Better-Faster-Cheaper: The New Normal

Four operating principles of the new sharing economy

Two out of three ain’t bad.” That’s what we have always been told. But if my experience with new economy companies is any indication, that’s old school thinking. Companies like Airbnb, Uber, WeWork and Task Rabbit are better, faster and cheaper. Here are four operating principles that drive this triple threat business model.

1.  Investing in Customers-WeWork: Extrovertic recently shed our 5,000 square foot space and moved into WeWork Soho West. WeWork continually invests in its customer success by publicizing member businesses, teaching critical entrepreneurial skills and negotiating reduced rates for fundamental services.

WeWork Labs

For extrovertic, this community opens up a wealth of talent pool from the emerging health technology and communication companies.  For example, there are 19 video producers in our location alone.  And I bet they do it better-faster-cheaper than traditional sources.

2.  Continual Improvement-Task Rabbit: I hired a Task Rabbit in February to replicate my grandmother’s recipe box for my two cousins. As someone who was asked by her mother not to show her younger sister how to cut and paste, I knew the job was beyond my skillset.

The Task Rabbit procurement process was a little involved, but worth it. Fast forward a couple of months, Task Rabbit has completely changed their business model based on the extensive data they have collected on their Task Rabbits and clients. Task Rabbit simplified both the pricing and hiring process. Lesson: for businesses wanting to offer better-cheaper-faster, there is no set-it-and-forget-it mode.

3.  Mutual accountability-Airbnb: A key factor in Airbnb’s success is because it is designed to provide excellent experiences for both the host and guest. And as countless business studies will tell you, happy employees result in happy customers.

At Airbnb, the hosts and guests rate each other so responsible behavior is reinforced on both sides. If a guest complains or mentions an issue, hosts are empowered to tell their side of the story, apologize or in some instances refute the claim. Moral of the story, if you want better employees, give them a voice.  

4.  Mobile from Day OneUber: One of the best things about Uber is its mobile interface. It is so easy to order and pay for a car. Even my 88-year old mother ubers everywhere.  Design experts will tell you that you get a different result if the design process moves mobile to desktop. It is easier to improve and enlarge than edit and shrink (a progressive enhancement versus graceful degradation issue of sorts). And one-third of mobile web users indicate that they go online mostly using their phones. Lesson: mobile has to be the starting point.

Using companies like Uber, Airbnb, WeWorks and Task Rabbit saves money. Extrovertic is a big Uber fan. However, the larger lesson is to alter your business model to provide the triple threat benefits: better-faster-cheaper. The more customers experience to better-faster-cheaper from the Ubers of the world, the more they will expect it from all businesses. And healthcare will be no exception.

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“Orange is the new Black”: what prisoners and patients have in common

While binge watching the second season of Orange is the new Black I was reminded of an important parallel between patients and prisoners. Both are victims of a “3rd party decider economy” where “the person selecting a product or service is not the person who will actually use it.”


In a New York Times article entitled, “Orange Is the New Green,” Adam Davidson, wrote about the plot line where poor Piper waits weeks to get her shower sandals from the prison commissary. In an economically rational world, prison commissaries would try to maximize sales to inmates and minimize out-of-stocks.

After extensive real life research, Davidson concluded that the prison system wasn’t focused on meeting the prisoner’s needs, but rather the prison’s needs. And it was this emphasis on the 3rd party rather than the end user that was thwarting rational economic behavior.

To a large extent, the US health care system has been designed to meet the needs of HCPs rather than patients. Pharmaceutical marketing perpetuates this 3rd party decider distortion by allocating the bulk of marketing budgets to HCPs rather than patients. According to the 2014 MM&M/Ogilvy Healthcare Marketers trend report, pharmaceutical marketers spend over 50% of their budget on physician marketing. This is on par with last years report. Despite all the patient centric talk, spending has not changed.

Like prison commissaries with out-of-stock situations, allocating more money to HCP marketing is not rational economic behavior. There is significant evidence that HCPs’ sway over prescribing decisions is waning. Patients and Payers are increasingly calling the shots. But old habits die hard. Most of pharmaceutical decision makers today have built successful careers on face-to-face selling to HCPs. It is hard to divert budget from a technique that has delivered so faithfully for so many years.

