstanding.

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Why aren’t companies bolder to differentiate themselves?

Once again, this morning, I came across a website for a digital (pharma/healthcare) agency. And, once again, there was the familiar list of bullet points, similar to this:

  • Digital Strategy
  • Web Analytics
  • Creative Services
  • Digital Sales Aids
  • Audio/Video Aids
  • eLearning
  • E-Mail Marketing
  • Microsites, Campaign and Brand Websites
  • HCP Social Media
  • Medical Animation
  • Mobile/iPad Development
  • Application Development
  • Web Development
  • Social Media

PenguinsWeDoThatIt could have been any of a number of such firms, because most of them claim to do – well, everything. Just like all the others.

Yes, I understand that agencies want to give the impression of being a one-stop shop so more marketing dollars can flow into their coffers. You’re afraid to miss out on some piece of work because the net is not wide enough. So you do bullet-point marketing. But at what price?

You’re now just like everyone else. “Will Work for Revenue.” There’s a biz-ugly word for that: Commodity.

In my Vendor Selection workshop, I show a web page with a very similar “we do it all” bullet point approach to training solutions. It’s disingenuous, really. Nobody does 10-12 disparate things well. And customers instinctively know it.

I’ll tell my pharma clients the dirty little secret: vendors may be ABLE to do 5-10 things, but typically, they’re going to do 1-2 things really well. That’s the differentiator. And, when doing clarity consulting with small companies and individuals, I say the same thing. Narrow your message down to your uniqueness; don’t broaden it to everyone else’s generalities.

It’s actually quite a liberating experience to move away from the broad message, where you’re competing with everyone; and instead, defining and promoting your unique offering.

It’s best not to lead with the 5-10 things. Clients cannot remember you for that – you will be dumped right into the commodity bin of their memory banks, soon to be deleted. Instead, lead with your tangible, demonstrable differentiator and build your message around that. Become a trusted supplier of something you excel at, and maybe the door will open later to some of the other things that you do.

“We’ll Do Whatever!” is not a message that sets you apart in the minds of your clients. Focus. Differentiate. De-commoditize.

Unlike everybody else!

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If you’ve followed my writing and speaking over the years, you know I’ve been a big proponent of social media as a vehicle for communications, network-building, and new business approaches. And I absolutely believe – more than ever – in the power and utility of digital networked communications

I was among the first in the pharma universe to begin blogging and tweeting pharma/healthcare topics. The first time I used Twitter at an industry conference, I wondered if I might be discovered and tossed out!

In fact, I even put together the first published list of pharma folks and companies active in social media – which, at the time, was a pretty small group! That number has since grown considerably, which is a very good thing.

As the industry has evolved, however, I can’t help but ask the question – is it time to give up on the idea of commercial prescription pharma interactively participating in the open, public social media space using current platforms? (please note the careful choice of words before having a knee-jerk reaction).

I’m not giving an answer – I’m asking a question. Here are the streams of thought feeding into this inquiry:

1. The FDA has shown zero readiness to give guidance about the use of on-line media in pharma communications. They are ready, however, to send warning letters about perceived violations in an ad-hoc fashion. This seriously inhibits pharma companies from getting involved. Regulatory fear does not go along well with open, public discussion.

2. The nature of current social media approaches and tools demands real-time interactive response and dialogue, out in the wilds of digital space. Pharma does not and cannot communicate that way.

  • Facebook demands interactivity and informal 2-way communication. Pharma companies are forced to come up with all kinds of work-arounds to make Facebook something other than it is, in order to participate. It’s like trying to enter a canoe into a speedboat race.
  • Twitter demands short bursts of communication. Pharma communications (prescription brands) demand fair balance, context, long explanation, disclaimers, and all kinds of monitoring/reporting. Would a congressman reading a speech from a teleprompter fit nicely at a cocktail party?
  • LinkedIn is all about the individual professional. Nice platform for recruiting, even in pharma. But my experience with pharma folks (I have years of it) on LinkedIn is that interactivity is almost nil. Pharma professionals live and work in an atmosphere of non-openness. You can sow seed on a gravel driveway, but don’t expect much of a harvest.
  • YouTube is one place where pharma companies can participate on a social platform, as long as you strip it down to, essentially, one-way broadcast and storytelling. It’s not social, but it is media.

3. Pharma companies tend to rotate commercial professionals (sales, training, marketing, etc.) through their job roles every 1-3 years. This means a constant default to short-term thinking. However, successful involvement in public social platforms demands long-term commitment and readiness to innovate. As soon as a little bit of expertise begins to accumulate, it’s time to move on to the next rung up the ladder (personally, I think that this, and the bondage of short-term quarterly profit reporting, are the two biggest hidden killers of pharma companies making true inroads in social networking).

4. Social media is moving rapidly to point-to-point on-demand mobile communications (including real-time UGC of all sorts, location data, commerce, and fragmented data streams). Pharma is all about centralized, one-way, controlled communications. Black, meet white.

We could go on, but the point is this: Public, interactive, real-time social media platforms and commercial pharma communications simply don’t mesh well. At all. And I don’t see that changing any time soon. Stuff you can easily say about other industries really isn’t going to translate well to pharma (as much as I like Chris Brogan, he’s out of his league on this post).

