Four Strategies for Building Agility into Your Pharma Marketing Ecosystem

By John Lawrence

John Lawrence

Marketing ecosystems in pharma can be highly complex. They can be tightly regulated, involve multiple validated systems and require the participation of numerous internal departments, from engineering to legal to regulatory to marketing, each with different agendas. Multiple approval cycles and supply chain partners are needed to help deliver your products to market.

Added to these requirements is a rapidly accelerating marketplace exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is no wonder 30 per cent of pharma marketers and packaging professionals agree in a recent survey, the current and desired state of pharma marketing and branding, that getting products to market quickly is one of their greatest challenges.

Given this complexity, is your marketing ecosystem as agile as it could be?

Now more than ever pharma companies must be nimble when it comes to delivering both content and innovations. The challenges the pharma sector is facing today are fast becoming opportunities to streamline workflows, identify hidden capital that can be reinvested in growth activities and reengineer processes to align with consumers/patients in a changed world. Companies that are able to evolve operationally during this crisis will enjoy brand growth and ensure the resiliency of their marketing ecosystems. 

So, what are the keys to achieving agility in your marketing ecosystem? We have outlined four strategies below that pharma marketers can leverage to evolve your marketing ecosystem and drive innovation.

Rethink your customer journey

As consumers become more invested and proactive in their own health decisions and wellbeing, healthcare companies are no longer just selling business-to-business services. This means shifting your marketing approach from product-led advertising and communications to putting patients first. Building patient-centric brand experiences helps educate consumers on your products, often in advance of treatment, while establishing connections to your brands. Doing so requires an understanding of their emotions and building a level of empathy to create an authentic, human connection. 

Creating these connections can be achieved through journey mapping. Journey mapping helps identify and target your audience by building personas to match consumers with the right omnichannel experience. Understanding your consumers’ journeys helps to prioritize goals, identify opportunities to connect consumers to your products in unique ways and target consumers with more engaging content.

Once you have a better understanding of your consumers’ journeys, you can define a patient-centric content strategy. Governance across your strategy and execution of the strategy is essential. With proper governance, you will design the team tools that deliver an optimal consumer experience. Here, the pharma sector can take cues from best-in-class fast moving consumer goods companies to create:

  • A collaborative digital network
  • A streamlined approval process
  • An effective change-management plan

A collaborative digital network

Across your internal teams, you are likely to have a number of different systems that collect and store content data. These systems may have been purchased and implemented over time (and in isolation) by different groups for different reasons and implemented based on a specific feature – only the pieces do not fit with the puzzle anymore. Do not underestimate the loss of accuracy and productivity associated with this unnecessarily complex content and data fragmentation.

An audit of your tech stack can help to unravel some of this complexity. Analyzing the processes, challenges and regulations across your systems can help you gain 100 per cent visibility into the tools used by your internal teams, including what data they store and how they can potentially integrate with one another.

Once you have clear sightlines into each of these systems, you can begin to evaluate how they can be integrated to provide transparency across your marketing ecosystem. In addition, once integrated – both internally between departments and externally with your production partners – you will have a collaborative digital network through which data flows seamlessly and production is automated, significantly reducing errors.

A streamlined approval process

Speaking of reducing errors, approvals are an extremely important step in your content process because they help mitigate risks. However, an over-engineered approval process results in multiple checkpoints across numerous departments that can be time-consuming and grind even the most efficient production processes to a halt. Especially now, an overly-laborious approval process compromises the agility and transparency necessary to respond quickly to changing market conditions, which is why right-sizing your approval process is critical.

How do you right-size your approval process? Automation and validation are key. Automations allow your production team to flow validated data into your mechanical files without manual intervention. When manual touches are greatly reduced, you can safely remove human “crutches” and gain speed and agility.

We do understand that in the pharma sector, regulatory authorities are likely to have the largest impact on your timelines. While you cannot change regulators’ behaviors, you can help mitigate their impact by improving your internal processes and speed, so that when they say “go,” your marketing ecosystem is ready to respond rapidly.

Establish effective change management plans

As you look to build a collaborative digital network and streamline your approval processes, effective change management will also be important. Procurement has become an incredibly important agent of change for the pharma sector, improving an organization’s capacity to deliver results.

How can procurement, working in partnership with senior marketing stakeholders, achieve transformational change? With strategies to drive adoption of new practices, including:

  • Clear communication to all stakeholders
  • Strong sponsorship through a highly visible, highly engaged leader with influence
  • Aligned messaging across departments
  • Team preparation
  • Awareness-building of the changes and their benefits
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Resistance mitigation
  • Continuous improvements

Achieving agility and driving innovation is within the grasp of every pharma sector’s marketing ecosystem. By rethinking your consumers’ journeys, establishing a collaborative digital network, right-sizing your approval processes, and building effective change management plans, you can become agile without disrupting the validated, regulatory-driven environment you must work within.

As we face the challenges of the current pandemic, an agile marketing ecosystem will not only accelerate your time to market but will allow you to respond nimbly to any disruptions – both now and in the future.

About John Lawrence

John brings 17+ years of experience in brand marketing--both agency and brand side. Operating as a consultant for global, regional and national organizations, he provides Continuous Improvement (CI) projects from consultancy through to implementation across channels. As a member of the SGK Consulting Team, John has strategically led initiatives for some of the world’s most prominent brand owners to increase their speed-to-market, reduce costs in the marketing supply chain and better utilize their internal and external resources.