Perhaps the upcoming 2015 planning season will take on this HCP market distortion. The US health care system is slowly being reoriented around patient needs. For example, the government is driving more patient focus with the Affordable Care Act and the FDA has initiated hearings on patient focused drug development.

Pharmaceutical marketers could redesign the 2015 planning process around patient needs. For example, why not use the patient journey to guide investment across all customer groups, not just patients? What are the HCP initiatives that have the most impact on patients? Invest in those! Think of the 2015 planning process as a binge session on the needs of patients, a productive binge session you don’t even have to feel guilty about.

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3 steps towards multicultural marketing

Amping up the spend on multicultural marketing is a no brainer given the expected flood of multicultural consumers into the health care market. However despite the rational arguments for investing in multicultural consumers, my fellow attendees at the recent Multicultural Health National conference in Washington D.C. felt selling multicultural investment in a pharmaceutical company is still an uphill battle.

The data supporting the business building opportunity of multicultural marketing keeps getting stronger. However, the funding for multicultural marketing programs within Pharma still seems to be managed according to the LIFO accounting principal, last to be funded, first to be cut. This has to change.

It is estimated that over 40% of the 33 million newly insured Americans by the health care exchanges will be multicultural consumers. Additionally, there are a multitude of ACA initiatives aimed at the different health care stakeholders designed to better serve the multicultural consumer including:

  • Patient Surveys: There are Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys specifically designed to assess the cultural competency of providers. It now matters that consumers feel respected and actually understand what the HCP is telling them. Materials in multiple languages will no longer be a “nice to have.” Your payer and HCP customers will demand them.
  • Multicultural HCPS: ACA expands initiatives to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the health-care profession. Companies will need to have plans for communicating to an increasingly diverse HCP universe.
  • Government Offices:  ACA elevates key multicultural health organizations within important governmental offices such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That means these multicultural organizations have more power to put policies in place that effect drug coverage and marketing.

As the marketplace shifts to better serving multicultural consumers, so should pharmaceutical marketing departments. Here are three ideas on how to get started:

  • Consider reviewing the CAHPS cultural competency questionnaire and brainstorm how your product and service offerings can benefit the patient experience.
  • Partner with an institution to help them raise the cultural competency of their staff. For example, The Cleveland clinic has a multi-faceted approach to building cultural competency from physician education to forging ties to the community.
  • And last, but not least, protect your multicultural investment. How about a new accounting principle? FILO anybody? First In, Last Out.
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Scrap the core vis-aid, it’s a patient-payer world

This is the twelfth and final blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

There’s a strong patient and payer bent to the topics I chose for this blog series. That’s because I believe we are coming to the end of physician marketing, as we know it.

From now on, it’s going to be a patient-payer world.

There will of course be communication to physicians. But rather than providing 20 glossy pages parsing minute differences between drugs, I believe promotional efforts will increasingly revolve around improving the patient experience, outcomes and costs. And payers, not physicians, will be the primary arbiters of what constitutes acceptable results at a good price.

In the future state, there will be virtually no “work around” solutions for products that don’t have a real value story.

And I am not alone in my views. At a Marcus Evans conference I attended,

Kurt Graves, CEO Intarcia, said the decision to launch a product now comes down to one question, “Is there enough value in this product for payers to pay for it.”

Physician marketing will also have to change, according to Steven Pal, Corporate Vice President, Global Strategic Marketing at Allergan. In his Marcus Evans talk, gone says Pal, are the days of the large mass-market field force. Instead, companies need to deploy, “smaller, more agile sales forces that are more attuned to customer needs.”

Patients will be at the forefront of any value equation in the future. In fact, according to Ben Haywood, co-founder of PatientsLikeMe, it will be patient value that defines market value, His company is helping industry incorporate relevant patient reported outcomes (PRO’s) into their drug development efforts.

Patients are finally getting the information they need to assess the price/value equation for the healthcare services they consume.  The Health and Human Services Secretary release of the irrationally variable costs for common in-hospital procedures was a first good step. Across the country, the public’s eyes have been opened to the need to price shop, given the wide variability, even within the same city.

And quality of services, long held to be outside the ability of most patients to evaluate, is more readily available and digestible. For example, in Minnesota, patients can compare how individual clinics fare in helping patients meet their diabetes management goals.