Is that a death knell for social media usage across all areas of pharma? Not at all. Non-branded communications can occur on existing public platforms, albeit often with a good dose of restrictions and care. Non-public networks (private communities) are a fruitful area of valuable involvement. Private, internal social networks (Yammer and the like) are potentially hugely useful apps for digital networked communications. One-way storytelling, while not fully social, can still add value, even in the public sphere (if done very carefully). Mobile apps that provide information or services are great – though again, they are using social-ish platforms in a less-than-fully-social fashion.

Also, the maturation of a platform like Google Plus could lead to more controlled communications to distinct, defined groups – and that is where the future could well be brighter.

Commercial, prescription pharma communications happen within thickly-walled gardens. The open, public social web is anything but that – and it’s not going to change for the pharma industry. Current platforms make it very difficult to marry the two. The future may well lie in walled social gardens, but existing approaches are still maturing through the wild west stage. Maybe we should expend less concern about “getting on Facebook” or Twitter, and architecting a social strategy that fits the industry – rather than trying to fit this square industry peg into a round, shape-shifting hole.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? Add your comment!


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Here at Impactiviti, we identify the top providers of marketing and training services – companies and people that are high-quality, proven, and recommended by our clients – so that you don’t have to start from scratch. How great is that?

One of our partners does an exceptional job with Marketing Training for your brand managers and directors. Programs are either public, or in-house.

Download this one-pager: Marketing Training Overview, and let us know how we can be of assistance!


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The Yardstick

I was having a conversation last week with one of my contacts in a life sciences company, who was lamenting the fact that not only do unrealistic questions get asked about ROI regarding digital/social media strategies, but that there seems to be a dearth of any holistic way of tracking effectiveness for ALL marketing efforts.

Do we REALLY have a clue about the financial value and return our various marketing initiatives, across all channels? Is there an effective way to benchmark marketing ROI across all channels?

From what I’m seeing, very few companies are taking a holistic view of marketing strategy/effectiveness across multiple channels; most still seem to be stuck in the inertia of looking only at silos, and only at short-term results.

So – if you know of a company that is really making progress in this area (life sciences or not) – can you share in the comments how this is getting done? I’m not looking for answers like, “we backed up a dump truck with all the gold in Fort Knox to the front door of a big global consulting firm and they re-engineered us!” I’m looking for tangible solutions, and/or groundbreaking examples.

What are you seeing? Please stuff the comments with ideas, suggestions, helpful links…thanks!


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We’ve had a good number of new on-line initiatives launching in pharma-world lately, which is a welcome development. A new kid on the block is PharmaFaceoff, a joint venture of Pharmaceutical Executive magazine and Concentric Pharma Advertising.

I took a look at the initial video – here are some first impressions:

The format is a high-quality video, featuring a moderator and several panelists, purportedly having a face-off about some relevant topic. The interface is clean, straightforward, and social-friendly. User comments are enabled. Immediate visual/user experience: positive.

Video production: nice. High-quality, hosted on Vimeo, multiple camera angles used. Panelist setup is clean and uncluttered. Perhaps not ready for a CNN newscast, but certainly many steps above an amateur YouTube production.

Bottom line: I like the idea very much. As for the initial session (which is really more of a discussion than a true faceoff), between Bruce Grant (Digitas), Jennifer Colapietro (PWC), and Michael Sanzen (Concentric) – well, it was fairly basic, and overloaded a bit with agency-speak. I’d call this first one PharmaFacetime for agency folks. Plus, the moderator, Barbara Ryan (Deutsche Bank) seemed tentative in her role. But, this is a new venture and you have to expect a shakedown period.

The approach has great potential, and kudos to PharmaExec for taking it on. A wider variety of speakers with truly differing viewpoints will be needed to make this a “sticky” destination, but let’s face it – video is where it’s at for on-line communications, and this is a great way to hash out some issues and gain needed exposure. I think there needs to be some clarity as to target audience (general public? pharma marketers?), and a clear commitment needs to be made either to nicely-controlled civilized discussions or genuine opinionated debate with a few flying sparks lighting things up. So we’ll see how it evolves. But overall, thumbs up for a creative inaugural flight!


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Amgen finally gets approval for Prolia – After months of delay, Amgen finally won FDA approval for Prolia, an injectable treatment for postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who are at high risk for fractures. The endorsement is a big boost for the biotech, which has been counting on Prolia to reverse a series of setbacks over the past few years, notably a decline in sales of some of its largest-selling products, Aranesp and Enbrelmore

Encouraging early-early-early result? Sure. Overly optimistic headline? Of course. New vaccine “could eliminate breast cancer.” Sally Church gives us some good cautionary words about over-hyping such results.

Biogen sues multiple rivals over MS drug – seeks royalties. I’m sure the lawyers, at least, are happy about this development.


Territory Management Training. We’ve got the vendor/partners you need for this – contact us (stevew at impactiviti dot com, or phone at 973-947-7429) for recommendations.


Sales and Account Manager, Training Agency serving Life Sciences (Massachusetts), experience required. From the Impactiviti Job Board.


Looking Forward to the SPBT Conference – here’s what I’ll be doing, and the workshops that look appealing. Will I see you there? Download my digital business card (see linked post) and let’s get together in Orlando! (SPBT = Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers)


16 Thin Buildings. Actually, I’d prefer to see one thinner consultant, in the mirror. Sigh.


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