In this post, I’m going to look inward at the RM agency side and not at marketing or industry issues. Why? Well, my interest in this was launched by a conversation with a pal of mine who is very successful pharma marketing consultant — one of the best there is. He recently told me that he was tired of having to watch over other agencies as they implemented one of his segment-ROI driven plan. Describing one of the oldest, largest and venerated DM/RM agencies, he said, "Well, I’d trust them to set up a good IVR call center, but they seem stale otherwise."
Agencies, like any company, are unequal in their distribution of skilled personnel. But I know this agency, have worked there, and knew exactly what he meant. Their sheer inertia and size made them just plain slow on all fronts. It annoyed me that they had a very large RM account and yet were "stale." It just seemed unfair to the client.
Then it struck me — who better than an agency to help a client avoid this? To craft an "Are You Right for Us" quiz for a client to use. Who else knows better what questions clients should be asking their pharma agencies?
There’s an old saying that clients get the advertising they deserve, which is another way of observing that perhaps The Peter Principle applies to client-agency relationships. In case you’re not familiar with it, The Peter Principle, coined by Lawrence Peter in 1968, holds that in every bureacracy, people keep getting promoted until they reach a job they cannot handle — i.e., people rise to their level of incompetence. Perhaps clients and agencies both tend to grow until they respectively prefer, and provide, mediocre work.
But try these out for some starter questions:
- What is your position as an agency?
- Who will work on my business and for how long?
- How do you keep the work fresh?
- What is the role of research?
- What is your POV on RM?
- What do you know about our patients?
- What do you know about our overall business?
- What is your POV on ROI? (And be open to discussing LTV, too.)
- How will you challenge us? (Clients, be fair!)
- Why are you the best choice for us? (And please no cliches.)
As an initial pass at a list, this hits what an AGENCY wants you to ask — but also fears you will. Agencies do not like clients getting too close. Relationships, yes; go under the hood, no.
For an agency, there’s a Part II to this — How Will You Train The Client in RM? No matter how much clients think they know, you hire the agency people because they are the experts at RM. You want the best — both to deliver the work and to act as teachers. You want the best training you and you staff can get on the tenets and trends of good RM. Your agency should be able to tell you how they can make this happen.