Pharmaceutical marketing in the future will need a radically different game plan, one that is decidedly patient and payer oriented. Healthcare is evolving as we speak. Substantial change will happen regardless of how the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” is implemented. The outsized and often irrational costs of our current system have brought us to the place where the status quo is no longer possible.

As the popular saying goes, “People don’t change when they see the light, they change when they feel the heat.”   Pharmaceutical marketers are now feeling the heat with shrinking budgets and sales forecasts. My intention with this blog series is to provide a little “light at the end of the tunnel” by demonstrating how others have addressed similar problems. Extro-analogs aren’t brain surgery. All you have to do is use the 3 e’s:

  • explore industries beyond pharmaceuticals
  • extrapolate the core idea, eliminating the excuse of regulatory limitations
  • export the idea in a “pharma-safe” way into your marketing

I hope this blog series is helpful in sparking some new ideas and thinking. Let me know! Love to hear your comments. 

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R&D: 4 lessons in change from inside the R&D organization

This is the eleventh blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Change in Pharma is possible.

To become a believer, you only need to explore what is happening in R&D organizations across the country. After the lost decade of drug development where too much money was chasing too few good opportunities, big pharma R&D has shaken up drug development. Gone are the large evergreen budgets. Gone is the stovepipe R&D organization that operated independently of any commercial considerations.

In May of this year, I attended Convergence East, the Life Sciences Leaders Forum held on in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where, extrovertic, was a sponsor. A good portion of the attendees were from the big pharma R&D organizations, including Astra Zeneca, J&J, Millenium and Sanofi to name a few.

Big pharma R&D is using four key strategies to bolster their R&D productivity:

  1. Looking outside for solutions: No more navel gazing for pharma R&D. When asked about what percentage of their drug development efforts were external versus internal, the answer ranged from 30-50%.  To paraphrase a representative from Shire R&D, “the NIH mentality is not going to cut it anymore, too much money and personnel.”
    • This external focus also involves importing leadership that infuses a more entrepreneurial spirit into their organization. For example, Sanofi has hired  biotech executives like Katherine Bowdish, Vice President, R&D on board. Prior to Sanofi, Ms. Bowdish worked at companies like Permeaon Biologics and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, successful biotech companies.
  2. Convening diverse perspectives. J&J has set up four innovation centers around the world designed to create relationships in integrated communities of academics, research institutions, early stage biotechs, venture capital and entrepreneurs. The remit of these innovation centers spans J&J’s three business units: pharmaceutical, consumer and devices. The goal is for J&J to become the partner of choice when there is an opportunity to be commercialized.
  3. Investing further upstream: Sanofi is investing in early stage high-risk opportunities that can use Sanofi assets in the process. One of Sanofi’s earliest success stories their partnership with a prominent Harvard professor, Dr. Gregory Verdine, to create Warpdrive bio. Warpdrivebio has a proprietary “genomic search engine” to identify “powerful drugs that are now hidden within microbes.”
  4. Customer focused development: Drug development is no longer a purely academic exercise. For example, to better focus its R&D investments, Cubist takes their scientists into operating rooms with their surgeon customers. Deborah Dunsire, CEO Millennium, spoke about innovation as beginning with the patient; about reverse engineering what is wrong with the patient, focusing on the patient’s unmet medical need and determining what solution would make the biggest impact on the patient’s life?

The same laser focus on innovation must make its way to the commercial side of the business. Change in the commercial model needs to occur everywhere—from reorienting the rabid focus on the physician at the expense of payer and patient marketing to creating new definitions of a pharmaceutical “product” offering. Think about patient marketing, do we really need more branded commercials running on the evening news?

The core idea to extrapolate from these R&D reorganizations is to turn to outside institutions, experts and customers to provide a fresh perspective on your business challenges So here are a few thought starters about how to export these R&D strategies and pump more innovation into the commercial model.

  1. Start from the patient. What are the upcoming changes in how patients consume media, search for healthcare information, pay for healthcare and use healthcare products and services? Once you have a “vision of the future state,” you can start to think about potential solutions.
  2. Gather a group of innovative thinkers from outside of Pharma and let them take a whack at some of your biggest issues. Convening thinkers from various disciplines is a time honored innovation strategy. In fact, I have been invited to participate in an effort to develop new approaches for eradicating polio by a multinational non-profit health organization. This organization is bringing together a group of thinkers from a variety of disciplines and industries to provide a fresh perspective on an intractable health care problem.  
  3. Create a portfolio of early opportunities. Allocate a portion of the annual budget to new and evolving technologies. Traditionally, pharma innovation centers tend to have little budget and authority. This has got to stop. Top management has to be actively involved with the change agenda. I have seen too many smart marketers spin their wheels in these innovation centers. Without top management active involvement, innovation just doesn’t happen.

