What every captain knows

As avid boaters, my husband and I have had an up-close relationship with Lake Michigan for many years.  We have crossed it, crisscrossed it, and traveled it from top to bottom.  Shortly after buying a boat, we took classes offered by the Coast Guard auxiliary to learn about how to chart a course.  But the real hands-on knowledge has come by way of our many trips.   Our first boat was not equipped with electronic navigation, so our maiden voyage across the lake to Saugatuck, Michigan required the use of paper charts, parallel rulers, and “dead reckoning”.  We and our co-travelers literally leaped for joy and cheered ecstatically when we spotted the Saugatuck landmark. We were all a little shocked that we had not only made it to our destination, but had done so right on the mark.

Electronic Marine GPS has dramatically changed navigation over the years but the fundamentals haven’t changed.  Planning and attention to detail are still essential.  Modern systems make it easy to set a waypoint, which provides and stores your bearing, compass reading, distance, and direction to a certain location.  But even if your waypoint seems clear, you still need to deviate a bit from your course along the way because of obstacles you might encounter − shoals, reefs, or land.  And because Lake Michigan can present as many challenges as the ocean, a boater also has to be continually aware of other ever-changing elements that cause the boat to go off-course, like wind, waves, and currents.  But in the end, the captain’s measure of success is clear:  Did I get there?  Or did I hit a rock and sink?

Charting a course to….where?

Since we’re in the midst of making plans for a boating trip coming up soon this summer, I’ve been reminded of the analogies between boating and business. Every marketer needs to have a goal, figure out how to get there, and be prepared for potential impediments along the way.  But when it comes to pharmaceutical marketing spending, it seems like many times brands are trying to chart a course without a clear idea of where they want to go or where they will end up.  Millions of dollars are spent on advertising campaigns but it is difficult to relate the spending back to actual impact on sales.  Things like as response rates to savings offers, website visits, brand awareness and television ad impressions are all contributing factors that are definitely important to know. But they are diagnostic in nature and do not give you the full performance picture. Sales data metrics, on the other hand, provide an unequivocal assessment of marketing effectiveness. Early in the planning process, the key performance indicators should be identified, which includes deciding on the benchmarks that will be used to reflect a quantifiable return. When a metrics plan is established in advance, and when it emphasizes true impact metrics, the chances for a successful marketing effort increase substantially.

See land and reach your destination

Marketers can then use this data to refine future efforts. For example, if a particular program met ROI goals, a marketer may want to evaluate how to scale it in the future to reach a larger audience. If objectives were not met, the information can be used to adjust strategies and tactics.  Lifetime patient value is another critical consideration that cannot be overlooked in the ROI calculation. Marketers should quantify results with respect to not only the short-term impact of the marketing effort, but also the effect over the duration of treatment.  Destination reached!

Use the right tools, whether you’re navigating a boat or a brand

Thinking back to that first boat excursion to Saugatuck, we really shouldn’t have been all that surprised by our success.  We had used all the tools available to us at the time, knew what we wanted to achieve, and had applied caution and care in planning the trip.  That’s what it really is all about, whether you’re navigating a boat or a brand.

When pharma marketers establish a waypoint, chart their course, keep the destination in sight and use the best tools available, they can successfully navigate their journey—without hitting a rock along the way!