How to identify where to focus your brand budget this year?

Every year it’s the same situation. As a Pharma Brand Manager you review last year’s brand plan and look for the changes in the market. In many cases, the aim is to tidy up all figures to fit into the next planning period. 

Don’t think I’m naïve, at least not on this topic. We all know that we should not reset the entire strategy every single year. However, to answer the question in the headline properly, a bit of effort is needed.

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If you expected a list of the most powerful tactics proven by sky-rocketing revenue charts, you’re going to be disappointed. However, this article will still give you some pragmatic hints.

To answer the question, you should not look at your budget figure or your KPI Tracker to analyze last year’s results. At least not to begin with. We’ll come to that soon.

Customer experience maps will tell you where to focus your tactics

Actually, the first step is to get back to the essential assumptions of your plan. And in most cases, these are your leverage points and Drivers/Barriers. You have to check those to see whether your tactical planning assumptions are still relevant. I’ve seen brand teams working for ages on a 25-year old product in the belief that the team knows the product inside and out. Yet, stepping back from “all we know” and just re-think the Patient Journey is a very powerful thing to do. Doing a Patient Flow or Patient Journey exercise, starting with a fresh analysis, will uncover the main changes in your patients’ ecosystem. 

You may already be inspired by the consumer products world and believe Patient Journeys are outdated, and you have to do a full-fledged Customer Experience Map for your patients and all your target segment Healthcare Professionals. If so, that’s fantastic! However, my advice is still valid. Customer behaviour is dynamic and changes from time to time. 

Why is this important now? Isn’t it enough to track the tactics over time and discover where to change or cancel tactics? The answer is no. Even if your tactical execution is excellent, you need to be sure your tactics solve a challenge within your Sources of Business (leverage points). You can spend a six-digit budget on an excellent diagnosis awareness campaign, but if your patients struggle with script fulfilment, all the money is wasted, even if your KPI Tracker tells you how great the campaign went.

Insights to Strategy to Tactics

Another important element to focus your attention on is the Drivers and Barriers to Behaviour Change. You may call it SWOT analysis. Doing a Driver and Barrier Analysis correctly makes a tremendous difference in selecting the right tactical initiatives. In most brand planning templates, you will find a slide called “SWOT Analysis.” In most cases, it shows a simple cross with S, W, O, and T at their edges. The danger here is that teams tend to fill slide templates in the order of slide appearance. This is a difficult habit when your team wants to come to meaningful Drivers and Barriers. The advice here is to put your SWOT template next to you when you do your situational analysis. Any time you do an analysis piece, such as the clinical profiling, or competitor overview, you are entering all the Drivers (Strengths/Opportunities) and all Barriers (Weaknesses/Threats) directly into the SWOT grid. Sounds a bit stupid, but it is a nice little technique to capture your Drivers and Barriers during your analysis. Should your SWOT list become too big, you can always clean it out later. The other way round isn’t very helpful. Adding Drivers and Barriers to the list after the analysis opens the door to “gut-feeling items.” Try to avoid those, but focus on the ones coming from a proper analytical exercise.

Equipped with the key Sources of Business and the respective Drivers and Barriers, you are in a strong position to select tactics that directly influence your commercial success. In the next step, you just need to analyse the tactics you’ve used previously against the current strategic fit and, of course, last year’s performance. Decide whether to do them again (start), avoid (stop), change, or continue the successful ones. 

It’s impossible for me to know the exact tactics you find useful. However, using this sort of analysis means that you have a better idea of which tactics are likely to work for you. Therefore, these are the tactics to spend your budget on. 

Take away message is: Ensure your tactics selection is pointing to the critical success factors which unlock your identified sources of business.

Obviously, this advice only captures a few steps in the strategy development exercise, which contains plenty more analyses, conclusions, and trade-off decisions. However, if you want to focus on something in this planning season, you might want to ensure you are getting these steps right and you are in danger of creating a successful tactical implementation plan.

A nice side-effect: The more accurately you’ve mapped your Source of Business, and the Drivers/Barriers, the more likely your communication agency delivers fantastic outputs, as the ecosystem they have to provide comms for will be much clearer to them. Also, your sales force might find it easier to execute tactics that are set clearly in a Patient Journey, as Med Reps experience the Patient Journey every day in the HCP offices and hospitals. 

If you’ve feedback or questions about this article, please leave a comment, and please contact me for further information on pharma brand strategy development.

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