Check back on Tuesday for the twelfth and final post in the twelve part series, “Scrap the core vis-aid, it’s a payer-patient world.” This final post coalesces the arguments for change in the face of health care reform and changing customer expectations.

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5 lessons in reinvention from Encyclopedia Britannica

This is the tenth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

It’s time to throw the book at the pharma business model.

Actually, not one book, but an entire 32-volume set of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Exploring how Encyclopedia Britannica blew up a 244 year-old business model sparked some ideas about potential life-saving changes to the pharmaceutical industry. In an article entitled, “Encyclopaedia Britannica’s President on Killing Off a 244-year-old product,” Jorge Cauz, the CEO of Encyclopedia Britannica, tells the tale of how the company evolved from a reference product business into a “full-fledged learning business.”

Reading this article, it struck me that many of the key components of their transition had relevance to the type of reinvention required in the pharma industry. Here are a few of the pertinent concepts worth extrapolating from the Encyclopedia Britannica transformation:

  1. Moving to a digital product. Encyclopedia Britannica announced in 2012 that they would no longer offer the printed version of Encyclopedia Britannica. What Encyclopedia Britannica offers now is a complete online suite of educational support products as well as an online store of DVDs, books, online reference books and software. 
    • Encyclopedia Britannica’s drive to digital was prompted by changing customer preferences. They found that  “families became busier and had less patience for doorstep solicitations.”  Customer’s expectations had also risen regarding the quantity and real-time updates. So Encyclopedia Britannica changed their “editorial metabolism,” to enable updated content several times an hour rather than several times a month.
  2. Shifting focus to a different customer group. Over time, Encyclopaedia Britannica’s core customer group evolved from individual consumers to school systems. Now approximately 85% of their revenues come from online curriculum products.
  3. Switching to a new sales channel: Encyclopaedia Britannica’s most painful transformation was to eliminate the 2,000 person sales force. Instead, Encyclopaedia Britannica employs direct marketing as well as a smaller field force targeting the school administrator market.
  4. Bringing in new skill sets.  As Encyclopaedia Britannica went digital, they found new skill sets were required. They needed a different editorial staff that could convey information using multimedia and interactivity. Encyclopaedia Britannica also required “curriculum specialists for every key department of the company: editorial, product development, and marketing.”
  5. Continuing evolution.  Encyclopaedia Britannica did not stumble upon their magic business formula out of the gate. Encyclopaedia Britannica tried CD-Roms, an online version of Encyclopaedia Britannica, selling subscriptions, free ad-supported consumer encyclopedias and a learning portal before developing their online education business.

So how do we export Encyclopaedia Britannica’s transformation to guide pharma’s increasingly urgent need to reinvent itself? Here are some thought starters:

  1. Recalibrate your customer investment portfolio. Just as your personal financial portfolio needs periodic recalibration to compensate for changing market conditions, so does your promotional portfolio. Calculate or estimate what percentage of your brand’s business is really driven by institutions such as payers and hospital groups versus individual physicians. Are you truly matching your investments to opportunities?
  2. Evaluate your sales channels. If your customer focus is shifting, shouldn’t your sales channels change too? There is no question that pharma has reduced the size of the field forces it employs. The real question for me is whether the industry has been aggressive enough in embracing multi-channel marketing. 
  3. Double your digital. According to a study by Publicis/Razorfish Healthcare, 35% of HCPs feel sales reps should use iPads. Isn’t it time to break the print habit? Develop a strategy to help motivate your marketers and sales people to increase their digital adoption curve!
  4. Assess your workforce. Seems to me that the evolution of pharma into a more patient focused business would require an infusion of new abilities. For example, adding customer service and compliance experts to your staffing model.
  5. Allocate a sacrosanct budget for innovation. Here is where I believe pharma marketing and sales have really missed the boat. In most marketing departments, there is little focus on keeping up to date with customer preferences and technological advances. A more structured approach needs to be taken to a) figuring out what are the most promising communication and service innovations and b) identifying appropriate pilots. 

