Pharma marketing and storytelling

Want to align your brand team with your marketing plan? Tell a good story!

A brand manager's job is a tough one. Trying to align your brand stakeholders, who are mainly non-marketing people (e.g., your sales people and admin support) with your marketing plan objectives isn't always so obvious.

Survey data from Stephen Covey have demonstrated that employees are hard to align around common business objectives. Not long after you've presented a nice animated PowerPoint, people don't recall the objectives anymore. The objectives just don't stick with them for the long term. Not exactly what you need in times of recession...

A fresh approach can help you overcome this. Turn your marketing plan into a team compass that is understandable to all brand stakeholders. Write a story around your brand plan that speaks the same language as your audience. The 3 main questions you should ask yourself upfront are:

1. What shall I communicate?

2. To whom shall I communicate?

3. How shall I communicate?

I would like to emphasize the most interesting part of your communication, the only one you don’t really control well as a brand manager: HOW shall I communicate?

Tell a story!

Storytelling is as old as the human race. It is universal. Stories are passed on from generation to generation. Storytelling is a direct way to reach a broad public. Its success depends on simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility and emotion.

Brand managers are not experts in copywriting or storytelling. Mostly, they work closely with business communication agencies to outsource external brand communications. But why should you outsource your marketing plan communication when you are best positioned to talk about it to your own salespeople and administrative support? You’ve created it, from A to Z. It’s your baby! Make the effort to write your brand story so that people will notice that you, and only you, steer the brand.

Here are some reflections for brand managers to take into account before starting to write your brand story.

·      Marketing plans don’t read like novels. How are you going to use your facts, figures and features?

·      Brand managers think, speak and live by numbers and graphics not by stories. How are you going to convert to a storyteller?

·      Brand managers suffer from a predisposition to extensively argue their standpoints on paper, while sales people and non-marketing employees expect short but complete messages.

·      Brand managers speak mainly rationally, while sales people and non-marketing employees speak more emotionally.

Brand managers are not sales managers, though aligning your brand stakeholders with your marketing plan is your first step to sales success. Indeed, your sales process starts from inside your company. So take into account that you’ll need to change hats at your next sales meeting. Prepare yourself, because you’re going to be your own sales manager; that is, if you want people to believe your story and that of their brand. Brand management requires a diversity of skills, which ensures you’ve got an interesting job. Now, you’re a storyteller and a sales manager, too.

Leave your marketing talk and try to attract your public’s attention with a short but powerful story. Drill your marketing plan down to its essence and box your story into one of the following formats:

PowerPoint slide: Only one slide to show your brand story at your sales meeting!

Paper document: It’s preferable to develop your brand story in plain text on just half an A4 page.Plastify that brand story on an A5 so your people will be able to store it and refer to it as much as they want.

Scorecard: A plastified card with a maximum of 3 marketing plan headlines. Use all 3 channels to reach your public and ensure that your story has arrived.

Tone and content          

First, you’ve got to speak the language of your public. Use of data in your brand story is OK; too much data isn’t.

Use ‘we’ and not ‘I’ or ‘you’. Your brand objectives are a common team goal across departments!

Put the names of people who made the brand into your story. People recall people more than numbers. How else do you explain the major success of Facebook?

Use metaphors to describe your objectives, or describe your objectives with images that are direct and understandable.

Use patient testimonials to emphasize the value of your brand for patient outcomes. Go back to basics and visualize the patient. Describe what the patient benefit of your brand could be. Do not concentrate on the brand features only.

Use the SUCCES approach (from Chip and Dan Heath in Made to Stick).

Use these simple principles and check if what you’re going to write is:

·      Simple

·      Unexpected

·      Concrete

·      Credible

·      Emotional

·      Story

Start with an unexpected intro and attract your public/s attention!

Use no more than 3 headlines in your story:

·      Brand’s objective (qualitative) = how excellent you want to get!

·      Brand’s objective (quantitative) = how much you want to get!

·      Main customer program that will serve your brand objective(s) = how you’re going to get your objectives!

End your brand story with an ASK for ACTION! You’re not a fairy tale teller; you’re a brand storyteller. You want your business to grow, so forgetting to ask your public for immediate action would be a mistake. Tell your marketing plan in a brief, understandable story and ensure follow up!

Hey, how excited are you about being a marketer, a storyteller, and a sales manager, all in one! I’ve tried to give you some brief insights into how to write and tell your brand story, but I’m aware this is just the tip of the iceberg. Just try this out next time you’re in front of your sales people and co-workers and jump out of your role as brand manager.

Does your work come to an end once the story is told? Surely not. Actually, your real work starts now!

For exclusive business insights, download eyeforpharma's Pharma Emerging Markets Report 2011-12 and Pharma Key Account Management Report 2011-12.

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eyeforpharma Barcelona

Mar 19, 2013 - Mar 21, 2013, Barcelona, Spain

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