All The Gear, But No Idea

I recently went on a hiking trip in New Zealand where one in our group had the most expensive gear: boots, clothing, poles, backpack.  Despite his lavish equipment, he was always the last one to arrive at the destination and, ultimately, injured himself to the extent that he couldn’t finish the trip! We all chattered about the guy with “all the gear, but no idea.”

This phrase stuck, and I thought about the striking parallels between hiking and healthcare marketing.

Each year, we talk to dozens of brands about their challenges, and we find common themes. So much “stuff” is being produced to support a brand’s marketing initiatives, often managed in silos with hazy delineation of roles and responsibilities. 

With the boom in digital marketing and technology, this trend is getting worse. As healthcare brands chase the latest trends, there is a growing lack of communication and coordination about strategy, roles, metrics/measurement, data, and how it all fits together. 



Each initiative is well intentioned, and often delivers reams of data to the brand: scorecards, roll-ups, wrap-ups and highlights. But at the end of the day, they have no idea how it ties together, and whether all of this “gear” was necessary to achieve primary objectives.

Although pharma must test unchartered territory, it’s best to keep the marked trail in sight. Here are some common mistakes and ways to avoid them.

1. Neglecting to Check the Forecast.

Ask if you really understand the environment, the direct and indirect factors that may affect efforts such as: the mindset of your targets, competitive strategy, and financial context. I recommend testing, testing, and more testing. Taking the pulse can be enough to validate the first phase of your plan.

2. Can’t Find the Trailhead.

Create a plan (and share with stakeholders) that includes solid answers about who the primary targets are (professional and consumer), what the ultimate goal is, and the most strategic route. This sounds elementary; however, more often than not, stakeholders cannot answer these simple questions.

3. Getting Separated.

Bring together a proven group of experts, and give each one a defined role. Your team (internal and external) must understand the global vision and how they fit in. Most important is to articulate guidelines for responsibilities to avoid confusion about who is doing what. Seems simple, however, 90% of brands we encounter are not doing this. The result: overlapping ideas and tactics, inefficient resource allocation, and murky strategy with no clear path to results.

4. Using a Knife as a Lever.

Snap goes the tip on the first try…because tools need to be utilized appropriately. Lots of gear, with no idea often results in mismatched strategies, messages, and channels. A sales aid may be appropriate for a rep detail to a physician, but not as brochure-ware for your consumer Facebook page.

5. Taking a Shortcut.

Draw a good data map. Direct response initiatives need carefully planned strategies and meticulously managed data flow. This practice must be incorporated at the beginning, and woven through every initiative. One representative for the brand (person or company) should facilitate the creation of business rules and is ultimately accountable for the integrated metrics and measurement.

6. Pitching Your Tent in a Puddle.

Puddles are typically caused by abundant traffic in one area, resulting in murky, stagnant water. The pharmaceutical industry is best known for repeating the “tried and true”, however there is evolution that needs consideration. The optimal territory is often a bit harder to reach, but fertile and rich for new exploration.

7. Climbing Outside Your Comfort Zone.

There is a balance—operating within the realm of MRL-approvable initiatives while innovating. Where brands are making investment errors today is following the urge to go out of their comfort zone and chase every opportunity at once. Carefully select one or two ideas for each planning cycle, understand their potential value, and make sure they are seamlessly integrated with your tried and true initiatives.

While navigating the trail can be complicated at times, if you keep the simplicity of proven marketing strategies in view, your brand can quickly add gear that helps to propel results to the next level.

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