Check back on Thursday for the eleventh post in the twelve part series, “ 4 lessons in change from inside the R&D organization.” In this post, I explore how the ways R&D organizations are reinventing themselves provides a model for commercial reinvention.

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3 ways to take your marketing to the street

Learning from the retail health movement

This is the ninth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Sometimes all you have to do to come up with an innovative idea is to watch what your customers are doing. And increasingly, payers and hospitals are hitting the streets to both sell and deliver services.  Consider the following examples:

  • Western Maryland Health Systems is a hospital system whose goal is to try to keep patients out of the hospital. According to a New York Times article, the hospital has “opened a diabetes clinic, a wound center and a behavioral health clinic all outside the hospital walls. They have hired people to go out into the community for follow up with discharged older, sicker patients. Primary care practices have been added in some neighborhoods.” All of these outside adventures are driving down costs and improving the quality of care.
  • Major payers are experimenting with retail. United Healthcare has sold Medicare plans through “pop-up” retail stores, and at retail community centers. Aetna has a presence in Costco stores. And Florida Blue has 11 retail stores “where people can shop for coverage, ask a question about a claim or see a nurse to check their blood pressure.”
  • Retail drug stores are expanding into medical care at a rapid pace. CVS plans to have 1,000 MinuteClinics by 2016. Duane Reade has doctors practicing out of their New York City Stores. According to a 2009 study by the Rand Corporation, retail clinics are able to offer equivalent care at costs of up to 30% less for three common conditions when compared to physician offices, urgent care centers and emergency departments.

The core idea behind these innovations is enabling easier access to products and services. But with any innovation, risk is involved. It is certainly more secure to offer health services in a hospital prepared for any unlikely emergency. Economic bravery is also involved in renting out space additional space when the current physical space could be more easily utilized. But payers and hospital systems have taken the leap to make their services more convenient to their customers.

What can pharmaceutical marketers do to make their products, services and information more readily available to patients and caregivers? Here are some thought starters for exporting your marketing to the street:

  1. Explore partnership opportunities with health care retailers. Can you partner with a payer to offer services or information in their retail outposts? For example, partnering with Florida Blue on a smoking cessation or diabetes care initiative? Could you offer a “white-labeled” version of your compliance program with an in-person component at MinuteClinic?
  2. Create your own  “pop-up” presence. Using the store within a store concept, could you raise awareness about the need vaccinate against HPV in retailers that cater to teens and 20-somethings? Many stores such as the Lush cosmetic stores have a social activism bent that would lend itself to health promotion. Or if your business has a seasonal aspect to it, you could take over a storefront for a limited time on your own.
  3. Partner with a relevant advocacy group on a retail presence. While visiting the United Kingdom, I was struck by the number of advocacy groups with retail presences, primarily thrift shops such as Arthritis Research UK Shops that dot the English countryside. There is even a Charity Retail Association.  There is so much more than fundraising that can be done in a retail space.

Certainly, some risks would be involved in taking pharmaceutical marketing to the street. Traditional delivery of messaging (print, video, audio etc), is highly controlled. In-person messaging certainly has the potential for more variation. But relating in person has the benefit of more immediacy and convenience for the patient. And making the trade-off to the benefit of the patient is what patient focused marketing is all about.

Check back on Tuesday for the tenth post in the twelve part series5 lessons in reinvention from Encyclopedia Britannica. In this post I explore how the approach this 244-year old company used to transform into a digital educational giant can be applied to shake-up the pharma business model.

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How to write health care copy that people will actually read

Learning from the halls of journalism

This is the seventh blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Ever wonder why a patient pamphlet doesn’t grab you like the first sentence of a New Yorker health care article? I believe that it boils down to intent. Pharma copy is written from the point of view of “I have important information I need to tell you.”  Journalistic copy starts from the premise of “I need to capture your attention.” 

The goal of a news story is to get eyeballs on words. The goal of a pharma pamphlet is to impart information that the patient may or may not really want to read. Or in the worst case, just fill the legal obligation to provide the information.

I wanted to explore what would happen if by taking more journalistic approach to developing patient education copy. So I gave a journalist friend of mine some pharma copy. In this case, the copy concerned addressing people’s thoughtless comments. I was curious to see the differences in how it would be written, particularly the opening sentences. Even after removing the expletives, you can see how much more engaging the copy written by a journalist is.

