50% of biopharma CMOs say they don’t know what customers want

It’s indisputable that one of the keys to growth is understanding what your customers want and delivering it in an exceptional way, but that’s not what is happening in the biopharma industry.

A new Accenture report shows that while biopharma CEOs increasingly hold their marketers accountable for anticipating and understanding customers to drive growth, nearly half of biopharma marketing executives say they lack a good understanding of what customers want or need to manage their health.

This is corroborated by a separate study of 4,000 patients in the US, UK, France and Germany. Nearly half said they don’t feel biopharma companies understand their emotional, financial and treatment needs well enough to help them best manage their condition.

While biopharma companies have storied histories of bringing new, life-changing products to market, the products on their own don’t always deliver the desired patient outcome. Indeed, payers are increasingly questioning whether treatments have improved health.

This is where what we call ‘New Science’ comes into play. It combines the best in science and new technology; and it is expected to drive 54% of the industry’s growth through 2022. Leaders in New Science are moving beyond traditional advertisements and portals to focus on the individual and what interventions will drive health outcomes. They are investing more in digital, data and genomics than their peers to meet rising demand for proof of improved outcomes.

Marketing leaders have a role to play here because such specialisation will shift outcomes to hyper-personalisation. That means biopharma companies will need to know what individual customers want, when they want it and how they want it delivered. Marketers should look to leverage advanced analytics to increase their customer understanding.

“60% of biopharma marketing leads say their organisation isn’t ready for artificial intelligence”

This doesn’t mean all marketers need to become data scientists, but they do need to be able to form hypotheses and understand insights to make evidence-based decisions.

Across the industry data is pervasive, collected from various sources across geographies through clinical trials, wearable technology and other digital sources. Unfortunately, most of the information is largely siloed and difficult to connect. It is even harder to mine that data for insights which can then be quickly actioned by marketing and sales teams. To do that, marketing leaders will need to develop new in-house skills and toolsets in order to handle a wide spectrum of capabilities from automation to leveraging artificial intelligence, big data and analytics. Worryingly, however, 60% of biopharma marketing leads say their organisation isn’t ready for artificial intelligence. This means companies will need to skill up, but they also should be looking to partnerships for help.

Indeed, marketing leaders should also be guides to collaborating with the larger ecosystem and help set up partnerships with payers, providers, advocacy groups and new entrants. This means moving beyond traditional direct-to-patient touchpoints and coordinating with other parts of the healthcare system.

With six of the top ten tech companies heavily investing in healthcare, there certainly are plenty of opportunities to work together. Consider the relationship between Novartis and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Using AWS and the AWS Partner Network, Novartis constructed a platform that involved virtually screening 10 million compounds against a common cancer target. It was estimated that it would take 50,000 cores and roughly $40 million of investment if they wanted to run the experiment internally but using Amazon Web Services and Novartis’ 39 years of computational chemistry knowledge, they were able to conduct the experiment in nine hours with an investment of only $4,232. Out of the 10 million compounds screened, three were successfully identified.

Marketing in the new era

The pace of change is showing no signs of slowing and the role of marketing has evolved to serve as the connecting tissue internally and externally. Marketers should focus on three steps, therefore, to keep their companies on track:

  1. Be customer-obsessed so you can deliver on the moments that matter. Put simply, life sciences companies must get to know their customers, as humans, as individuals. They need to move beyond traditional market research and focus on new methods to gather insights, such as ethnography and design thinking, to understand their patients’ unmet needs.
  2. Breathe new life into your markets’ mindset, skillset, and toolset. Identify new ways of working that will bring together the right skills from across the organisation.
  3. Make better use of data across the organisation – and outside of it. Champion investments in AI and foster new partnerships, internally and externally.

In short, marketing executives need to be at the heart of the decision-making center of biopharma companies. Marketing can become an insight- and innovation-engine for the organisation, showing the way to increase relevance to customers, patients, and ecosystem partners. Leading biopharma companies will embrace cross-functional cooperation in order to achieve outcome-oriented results that offer more targeted services to customers.

About the author

Elizabeth Otterman is a managing director in Accenture’s Customer Insight and Growth practice.