Dear Colleagues! This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #720 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans welcome sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi on WordPress, the top blog site. Please email to firstname.lastname@example.org for publishing your contributions here.
These articles take some insights and the title from INSEAD articles by Ayman Jawhar whose links appear at the end. The original articles are not about pharmaceuticals.
As mentioned in the previous post, we shall see the possible solutions. Following are the suggestions.
Couple of context setting points.
I joined Twitter quite early and I post links to my blogs and vlogs, but not much else. I view it every day however, and get many news from there. A recent trend has caught up so fast, everyone is trying to follow it. The trend is to give tips, tricks, steps, formats, information, and such tidbits to make you do things quickly. These are quick fixes to make others’ job easy, but it has two issues. One, one quick fix shall not serve all, so it is misleading. Two, it is robbing people of learning through a process; just take a format and use it without understanding its logic. You can understand I shall not offer any such thing.
Two, Product Management is not limited to PMs, it is Marketing which involves the entire team. For bringing about change, PMs alone shall not be able to do much; other stakeholders, particularly the seniors shall have to involve themselves.
Three, lasting business growth shall come from brands growth. No pharma company has grown big without growing its brands. Focus on brand growth is possible only with good product stewardship which is true product management.
Redesign the Product Management
Presently, the product management is more body and less brain. The more a PM can create noise, the more popular he becomes. In some way, it affects the sales teams also and the sales may become better; again, all credit to the PM.
- Understand the product well. Study the product monograph, find, and read related clinical articles and studies, compare your molecule with competitors to find your competitive advantage. Through this exercise, you will find solid points for strategy, promotion, and campaigns. The strategies thus formed shall have a lasting impact on your customers.
- Rethink the notion that the only promotion that sells in the market is customer service. A doctor’s loyalty is only to his patients, not the Pharma company. The doctor chooses products on merits of efficacy, safety, price (high and low both). There may be an odd case where a doctor may sacrifice his (never her) practice for some poor products of a company. If he loses practice due to your products backed by big services, you will be the first to leave him.
- The emphasis on customer services has damaged the work quantity, its wholesomeness, and its impact. Do the best customer service you can but keep the basics of product management alive.
- As mentioned in the previous posts, build culture. It will not come top-down, it will be built bottom-up. Your culture should promote innovative thinking, not borrowed formats; leading, not following; creating value for everyone; raising positive energy; ensuring inclusivity and security for all. This kind of environment brings out the best in everyone and makes great teamwork possible.
- Even if the overall organization culture is different, you can still carve an island in Blue Ocean where everyone can feel good and do better.
- Think broad and big. Every product has several possibilities which are beyond the regular features like cefixime for typhoid in children. Cefixime is now almost a household product for any infection. Many products can be grown in the same way.
- Do pilots, small projects on limited territory through the sales teams. It will open new avenues, engage customers, and bring confidence to you and the sales team.
- Do many, short-time discussions formally and informally. Encourage all to speak, listen more and say less.
Emphasize on Wholesome Marketing
Wholesome marketing will be complete, end-to-end, creative product management.
- Allow display of promotional materials after the strategy presentation, not before.
- Ask for written marketing plans, not just the PowerPoint presentation.
- Ask questions about product, market, and competitors.
- Insist on market surveys and research.
- Accept IQVIA data if it is endorsed by market research.
- Use data to understand the past and build scenarios, without becoming hostage to it.
- Reward innovation and creativity.
- Discourage TikTok style marketing
Broaden the Scope of Product Management
- Make product manager truly brand-owner, not just brand-promoter. Involve her/him at all stages and emphasize cross-functional working.
- Make the PMs understand the production, supply chain, and finance aspects of the brand so that they design appropriate strategies based on all factors. Otherwise, a PM may keep focusing on low-margin, easy-to-sell products leaving behind high-margin, difficult to sell ones.
- Ask PM to work in close collaboration with the supply chain so that their forecasts are not killed due to short supplies.
- Tell PMs to work with other functions, understand their issues and accommodate these, rather than just promoting their own agenda.
- A liaison with sales teams on equal footing is mandatory. They are the ones who will take their strategy to market, apply it and bring results. Common understanding between marketing and sales is essential.
- Keep a portion of time of the PMs for field work. That is where the action is.
Keep it Simple
- Lately, there have been a huge rise in complex charts, metrics, formats and what not. Every meeting generates tons of chart papers which no one ever looks at again.
- If a discussion/training does not give a new, improved, practical tool, it is a waste of time, time-money, and money. It is simply too enormous a waste to ignore.
- Bring more ideas, not more complexities. Simplicity always wins. The names of products which are simple, stick with customers better than the long-winded, creative ones. Strategies are the same. Reporting systems are also the same.
- Keep meetings short and productive.
- Be very sensitive about time.
Practice Ethics and Values
Arthur C. Clarke said, “As our own species is in the process of proving, one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying”. This quote says it all, no further commentary is required.
- Far too many companies have hired unethical people who appeared brilliant, and suffered, but the trend has not abated. If you wish to build a lasting marketing function, hire people with values and integrity. They will be true to cause, to work, to you, and to organization.
- ‘Skills can be taught, but integrity cannot be inculcated’ is an old adage which is an all times truth.
- Express your values, hold these up at all times, and do not let people violate these. Values are not just moral intangibles; these are quite practical. Hard work is a value, meeting deadlines is a value, discipline is a value, keeping workplace harassment-free is a value, and so on.
Product Management is on the decline, after having reached its peak in the 1990s and 2000s. More glamour might have been added but the spirit has been evaporating. It is good time for PMs/Marketing to do in-depth review and adjust future course.
PS. I shall collect the posts of this series into a booklet and share with anyone who may be interested in it.
Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known; some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.