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3 Lessons Pharmaceutical Contract Services Providers Can Learn From Steve Jobs

Posted on Fri, Sep 07, 2012

Recently, I read Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.  For those of you who have been living in a cave over the last 30 years, Steve Jobs is the visionary co-founder and eventual CEO of Apple.  He was also CEO of Pixar, a Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) production company. Both of these companies changed the way we viewed computers, technology and computer generated movies.  Both Apple and Pixar created a superior user experience and they weren't afraid to push the envelope on new technology; they developed products that consumers didn't even know they wanted or needed.

3 Lessons for Pharmaceutical Contract Service Providers

Pharmaceutical contract service providers can learn a few lessons from Steve Jobs. Over the past few years, two major industry forces have challenged both large and small service providers in attracting new business revenues:

  1. The world's largest pharmaceutical companies ("Big Pharma") stand to lose billions of dollars in lost revenues due to expiring patents on their blockbuster drugs.  This has opened the door for cheaper generic competition.  In an effort to conserve their cash reserves, Big Pharma is reviewing all aspects of their operations, including R&D spending.

  2. The smaller pharmaceutical companies who are less self sustaining because they have fewer marketed products and focus more on developing drugs have been hit hard since 2008 by the credit crunch.  Financing of start up biotech companies and their drug candidates dried up and has been slow in recovering.

Both of these dynamics have cut the number of drugs being developed and how much money is being spent on developing these drugs.  What can these contract service providers or as they are known CRO's and CDMO's learn from Steve Jobs?  Here are 3 lessons:

1. Think Different

Break away from the status quo.  There are thousands of pharmaceutical contract service providers you are competing with.  What sets you apart from the crowd?  What CRO services do you offer that you are great at?  The trend has been to keep adding more and more services to offer "one-stop shopping" in an effort to steal a greater share of the market.  That strategy has shown itself to not work effectively - even for the largest service providers.  The largest service providers, who are in the best position to corner strategic relationships with the largest pharmaceutical companies, have had uneven financial results.  Because of their size, these lareger servise providers can withstand uneven financial results much better than their smaller competitors.  If you are a smaller pharma services provider, creating more overhead that you have to cover on a monthly basis can drain your cash reserves, dilute resources and put your company in a unsustainable position.

How do you deploy your marketing and sales resources to find new customers?  The traditional approach of outbound marketing, where you go "out" to find customers no longer works as well as it used.  Advertisements, trade shows, direct mail and cold calling are traditional marketing approaches that today are less effective than they used to be.  Trade show exhibit hall attendance is way down from what it used to be.  Customers no longer think about buying services that way.

2. Develop and Promote Superior Services

What are you good at? Pick two or three services that you are great at and focus your efforts on developing and promoting those.  Steve Jobs was not afraid to look at Apple's product offering and cut what he didn't think would be the best product they could ever offer.  He way famous for saying "this is the best product we have ever made!" at every Macworld product launch.  This was not far from the truth, either.  iMac, followed by iPod, then iPad made each in turn wowed consumers.  Mediocre products or services do not create enchantment for your customers and dilute your brand.  Once you pick the two or three services that are outstanding, find ways to make them the best they can be and promote these core services.  This is the quickest way to build an identity that transcends your competitors.

3. Customer Enchantment

Provide a superior customer experience.  This does not necessarily mean what you think it might mean.  Yes, your management team, operational personnel, project managers and business development people must be responsive and easy to work with, but with the advent of the internet, your customers think differently.  Customers don’t buy like they used to.  Customers find you now.  It's too easy now for your customers to go online to search for answers and information or use email and social media to demand instant answers from their suppliers.  They come 'in' to your company via your website and if they don't immediately find those answers, they go elswhere.  Inbound marketing, as it is called, is now the most important element in your marketing mix.

Today, you have to leverage your most important marketing asset - your website - to help you provide customer enchantment.  Through SEO, you can get found by your prospects and customers.  By creating remarkable business content, you can share your expertise with your prospects and customers in blog articles, white papers, webinars, eBooks and videos.  You can further spread the word of this content through social media.  With calls-to-action, landing pages, lead nurturing and targeted email marketing you can convert prospects into customers and re-convert customers to other services much more easily than you could have before.  This marketing automation can help you provide real time responses to your audience and increase the perception that your organization is responsive and sensitive to their needs.  It will help your sales organization be perceived as more responsive than you competitors.  70% of all buyers will eventually buy from the company that responds to them first.

Thinking differently, superior services and communication of these services with your propsects and customers creates enchantment.

How do you put SEO, content creation, social media and marketing automation all together to create customer enchantment?  HubSpot's all-in-one software can help with that.  The HubSpot software can be attached to your current website to cover all of your inbound marketing needs - SEO, blogging, social media, lead generation, email marketing, lead nurturing and management, and analytics.

Oh, and one more thing. . .

"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do"

If you are a small to mid-sized pharmaceutical clinical research organization or contract development and manufaturing organization, trying to grow your business is much tougher today than 5 years ago.  Traditional marketing approaches are not as effective as they used to be.  Don't be afraid to think different; if you decide to take the risk to think different, the rewards can exceed your imagination.  Just get started.

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Tags: Closed Loop Marketing, Online Marketing, Inbound Marketing