January 4, 2011
What differentiates your company from the competition so that a pharmaceutical sponsor chooses you?
I recently spoke with Jim (not his real name), a global head of preclinical safety at a major pharmaceutical company. We discussed how vendors and CROs who sell to his group spend far too much time talking about their “great capabilities.” He lamented that vendors are reluctant to discuss “mistakes” or “problems” and how to fix them.
Can you imagine entitling a case study or podcast “When We Messed Up” and sending it to clients and prospects? Crazy talk, right? Or is it?
“Decision makers at pharmaceutical companies understand that [stuff] happens,” said Jim. “The real unknown is ‘how will the service provider deal with those problems or mistakes?’ So at the end of the day, the big question we need to answer before we make an investment with a provider is ‘how much do we TRUST them? ’”
Far too often we spend time selling experience, technology, process and our global footprint. However for vendors in life sciences (clinical research organizations, technology providers or consulting firms) these capabilities are the bare minimum to be considered for the job. What ultimately will win you the business are those table stakes combined with a differentiator.
As pharmaceutical companies shift more of their resources to preferred provider relationships, it just may be the service and technology providers with enough confidence to talk about their mistakes that will start rising to the top.
How did your organization attack an unexpected problem during a client engagement? How did you remedy the situation? Market that story.
Something to ponder as we begin 2011.
May 14, 2010
In the wake of last night’s Boston Celtics series clinching win over the top seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, there is much speculation that the “king” Lebron James, now a free agent, is going to end up a New York Knick next season. New York of course is the “media capital of the world” and will provide Lebron with the biggest stage. The biggest stage means the most money, right?
Why wouldn’t New York provide the best opportunity for Lebron to grow his business enterprise? This morning on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike, CNBC sports business columnist Darren Rovell explained why it’s a misnomer that New York provides the biggest revenue opportunity for Lebron. In fact, the Knicks may slow down Lebron’s growth as a global brand. I do my best to summarize Darren’s points below:
- Lebron James was on national television 36 times during the 2009-10 season; it is unlikely this coverage can get any higher, no matter what team he plays for
- National media coverage of a mega star like Lebron is not tied to his team, whether it be Cleveland, New York or any other city
- Lebron’s Nike contract (his biggest revenue source) is not contingent upon the NBA team he represents
- The guarantee in Lebron’s Nike contract will not increase based upon his team BUT does have a variable compensation component, tied to “Lebron” sneaker sales worldwide
- Nike’s growth in the US is slowing, but the company is seeing double digit growth in China (where 300 million people play hoops, equaling the entire US population …think about that!)
- Traditionally, sales of a sneaker brand in China is highly correlated with “winning NBA titles” (aka Air Jordan; this is exactly why Kobe Bryant is currently the “king” brand in China)
Kobe's championship rings has made him a king in China
Conclusion: In order to maximize Lebron James as a business (and sneaker salesman), he must not choose his next team by market size, but identify the franchise that will provide him the best chance to win multiple NBA titles. Based upon the current make up of the New York Knicks roster, and their recent history of basketball operations’ mismanagement, it is fair to be skeptical of their chances to win, even with Lebron, in the near term. Darren Rovell concludes that Lebron’s next team will be a franchise with a roster that has the potential to win a championship in 2011 or 2012 (this entire dialog of course assumes that Lebron and his advisers are choosing his next team strictly upon revenue potential ..a little presumptuous I know).
Write it down … Lebron James re-signs with the Cavs and makes another run at bringing his hometown an NBA championship (in my humble opinion).
May 3, 2010
A quick Twitter success story. Recently coming home from the airport my credit card was double charged for the cab fare (> $100). The City of Boston referred me to VeriFone, the mobile payment vendor, whose machines process your credit cards in many Boston cabs.
Upon calling VeriFone’s office multiple times, leaving numerous voice mails and without as much as one call back (not even one live conversation with a receptionist) I went social ….tweeting my scenario and frustration. Within a couple hours I received a reply from @kramerATL (Ryan Kramer, Online Marketing Manager) in VeriFone’s marketing department.
I provided @kramerATL the necessary information from my cab receipt and in less than a day the $100 was credited back to me. I immediately tweeted a thank you to @VeriFone and @kramerATL:
“@kramerATL, @VeriFone, awesome! thanks for the quick turn around, my first true customer service success story on twitter (as a customer)”
Yes, I wish I could have those 90 minutes of my life back ….. but at least the $100 was returned to me.
It’s yet another great example of how social media is bringing companies closer to their customers ….and vice-versa. I guess the question is “are some companies investing in SM at the expense of traditional customer service?” A good topic for another blog post, webinar or discussion forum.
Thank goodness for Twitter and thank you to @kramerARL!
April 5, 2010
Confucius said “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” This rings so true in marketing. The companies who “dumb it down” are the ones who rise to the top and stay there … see Google, see Apple, see USA Today.
We often get fixated on certain terms and phrases, and our personal bias prevents us from clearly communicating to our market. As a B2B marketer you can never assume you are your market.
My firm’s business is predicated on bringing pharmaceutical companies together to work cooperatively to evaluate new R&D technologies. For years we avoided the word “consortium” to describe ourselves. We thought of “consortium” negatively and did not want to be associated with the term. Thus we started our own game of Taboo describing the business with words like “short term, multi-company projects,” “collaborative projects” and “collaborative innovation.” Our personal bias generated complex and inaccurate messaging resulting in confused (and/or unimpressed) prospects. We made our job much more difficult than it had to be.
Today, when describing our service to a big pharma executive I simply say “we manage an industry consortium to collaboratively evaluate new technologies.” It was Winston Churchill who proclaimed, “all the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word.” In our case, this single word is consortium.
Here is a fun and entertaining presentation by David Pogue of the New York Times during TED 2006 ….his focus is on technology …but the message is similar .. simplicity sells!