A case for marketing orientation
If companies are to have a long term perspective, it is essential that marketing and strategic thinking are given their due, writes Uday Arur
IN the pharmaceutical industry, job descriptions of people in the line function are fairly clearly defined, and their significance understood: The medical representative’s job is to execute the marketing strategy with the customers at ground level. Responsibilities of the tiers of line managers are to guide, counsel and oversee this activity with various levels and degrees of direct interface and field involvement with the representative and the customers – depending on their position in the line hierarchy.
However, when it comes to the marketing management function, the job content and their significance appears to be far less understood. The popular impression of this function is that it is the department which prepares ‘literature’, studies ORG/ IMS figures, does the training and buys gifts – all generally believed to be inputs adding little or no value to the business of sales generation. But would this current emphasis on the tactical side of the business of generating sales, work for organisations in time to come? With the new patent regime around the corner, it is important that organisations have a relook at this function with a view to evaluate its significance in the new scheme of things. One of the outcomes of the ignorance as to the true functions of marketing management is that the marketing/ product manager is at a loss to figure out what exactly are the skill sets required to be successful. And if one were to really think about it, the required competencies are as varied as they are complex.
A look at figure 1 gives an idea of the kind of competencies required. Let us see what these consist of.
This skill calls for knowledge of, and research into truly diverse areas of the business:
Customer analysis: Segments, motivations, unmet needs
Competitor analysis: Identity, performance, image, objectives, strategies, culture, cost structure, strengths, weaknesses.
Market Analysis: Size, projected growth, entry barriers, cost structure, distribution system, trends, key success factors. – Environmental Analysis: Technological, governmental, economic, cultural, demographic scenarios, information need areas.
Performance Analysis: Profitability, sales, value analysis, customer satisfaction. Product quality, brand associations, new products, sales force attitude and performance, product portfolio analysis.
Determinants of strategic options: Past and current strategies, strategic problems, organisational capabilities and constraints, financial resources and constraints, strengths, weaknesses.
The marketing manager is required to sell his ideas and strategies to both the internal and external customer. This calls for a high level of persuasive and psychological skills in areas of:
Internal and sales force communications: Up line communication to sell his superiors, as well as peers in his own and other departments, his strategies and down line communications to the sales force to convince them of the relevance of his strategies.
Distributor communications: To explain to them the company’s schemes in the most innovative manner
– Presentation skills: To convey to the sales force his strategies at briefing sessions.
– Technical communication: This is the science and art of being able to communicate medical and scientific knowledge in the most interesting and simple manner at training programmes.
Creative and language skills
There are many aspects to creativity, but one definition would include the ability to take existing objects and combine them in different ways for new purposes. For example, Gutenberg took the wine press and the die/ punch and produced a printing press. Thus, a simple definition of creativity is the action of combining previously uncombined elements. From art, music and invention to household chores, this is part of the nature of being creative. Another way of looking at creativity is as playing with the way things are interrelated.
Creativity is the ability to generate novel and useful ideas and solutions to everyday problems and challenges. Thus, being creative is seeing the same thing as everybody else but thinking of something different. This is a critical skill in differentiating one’s product from competitors, and of special relevance in the current commoditised pharma market.
Language skills are called for in the preparation of doctor communication aids. By language skills one means the art of writing powerful copy to sell the product benefits. Here is what an ace copywriter has to say about this important activity:
‘‘The purpose of copywriting is not to impress the reader with our literary talents. It is to SELL. And as every successful salesman will tell you, before you can make a sale you first have to make a friend. No-one buys from a salesman they don’t trust. We can’t ‘warm’ to someone who bombards us with a stream of obvious sales blurb. And we certainly don’t feel comfortable with a person who thinks he is ‘superior’. Yet if you’re not careful your copy can create the same impression. So keep it reasonably friendly if you wish, and skillfully present your ‘sales pitch’ with the use of carefully crafted phrases. Copywriting should communicate and sell a message, with the least number of words. Your brochure should describe your product and explain how your company operates. But it should contain benefits, benefits and even more benefits. And your copy should be exciting and stimulating enough to motivate the reader into some form of response.’’
Making the doctor communication ‘exciting’, ‘stimulating’ and ‘motivating’ enough to evoke a positive customer response, is what language skills are all about.
It would be evident then, that the job of a marketing manager calls for a high degree of sophisticated skills.
The sales to marketing transition
One of the positive aspects of the pharma industry is that by and large, all inductions into the marketing department are from the line function. However-and this is unfortunate-very little is done by way of training the field person in the effective discharge of his new responsibilities. What needs to be understood is that the sales and marketing functions call for two entirely different sets of skills.
Basically, sales is about What to do (implementation/ physical activity) and How much (number of calls, number of visits, number of samples), whereas, marketing is about What is happening (quantitative and qualitative understanding of environment) and Why is it happening (qualitative insights) before arriving at What to do (strategies).
Ignorance of the value of the marketing function, along with the lack of knowledge of the skill sets required of the job together have led to lack of enthusiasm among the field staff to be promoted to this critical function, and if willing, they are soon frustrated by the little support and understanding they receive from the CEO.
Gearing for the future
With the new patent regime drawing close, pharma companies need to rework several old paradigms – one of them being the excessive emphasis on sales and tactics to achieve ambitious growth rates. While the desire for volumes is understandable, what is not are the means. If companies are to have a long term perspective, it is essential that marketing and strategic thinking are given their due.
As a current soft drink ad says it – ‘Have you done the due?’ If not, the ones refusing change could suffer the fate of the morning dew – once the sun of the new regime rises!
Uday Arur conducts workshops on ‘Creative Brand Communication’.