Targeting: Change the language, change the behavior
I really dislike that term! Targeting. It’s not very customer centric is it? And words and labels are very important. Ask any terrorist, or even minority group and they can tell what it feels like to be targeted. Perhaps even ask some doctors what it feels like.
I know this is an unfair comparison but nevertheless pharma uses the term almost everyday, particularly in the sales and marketing areas to describe its customers and stakeholders.
What message does that send?
How do you like being called a target by your cable company, bank, service provider or any number of organisations of whom you are a valued customer? It is definitely not a very friendly even respectful designation.
It sounds trivial but if pharma wants to become more customer focused, it needs to pay attention to the seemingly small things like language.
It is very hard indeed to become more customer focused if you regard these most valuable of assets as ‘targets’.
It is all part of the significant mind set shift that is required if the industry is to realize the benefits of being patient and customer focused.
But it is more than just the language.
But it is more than just the language
Targeting is all about identifying the individual customers – be they individual people or individual organizations, depending on your unit of measure, that are important to your business and working with them in a way that is of value to both of you.
It is a key strategy regardless of whether your ambition is to become more customer focused or you merely want to be more effective in the traditional model. Pharma has always been great at identifying ‘what’ needs to be done but has usually been terrible at ‘who’ to do it with!
One way of identifying these customers is to utilize commercially available data from a third party, usually prescription related data.This is an option that many pharma companies have utilized over the years and continues to be a much sought after methodology. The problem here though is that the same data is available, and is being used, by all of your competitors as well. Where is the competitive advantage in that?
In the US, thanks to physician level prescribing data, all the pharmacos know the prescribers of a product or products in a TA and so they all do in fact, literally, target the high users. It is one of the reasons that the old ‘sales rep arms race’ existed some years ago. The need to have a bigger share of voice with this group of customers could only be achieved by more calls and more reps. Well, those days are gone for good!
If you believe that there is a sustainable competitive advantage in knowing more about your customers than your competitors then you probably see the downfall of this approach.
It comes back to what you know about your customers. If you collect customer data, are customer curious as an organization, share customer information, analyze it and use it, then perhaps you will know something that is critical for your business that is unknown to your competitors.
However, if all the company wants to do is deliver brand messages perhaps it is not so critical, but, today, if pharma wants to be relevant to customers this type of in-depth, factual, customer information at the individual customer level, is incredibly important.
Next generation targeting
So what needs to change apart from the language and the thinking behind the language?
It is the most basic and fundamental part of customer centricity – to understand that customers are a rare commodity and are one of the corporation’s most valued assets. I didn’t say most valuable assets as is my personal point of view, as clearly many folks within the industry still view products as the most important and I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole.
But, I think we can all agree that customers are very valuable and pharma needs to treat them that way, and that not all customers are equal. They should be treated differently. And that means at the individual customer level not merely at the segment level.
While segmentation is about identifying like-minded groups of customers that does not mean that all the customers within a segment are the same and should be treated alike.
If we take a ‘segment’ of high value customers for example, say your top ten percent of physicians in terms of prescribing, the difference in their prescribing is amazing. The top 2% of prescribers write multiple times more scripts than the lower 20% of high prescribers. That’s why targeting is important.
Typically it was left up to the representative to manage targeting but that means this is done only at the territory level and while a physician may be ‘important’ within a territory, on a national scale they are not so important.
Targeting should not be left to the representative, rather looked at as a critical part of the segmentation process and done at the same time, it should be viewed from the national perspective and customers prioritized according to the total market. Avoiding the practice of ranking customers at a regional or local level.
There will be territories that have few, or no, high value customers in them!
When the company really knows its key customers, beyond their prescribing, they can deliver value beyond the pill and become trusted partners in healthcare.
Targeting is yet another process in need of change in order to become more patient focused and while changes are being made progress is terribly slow.