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My well-wisher Hasan Naqvi objected to this line from the last Blog (#54). “Cyrus is Parsee and an absolutely loveable guy”. He said it discriminated Cyrus on the basis of belief. It was never my intention to say anything discriminatory against anyone. Having said that, I agree with Hasan. The first part of sentence could feel like this. I sincerely apologize to Cyrus Magol and to all who felt the same way as Hasan Naqvi. And I thank Naqvi sahib for pointing it out. Please keep doing it.
Mid-nineties were very active times for Pharma market. New products were being introduced at a high pace. Generics of the big brands were also coming in from multiple companies. And these players were not just active; they were aggressive. They were threatening to erode the market share of established brands rapidly. It was not just a threat; it was happening.
Hoechst adopted several strategies to counter this wave of generics onslaught. I would not talk about all of them due to proprietary reasons, but I would talk about one very public activity. This was ‘Group Field Visits’.
The initial format of Group Field Visits ran like this. A group comprising of Product Managers, Marketing Manager and Tariq Umar would plan a three day visit to a head quarter. The local Regional Manager coordinated. The RM would engage all Area Managers and ask them to set up visits for the visitors. For example, if ten visitors were coming, they would have individual visit plan for each day in various territories. It would be 8-10 visits or more in day; in one day it would be 80-100 visits; in three days it would be 250-300 visits. The visitors would bring academic materials, such as handbooks, textbooks, articles and distributed to doctors. In addition, they would be better able to discuss the products in more detail. If you imagine the entire visit, you would conclude that it was both extensive and intensive.
This activity had many benefits, including but not limited to the following.
- Shaking up the area with a short burst of high energy. The visitors did good quality calls and it was happening all over the place in a short time.
- Energizing local teams. Before and after these visits, the local sales team had to prepare and follow up their customers which energized their working also.
- Sustaining the energy. Recurrence of visits sustained the energy created initially.
- Getting direct feedback. The marketing got the market and customers feedback directly which helped them to design and review marketing strategies
- Customers getting directly connected. The head office did not remain a distant illusion; it became a near reality for many customers.
- Reaching deeper. Due to intensiveness of the activity, very soon it reached every corner of the city. Going to upcountry towns was next step.
- Creating excitement. It was first of a kind in the market and the quality of this activity created positive excitement among customers.
The group visits started some time in 1995 but were not very regular. As we learnt more through the exercise, we understood the benefits better. We also refined the way this activity was organized. It reached its peak in 1997 when it became a regular affair.
The sales and marketing teams were reorganized towards the end of 1996. During most part of 1997, the contingent comprising of Team Sales Managers and Marketing staff traveled to a headquarter every week. The group was headed by the NSM. The group made few hundred customer calls in three days and came back to head office at Karachi.
Group visits activity was a first in the industry. It was extremely effective, and it pushed Hoechst much ahead of all competitors. It was also a logistic feat managed by the Regional Managers and Area Managers. And finally, it was another great show from a high-performing TEAM……