And the difference goes beyond the first sentence. Below I have taken a common journalistic framework—Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? — and used it to extrapolate the differences between marketing and journalism.

The journalistic model of copy writing requires a significant shift. At the end of the day, it is about holding your information to a higher standard—patient engagement. Or as Tony Rogers in his Guide to journalism says, “So when making the rounds of your beat, always ask yourself, “How will this affect my readers? Will they care? Should they care?” If the answer is no, chances are the story’s not worth your time.”


The key concept to extrapolate here is the need to interest and entertain your reader. So here are a couple thought-starters on how to export this idea to development of pharmaceutical information, particularly in the patient space.

  1. Define for your agency “what good looks like.” Gather a few examples of how your product and/or disease state has been covered in the popular and not so popular press. I am riveted by anything that Jerome Groopman writes. Look for good examples of science made accessible. Look for health care storylines that grab people. Compare that to your copy.
  2. Evaluate what is most/least compelling on your website. We have tended to discount “the click” in pharma. But “eyeballs on the page” is the metric used by online media evaluate the success of their endeavors and determine what gets covered in the future.
  3. Hire a freelance journalist to have a “whack” at your copy. Your procurement friends will love you as journalists are about half the cost of pharmaceutical copywriters. And many do a very good job at explaining difficult scientific concepts or MOA’s.

So take a look at your copy. Would you read it if you didn’t have to?

Check back next Tuesday for the eighth post in the twelve part series, “ How to Jay-Z DTC. In this post I explore Jay-Z’s three-part formula for grabbing attention to create more cost effective and impactful DTC campaigns.

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3 Ways to personalize your “non-personal promotion”

Learning from the B-to-B superstars

This is the sixth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Non-personal promotion. What a weird concept. As my extrovertic partner, Bill Fleming says, “In any other industry—the direct mail, digital marketing and telephonic selling—would just be called marketing.” The term “non-personal promotion” is an artifact of the pharmaceutical industry’s insular focus on the sales force model. If anything, most other industries involved in business-to- business (B-to-B) marketing are focused on making every contact, no matter what the channel, more personal.

Here are three good examples from the all-stars of B-to-B marketing worth exploring:

1. IBM – Using social media to personalize telesales. According to an article in, when telemarketing and email were failing to produce results, IBM got personal. IBM knew that the IT decision makers they targeted were active on social media. IBM’s studies showed that the IT decision makers they were after were likely to use social media as a part of their purchasing decision making in the future.

So IBM created social media profiles for a small team of inside sales representatives on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. To make it seamless for the reps, IBM created a robust content calendar available via an RSS feed. IBM also provided hash tags specific to their verticals such as #informationsecurity, so the reps could listen to relevant online conversations.

The results? IBM has over 50,000 LinkedIn connections (up from 535 in the beginning of the test), over 20 major sales wins and has experienced a quicker uptake of their promotional offers. Check out Stuart Michie’s YouTube video for a good example of how to talk about a representative’s expertise.

2. Cisco – Video takes center stage. Again, customer understanding formed the basis of their strategy. According to an article on, Cisco’s research found that 96% of IT decision makers and tech buyers watch videos for business. And most importantly, 84% either forward, share or post tech-related videos. So Cisco started creating videos, over 1,000 new videos a year.

And Cisco uses a disciplined process of creating videos for each step of the sales funnel: thought leadership videos to build awareness, case studies for customers in the consideration phase, video data sheets to aid in the design phase and training videos for the post-sale phase. This customization is yet another way to personalize non-personal promotion.

Too expensive? Think again. You don’t need the production values of a DTC commercial or a MOA video. According to Cisco’s Leslie Drate,“it doesn’t really matter how much we spend on producing the video. The results for what we spend $100,000 on could be similar to what we spend $1,000 on. It just has a lot to do with content and audience.”

3. CenturyLink – Understanding your customer’s self-conception. Consider how CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) tapped into its customer mindset with their Ultimate Problem Solver campaign. According to a post on the CEB Marketing Leadership site, the key insight driving this campaign was that CenturyLink’s buyers saw themselves as professional problem solvers. So CenturyLink created an online game that let customers show their expertise with lots of difficult problems to solve. By aligning the company with their buyers’ self-conception, the game helps humanize and make the company seem closer to their buyers.

