Over the last few years I’ve worked in and with Pharma marketers from the digital side, trying to preach and teach the virtues of digital channels. It has been a thankless task, with bucket loads of blood, sweat, and tears of frustration. I have used a number of different techniques, from talking about the revolution in big forums to small softly, softly “express yourself” type workshops (no, there were no incense sticks smoking away in the background to the sound of trickling water).
Once the adrenalin rush dies down after each event I try to analyze what impact this may have had.
To be fair, some glacially slow progress has been made as the median knowledge of the industry inches forward, but it has not been the tidal wave that some had predicted, or hoped for.
Should we be surprised?
Looking back to my earlier days as an eBusiness evangelist in the late 90’s, where a solid part of our strategic recommendations included “give your employees access to email”, we spent many a night conjuring projections with terms such as “dis-intermediation” and the likes floating about on post-its.
I recently took a fresh look at some of those crazy visionary presentations that we churned out, and guess what… many of them were right (Warren Buffet logic), but nearly all the timelines were wrong.
So what went wrong then, and is the same thing happening now?
My analysis is that nothing actually went wrong, it’s just that we all get a bit carried away with the media buzz out there, and forget that the majority of world is shackled with heaps of resistance to change. Some of that change is personal, some of it is corporate organizational, some legal etc. It simply takes a long time for these to all be aligned for things to happen (always longer than I want anyway).
But if you peer through the mist today you can see that there is progress, and that there is no going back. To believe that the current models will not change is simply not accepting the evidence of change that confronts the observer, taken the avalanche of factors currently impacting our industry. I’ve included a small table below from one of my presentations to underline some of these :
So if we all agree that the current model is broken, and that we need to be moving somewhere else why is progress still so slow?
I’ll get to that soon, but at this point I just want to reminisce on the humorous video that eyeforpharma did on the extinction of the Sales Rep last year.
The film served to stir emotions among some, with a certain amount of anger coming from the field, and a reserved smugness among the marketers as we all trundled off to the conference. Jump forward and the emotions are not quite the same as the marketers become more aware of the gaping holes in their own skill-sets and capabilities.
So is it the fault of the marketer after all?
There are many market research papers out there that suggest resistance to change and a reluctance to adopt digital tools as part of a multi-channel approach endure as a consequence of the usual culprits:
- Lack of senior management commitment
- Inadequate or incomplete strategy
- Lack of internal (and external) capabilities
- MLR resistance to risk or change
- Reluctance to reassign budget
- Elusive evidence of ROI
My opinion is that it is all of the above, but that perhaps we’ve not looked at this through the right prism. Think about it: are all the stakeholders related to the above issues only out to defeat the digital guys? I think not. Senior management is there to make educated decisions based on the evidence at hand. They are tasked to steer the ship safely, based on limited information and, to a lesser degree, gut feeling build on decades of experience.
Maybe we have not provided the tools (or maybe they still do not exist…. maybe) to truly read the constellation to allow the captain to steer the ship.
By this I mean we have been pretty weak at building the case for doing some of the stuff that we’re asking our stakeholders to adopt. Yes, in individual impact studies we can demonstrate that an eDetail, or a self-directed video, has a greater impact than none, but if we are honest with ourselves we’re only looking at part of the equation in an artificial configuration, and not even attempting to truly understand the influence and behavioral change attributed to different information coming from different channels.
To build traction and credibility we need to develop and demonstrate deep understanding of channel impact and attribution (including the sales force). There are lots of smart people working in this industry, and there are already pockets of excellence with the thinking going in the right direction.
We need to harness this as a lifestyle, living and breathing multiple channels. Knowing what each channel can bring to the table, within the specific environment of each “business case”, and how to mix effectively a selected number of them in a congruent manner. If we can do this effectively, using the left and right sides of our brain to talk to our fellow stakeholders, we will generate the interest and commitment we’ve been looking for.
The title of this post is “Why won’t those stupid marketers “do” digital?”
Now that you’ve read this far I would postulate a different, and more appropriate cut on this:
Stop pushing the virtues of digital. If you can demonstrate that channel X and Y , used together, will drive the best business and customer outcomes, your marketers will sit up, listen, then beg to know more! Push will become pull, and the marketers will finally skill themselves up with the tools of tomorrow.
In conclusion, we need to become masters of channel selection, capable of building quantified scenario’s based on desired outcomes and limited resources. And yes, that will take real investment, but senior management should acknowledge and invest accordingly.
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As usual I welcome any constructive criticism.
Time permitting I will be posting later this year on the topic of channel selection.