’Tis the season of brand planning at life sciences companies. Some brands are just starting, others are further along in their life cycle, but the process is largely the same: Review current situation. Make strategic decisions. Receive approval. Brief the agencies. Review their tactical ideas. Prioritize, select. Budget.
And with that another year’s worth of tactical activity begins.
It’s a ritual that remains similar year after year, save for a few tweaks here and there. And while it works for making durable strategic decisions like brand strategic imperatives, it’s increasingly inadequate for tactical planning in today’s marketing environment, which prizes physician and patient centricity, cross-channel dexterity, innovation and accountability.
Four Tactical Planning Steps:
1. Being brand-centric versus customer centric.
Brand teams hand their agencies slides with targets, strategic imperatives, goals and core messages. But few supply direction on which moments in the physician or patient journey are most important and actionable insights for engaging in those moments. In short, the process yields brand strategies but seldom strategies for engagement, between company and physician or between physician and patient.
2. Fostering campaign experiences versus continuous engagement.
Tactical planning is an annual event. As a consequence, the process heightens focus on launching tactics, evaluating their success, and beginning anew each year. Far less emphasis is placed on optimization or implementing new content throughout the year in response to the response of your various demographics.
3. Devising siloed activity versus connected experiences and re-use.
Tactical planning is a cross-functional exercise and it plays out simultaneously across geographies. However, companies frequently miss the opportunity to integrate tactics championed by different groups (marketing, PR, medical) into seamless user experiences. And, there is typically no formal mechanism for coordinating tactical planning across markets to minimize redundant investments and maximize re-use.
4. Unwittingly encouraging investment in safe, familiar tactics. A variety of forces such as brand manager tenure, budget constraints and short-term profit pressures encourage brands to invest in safe, historically proven tactics. But in today’s competitive and fractured marketing environment, in which HCP access is diminished and there is a lot of confusing chatter from poorly-informed sources, so much is changing so quickly that a failure to innovate is the real risk.
Improving tactical planning is not an easy task as it requires structural change to a process that is well entrenched.What can you do?
Four Places to Begin:
1. Embed customer-centric thinking and tools into the process.
One of the most powerful tools to drive physician- or patient-centricity is ethnographic research with its attendant artifacts: customer profiles and patient journey maps. These tools go beyond demographic or attitudinal segmentation and offer rich needs-based frameworks to map experience strategies.
Another low hanging fruit is integrating practitioners, patients and advocacy groups into the tactical planning process. All plans should require some level of customer validation. Online customer panels or customer ad boards offer the possibility to do this efficiently.
2. Integrate continual engagement cycles into the process.
The accessibility of high quality digital customer data compels a more iterative process. Instead of a one-off annual process, brands should reserve funds for quarterly optimization of tactics and new content in reaction to social listening and other voice-of-customer data, especially in light of emerging regulations and changing consumer perceptions.
3. Coordinate content planning globally to drive re-use and scale.
Today’s online experiences are powered by content: it enhances brand relevance and “discoverability.” But most markets can afford only so much, and regulations vary across international borders. Companies can maximize re-use by creating global content strategies, appointing global editorial boards to parcel responsibility for creating content elements and facilitating access to global content through digital asset management tools.
4. Encourage innovation by increasing investment in training.
Training on new marketing models, multi-channel marketing approaches and available marketing technology platforms increase a brand team’s confidence. This is one of the most important investments companies can make to encourage innovation, but it is surprisingly uncommon.
These are just a few ideas for tailoring tactical planning for today’s complex and rapidly-changing healthcare marketing environment. As another year of tactical planning winds down, why not take some time to reflect on how it can be improved. What other ideas do you have?