The Harvard Business Publishing blog of Bill Taylor ran a fascinating post on Friday, entitled Get Out of The “Middle of the Road” — or Go Out of Business. In it, Taylor, drawing on the management theories of, among others, Jim Collins, takes the position that what makes great companies great is that they focus, consistently and patiently, on a limited number of aspects of their business and excel at them. As Taylor writes:
First, high-performing companies understand that it’s not enough to be
“pretty good” at everything anymore. As a company, you have to be the
most of something—the most exclusive, the most affordable, the most
responsive, the most friendly. Companies used to want to be in the
middle of the road—that’s where all the customers were. But now, in an
age of hyper-competition and non-stop innovation, the middle of the
road is the road to ruin. What do they say in Texas? “The only thing in
the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos.” To which
we might now add: “And once-great companies that are slowly going out
Taylor then goes on the illustrate three ways this is done. It was Item 3 that really got our attention:
There’s a third element that helps to explain extraordinary performance
in these extraordinarily difficult times. Each of these companies
connects with its customers based not just on price and features, but
on identity and emotion. They have become virtually irreplaceable in
the eyes of their customers.
We put a lot of time and effort into developing advocates for our clients — patients who are not just satisfied with the outcome of their regimen, but who emotionally connect with the brand and their illness enough to begin to tell others — to be advocates for the brand. As we’ve blogged about elsewhere, advocates have incredible marketplace influence. They provide a level of credibility, personalization and impact that all the marketing in the world can’t touch.
If you’re a pharma company, the one thing you have to absolutely excel at in order to maximize adherence and therefore profits, is creating and maintaining an emotional connection with your patients. In a sense, pharma has a major advantage here, because for a patient with a chronic condition, the drugs they take have a direct, powerful impact on their day-to-day life. If you have pulmonary hypertension, the drugs you take for it are absolutely central to your quality of life — to your life, period, in fact. Emotional impact doesn’t get much more direct than that.
These are hard times for pharma — profits are stagnating, regulators are looking hard at DTC advertising, and the industry’s public image is at an all-time low. Pharma marketers can’t really do much about these things. Nor can they do much about the safety or efficacy of the drug — that’s work for the scientists. What we can do, however, is strive to connect with the people who rely on our products, who live with them every day, and by making that connection, turn those patients into ambassadors for our brands. If there’s a “most” it’s imperative for us to be, that’s it.