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by Dr. Cedric Nazareth

Much is written on the art of success, but it would be ridiculous to suggest any simple recipe for success in pharmaceutical marketing. A pharma marketeer is undoubtedly aware of the general factors for success and little needs to be added to an already large body of advice. However, the pressures of day-to-day management may frequently upset the priorities of a busy manager, and it may therefore be worthwhile to place the key factors in perspective.

5 key factors for success in pharma marketing are :

1. Strategy

A clearly defined strategy should undoubtedly be our starting point. Look at your company/product(s) vis-a-vis the market, and get answers to these questions : Where are we now? Where do we want to be 1 / 3 / 5 years from now? How do we get there? Make your strategy statement clear but brief. Clarity will not only help you, but it will also facilitate better understanding by others in your organization as well.

2. Focus

Too often, valuable resources, including human resources, are expended on activities which are unproductive because we have momentarily lost sight of the objective which, in fact, should be our constant preoccupation. Perhaps the most expensive example of an activity becoming unproductive - indeed wasteful - is the "routine" calling on customers by pharmaceutical field staff. "Routine" visits become an end in themselves, rather than a means to an end. But field staff are by no means alone in this loss of focus. In fact, a sluggish hierarchy may must surely share the blame!

In communication, ensure that your message makes the best possible impact. Resist the temptation to add less relevant points to the main message. Remember - focus!

3. Sales Promotion

Having set specific and rational objectives, identify the main thrust areas that can help achieve the objectives. These may involve emphasis on specific products or geographic regions. Generally speaking, it would be a good idea to concentrate on products in high growth segments. As per the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) model, you may like to throw your weight behind the "stars" and "question marks".

The need to build strong brands is as crucial in pharmaceutical marketing as elsewhere. In the highly competitive marketplace of today, innovation and creativity are needed more than ever before. When preparing the promotional plan, ask yourself repeatedly : What's so great about my plan? Is it better than that of my competitor(s)?

4. Human Resources Development

Pharmaceutical marketing involves a large marketing team, including several hundred field staff, often described as the company's "ambassadors" in the field. These ambassadors need to be highly motivated and well trained. They are responsible for implementation of the company's promotional plan, and ultimately it is what they say to the customer that really matters - not what the original promotional message was intended to be. A "simply fantastic" promotional idea can be brought to nought by poorly trained ambassadors. "Ongoing", rather than "on-off" training, involving both product knowledge and selling skills is more likely to be productive.

5. Controls

When that "simply fantastic" promotional idea does not produce the expected results, what do you conclude - The idea itself was no good? Implementation of strategy was poor? You may never know - unless of course, all activities are closely monitored. A system of appropriate reports, checks and controls must be in place. Weak staff must be identified and corrected.

In general, a high level of administrative efficiency is necessary. Greater work efficiency.leads to better sales productivity. All departments in the organization must play their roles in working together as an efficient organization. The company must, at least, be marketing-driven (driven by the marketing department). Better still, it should be market-driven (driven by market needs). Or best of all, it can be market-driving (driving the the market by creating needs). Make your choice!

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