The key concepts to extrapolate from these B-to-B all-stars is to understand your customers and embrace the technology they use to market to them. So here are a couple of thought-starters on how to export the best of B-to-B marketing to payer and provider marketing:

  1. Try a social media pilot program. Provide either a telesales rep or payer national accounts manager with a Facebook page. Levels of access to information can easily be controlled. Content could include interesting stories related to your therapeutic area, patient support material or journal articles. According to a QuantiaMD study cited in Ragan’s Healthcare Communication News, over 65% of physicians use social sites for professional purposes.
  2. Get into the video business. Evaluate all your printed materials and determine what makes sense as a video. Distribute the video widely, especially on YouTube. The Google algorithm favors social media such as YouTube and Facebook over other online media properties.
  3. Know your customers on a deeper level. How do your payer customers see themselves in the new health care environment? As crusaders against high costs? As protectors of the profit margin or as brining power to the patient? Wouldn’t their self-conception make a difference in the types of content you provide? 

Check back next Thursday for the seventh post in the twelve part series, “How to write health care copy that people will actually read.” In this post, I explore how to apply the journalistic approach to better engage patients in their health.

3 ways to supersize your patient KOL strategy Pepsi-style!

This is the fifth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Is a patient KOL strategy optional anymore?

One in five Internet users has gone online in search of others who might have health concerns similar to theirs, according to the Pew Internet Peer-to-peer Healthcare report. Yet, most healthcare brands consider understanding or engaging in patient conversations a “nice to have.”

As pharmaceutical portfolios move from blockbuster to specialty medications, patients become a more central driver of brand sales. Consider what the patient KOLs get accomplished in the orphan drug space. In addition to driving enrollment in clinical trials, testifying at drug approval hearings and lobbying for increased coverage, these superstar patients:

  • Generate significant media coverage – Tara Blocker raised awareness of congenital insensitivity to pain, generating coverage in the New York Times, “Good Morning America,” the “Today Show” and “Inside Edition.”

Given the wide-ranging impact these patient KOLs have on the disease and brand landscape, engaging them requires something different from traditional patient marketing.  So in exploring the possibilities, I landed on Pepsi’s arrangement with a superstar of a different sort, Beyoncé who inked a $50 million dollar deal with Pepsi. According the New York Times article, the deal is “a hybrid project … that will include standard advertising like commercials as well as a multimillion-dollar fund to support the singer’s chosen creative projects.”

Pepsi sees this deal as a “… shift in the way we think about deals with artists, (moving) from a transactional deal to a mutually beneficial collaboration,” according to Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group. In terms of an ROI, Pepsi is seeking “to enhance its reputation with consumers by acting as something of an artistic patron instead of simply paying for celebrity endorsements.” According to a statement from Beyoncé, the new deal allows her to “work with a lifestyle brand with no compromise and without sacrificing my creativity.”

To me, the parallels between the Pepsi’s approach and patient marketing are like “a brick to the forehead.” The key idea to export is using a patronage approach in supporting patient advocates. Here are a few thought starters on how to export this patronage approach to your patient KOL strategy:

  1. Understand the patient landscape. Pharmaceutical marketers invest significant time and money in understanding physician opinions. You can do the same for patients, and probably a lot less expensively.
  2. Share your expertise. With patients forming their own foundations and supporting individual research projects, many could use a primer on how to identify the most promising research opportunities. Others, trying to create disease awareness, could use some tips on talking to the media. These are both skill-sets that are strong in pharmaceutical companies and would be a good basis on which to build relationships with key advocacy organizations.
  3. Identify a safe pilot project. Try a “ no-strings attached” unbranded project. Figure out an area of mutual interest, such as increasing the level of understanding of the basic science underpinning a disease state.

For bio-pharma, the rewards of this new “patronage” model seem even greater than in the consumer package good arena. Despite her enormous talent, Beyoncé can’t actually put a can of Pepsi on the grocery store shelf. But patient advocates increasingly can help get a product on the pharmacy shelf and gain the insurance coverage required to move it out to the patient.

Check back next Tuesday for the sixth post in the twelve part series, 3 Ways to personalize your “non-personal promotion. In this post I explore how the B-to-B superstars like IBM have updated their customer outreach efforts to spur business growth.

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