What is marketing? There are a myriad of definitions but few would question that the very essence of marketing is to be found in the understanding and fulfillment of customer needs. Getting the right product to the right customer in the right way and at the right price. But, how does the pharmaceutical industry measure up in the way that it markets its products?

By its very nature, the pharmaceutical industry is research driven. The industry invests billions of pounds in the quest to deliver solutions to unmet medical needs. But is this enough? Perhaps the answer was yes, when independent prescribers held the key to decision making. But in a multi-disciplinary decision making environment where cost effectiveness and budget impact are just as important as clinical effectiveness, the simple answer is no!

Just as the NHS needs to embrace a brave new world, so too must the industry. There is a pressing need to stop paying lip service to customer focus and bring the customer to the centre of the brand planning process. In these cost constrained times we must work harder to identify the segments that we can truly own…and where the customer is willing to pay. If it ever was, then ‘first line in all patients’ is no longer a viable option in most circumstances.

So, what does he industry need to do? Firstly, accept that the world has changed; stop living in the past and talking about payers and commissioners as ‘new customers’. Seek to understand the needs of all of the key stakeholders and be brave. Share your strategy openly with customers or even better co-develop it with them. It can deliver powerful results.