Nimble as cited by the Oxford Dictionary — quick and light in action; agile — or some of my favorite synonyms: quick, graceful, skillful, deft.
When thinking about the word nimble – specifically regarding go-to-market strategies or product launches – healthcare marketing doesn’t readily come top-of-mind. In traditional healthcare advertising, nimble is more readily associated with a test-and-learn approach or initiating pilot initiatives. Looking further back to the Old English origin of the term “quick to seize or comprehend,” I can’t say we have set ourselves up well to garner the advantages the definition suggests.
Many suggest that a nimble mindset is simpler for healthcare start-up companies or health device manufacturers to embrace than for larger pharmaceutical organizations. However, I believe such an off-hand dismissal undervalues the first-mover-advantage upon which these companies have been capitalizing.
Brand strategy – Selecting the most valued ingredients
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to the strategic process. Brand strategies may include a standard set of building blocks, but how the process is implemented for each situation can help focus the marketing team on the most vital ingredients.
My team recently helped guide a client through a new brand development campaign by narrowing the focus of the strategic effort. This particular health brand was entering a new market for the company, with a new physician customer set. On top of that, to gain the most benefit from adopting the new product, the physicians would have to adjust their workflow. Our client had no historical credibility with this customer set, so the focal point of our strategic process was centered around an end-user co-creation approach. Doing so allowed us to unearth a value proposition that was most meaningful to the healthcare provider as well as other influencers in the decision-making process. By establishing the focus around this strategic aspect, developing the other necessary ingredients, such as the brand pyramid and positioning statement, that would usually take months, was done in quick succession over a few working sessions.
Adopting the challenger mindset
By being able to develop digital and broader technology solutions, an agency can empower their clients with agile decision-making habits. To implement a process that ultimately leads to transformation, you should apply the practice of developing in sprints. For example, one long-time biotech client grew to dominate their category and found its decision making process shift over the years to one rooted in protecting market share versus nurturing new opportunities. This was happening just as a new upstart competitor was rapidly implementing grassroots marketing initiatives similar to what our client wanted to do, but corporate delays in the decision making process left our client’s initiatives to languish.
With a shared understanding of objectives, you can change the model for how new initiatives are vetted. You can help break through the paralysis, and adapt a challenger’s mindset. By defining initiatives in a strawman model, you can develop rough comps of creative to add context and developed a summary concept document with the key business story. The first milestone vetting gate was set to determine a high-level validity and move into successive phases that would help refine strategies. With a more rapid pace of initiatives being concepted, the client team began to embrace the new mindset.
Done is better than perfect
The one overarching principle I believe is at the heart of enabling any organization to be nimbler—pharma brands and healthcare agency partners alike—is the idea that done is better than perfect. The very processes conceived help define and organize work can be the limiting factor constraining our ability to be more agile in adapting to the evolving healthcare marketplace. With the understanding that brands will always be evolving, the approaches have to organically advance as well. It’s imperative to think of brands more in terms of a product lifecycle roadmap, similar to software development, where the landscape is always evolving.