Identifying growth drivers: three simple steps to boost in-line brand performance
Marketing managers can use a customised diagnostic and the right metrics to uncover growth drivers which could help boost a brand's performance, says Deborah Runge.
What is a growth driver?
Finding ways in which you can maximise the importance of your brand at the strategic level is something everyone knows is hugely important. The identification of potential growth drivers for your brand is key to this - and yet many brand teams struggle to ask the right questions when first undertaking this task.
Let's take a step back and ask first: what is a growth driver? There is a lot of confusion around this question - people often understand a growth driver to be marketing lever, a programme, a tactic, or sales team initiative. Those are all relevant, but the best way of understanding a growth driver is this: anything which represents a strategic opportunity for a brand to accelerate its growth.
That means that understanding growth drivers, and using the right metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to analyse performance, is, in this case, very much in the remit of global and regional marketing managers and sales directors, and not something only of interest to market research managers.
Let's look at some examples of specific growth drivers to illustrate the point. Suppose we're in the field of cardiology and cholesterol reduction. One growth driver might be the insight that doctors who love Brand X have higher expectation of LDL-C reduction from Brand X than from brands Y and Z. Another example might be a fact that Brand X is being used in diabetes patients by cardiologists. Both of these specific insights into your customers could be very valuable: once captured and understood clearly, they can provide opportunities for growth in use of your brand.
So how do you identify these opportunities in the first place? You can do that by having a deep understanding of the customers or the stakeholders with whom the brand interacts. That means it often pays to start investigating how physicians and patients really use and perceive your product.
The next step is to diagnose how the brand is performing now - this doesn't mean the brand isn't meeting its sales targets or forecasted revenue. Brand managers and senior management often only start doing this when a brand isn't performing well, but you can, of course, also improve brands which are already doing well.
In these cases, you can diagnose areas of success and then channel your resources at these specific areas to maximise your returns.
Applying the 3-step framework – start with the brand plan
Step 1 - First re-examine what the brand is trying to achieve strategically; look at the brand plans and understand the thinking behind those strategic objectives.
Step 2 - Revisit which customers you are really trying to win and the methods you are using to achieve that. Once you have understood those strategic objectives, you can analyse how the brand is actually performing against them.
Just looking at the financial outcomes is not enough, because there are lots of assumptions that go into those forecasts. And when you think about it from a multi-country perspective, you find the situation is often subtly different in each territory, and that means the objectives can vary from country to country.
So in what kinds of scenario will this review work? It can be applied in various different ways. For example, when global head office might be looking at brand performance across the regions and countries, or perhaps when a country general manager has a product that isn't hitting the sales target. Conversely, it could also be applied where you're already doing well and you want to accelerate.
Standardised metrics versus multiple bespoke metrics
Step 3 - Get the metrics right. I've seen so many examples of teams using standardised tracking studies, but these can't deliver the right kinds of insight. Standardisation does give you some benchmarks, but these are usually too general, and don't link back to the customised strategic objectives that a team has decided on for its brand. That means it can never give you the specific diagnosis or diagnostic information that you need.
What's really going on with your brand only becomes clear when you combine multiple pieces of information and datasets.
A lot of people call this 'triangulating', but you should use more than three sources when looking at how a brand is performing. You have to have metrics aligned with your existing strategy, and that should align with the right customer segments.
How your customers perceive the benefits or reason to use your product – what they really think about it – is, of course, very important. Companies often think these views are influenced by perceptions of them as a company, but that usually has very little to do with it. A lot of doctors don't even know who the manufacturer of the drug is!
Analysing perceptions first involves measuring how closely real-life use of the drug is to your goals. We often find a company promoting a product for a certain set of patients, but discover doctors are using it differently in real life.
You can also measure if the messages you're delivering are actually aligned with what the customers already believe or perceive about your brand.
Collecting all this data and metrics about how your brand is really performing will allow analysis and identification of where the true growth drivers are. That could be in exploiting how doctors are already using your product, or helping to correct an issue which means your product's benefits for certain patients aren't being understood.
Once you have decided on these actions, you can then align them with your top line objectives across your region. It is really helpful to identify commonalities across countries or regions, to define what actions to apply across the board, and what actions to customise to the particular market.
Case study: What is a 'high risk' patient?
An example of these ideas was a project we did with one top five pharma company in the European region in their cardiovascular franchise.
Their messages said their drug could be used in 'high risk patients'. This was a very broad patient population, so much so that the clinical definition of this cohort was not clear.
The definition of 'high risk patients' was rather subjective, and it emerged that the interpretation of this differed from physician to physician, so it wasn't clear which patients would be appropriate for the drug.
That meant the company had to redefine the patient their drug was to be used in, and had to redefine it for all the different sets of doctors involved in prescribing it.
It turned out that the drug was being used by different segments of physicians to those the company was expecting would use it. It emerged that some specialists were more likely to use the drugs than the specialists targeted, and some primary care doctors were more likely to use it than thought. So we defined those groups, not just on specialism, but by other behaviours, usage and perceptions.
Then we worked on messages about the perceptions on the safety and efficacy of this drug, creating specific messages for that particular drug and those particular sets of doctors.
Changing the strategic objective
This process presumes that the existing strategic objectives for the brand are the right ones. However after this kind of thorough review, a company can, of course, review and then change its strategic objectives and priorities. You can examine performance at a country level, which provides very useful information that either confirms a hypothesis or gives new insights into your brand and customers.
You need to know what you are you looking for. So decide if you're trying to achieve X% growth in switches and add-ons in this particular type of patient with these physicians in speciality A or speciality B, for instance. You must define what you're looking for, otherwise you generate and analyse too much data, and it is difficult to decide on actions to take from very general findings.
Prioritise first, then take action
Once you have identified your growth drivers, prioritise ruthlessly: if you focus on just one or two rather than a handful, you will get far better results.
Finally a word about how you can manage this process best: if a marketing manager knows about managing sales teams in countries and regions (from past experience), this helps enormously, as they know what it takes for these messages to be changed and implemented in the field. Once you have isolated those growth drivers that can maximise your brand's potential, you need someone with a clear vision of how to convert those concepts into actions. If you can create a set of actions specific to each individual country in your territory – and make sure they are concrete and actionable terms – these growth drivers will start to deliver on their promise.
About the author:
Deborah Runge is a Principal Consultant at IMS Health. She leads initiatives with global pharma organisations, working with marketing teams across different therapeutic areas, liaising closely with IT, communications, medical and legal. She is currently focused on strategies, capabilities, and metrics for brand performance, multi-channel marketing, and social media. Her previous roles in insights and analytics have guided her thought leadership on ways to measure customer engagement.
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