The wind of change is blowing through the pharmaceutical industry. The traditional approach to the market has been to focus on one customer, the HCPs (Health Care Professionals), and use the “Share of Voice” sales model to influence HCPs to prescribe more of a company’s products. Governments in the developed world are moving to a wellness agenda, this is potentially shifting the spending power towards the patient and away from HCPs.

As the influence of the HCP declines, the ‘Share of Voice’ model is also taking a beating. This is accentuated by the rise of new customer groups like:

  • Payers: Healthcare budgets, owned by payers such as Governments or Insurance companies, are increasingly being constrained with proof now being required in terms of the efficacy of treatments;
  • Governments: Through mechanisms such as NICE in the UK, governments are intervening in drug approvals forcing Pharma companies to consider these customer groups, sometimes for the first time;
  • Patients are having more access to information and therefore using their voice to have a greater say in the prescription and purchase of medication;
  • New product partners: Overall the revenue loss from blockbuster drugs coming off patent cannot be replaced by revenues from the current pharmaceutical pipeline. This is forcing Pharma companies to broaden their portfolios into generics, over the counter medicines and healthcare products. This brings biotech and generics houses into the customer mix;
  • Pharmacists: In their role as knowledge providers, pharmacists are increasingly advising patients on the treatments that they might consider, including alternative medicines and therapies.

The traditional “Share of Voice” approach requires large sales forces and large marketing budgets. This is very expensive and is rapidly becoming too blunt an approach to achieve the required ROI. The wind of change is leading to a re-evaluation of the interaction between pharma companies and their customers, along with a need to gain a greater understanding of the inter-relationships between the new customer groups. The question is, in these changing times, are pharma companies realising the full commercial value from all of their customers?
The answer is NO. Pharma companies need to understand the value of each relationship to the business – a complex set of customers and customer interactions, with differing needs and differing potential to influence. Insight into the customer will inform decisions around where to invest, divest and stabilise relationships. This refocusing might mean that HCPs see less of their reps!!!
Other opportunities to improve the customer experience across the diverse groups will include, but are not limited to:

  • B2C marketing solutions: e.g. closed loop marketing, e-detailing, viral marketing, social networks;
  • Portfolio management: potentially expanding into generics, consumer healthcare and nutraceuticals;
  • Corporate brand development: rather than traditional product development;
  • Patient services: from patient education and management services, to broader opportunities in the areas of wellness clinics, healthcare facilities within hospitals and the running of private hospitals.

These opportunities need to be aligned to clearly defined customer needs. The commercial landscape is changing and all customers are now having their say on drug treatments. Pharmaceutical companies must understand what every customer is experiencing and how they can influence this experience. By providing the right customer experience, pharma companies will be able to differentiate itself and increase profitability by removing the right costs and increasing patient loyalty. Ultimately pharmaceutical companies must focus their organisation around its ultimate stakeholder – the patient.
Posted on behalf of Adrian Howells