in

Ipsen’s Head of Digital Customer Interaction for North America on Where is Biopharmaceutical Marketing Headed?

By Frank Dolan

I recently sat down with Ipsen’s Head of Digital Customer Interaction for North America to explore where biopharmaceutical marketing is headed during these unique times.

There is universal agreement that the P-word that sums up 2020 is “pivot.” But when it comes to the activities related to commercial teams scrambling to find solutions to keep their brand on track, the P-word has been “pilot.” With direct customer-facing activities sidelined, marketing tactics have needed to be repositioned and reinvented.

Many organizations found themselves with too few resources to successfully convey the value proposition to their customers via digital in virtual means. Companies tried various email marketing campaigns, experimented with emerging customer social platforms, and trialed technologies that just two years ago would’ve seemed too risky or outlandish for most conservative review boards.

For shareholders, customers, and patients alike, 2021’s P-word is “performance.” Whereas countless biopharmaceutical companies rescinded financial guidance for 2020, top executives demand operational certainty and have high expectations on delivering the numbers this year.

The first quarter of 2021 has greeted biopharmaceutical brands with mixed performance. Our clinical and commercial models continue to be interrupted by production, distribution, and commercial activity issues. These complexities are exacerbated at the regional level in the United States and to a greater degree internationally.

Mr. Murasko brings forth a fresh and straightforward perspective to help our most ambitious biopharmaceutical leaders navigate these complex waters. As a well-established thought leader and frequent speaker across industry events, Paul has influenced a generation of marketers with his term, “new personal promotion. ” He emphasizes that the goal of great marketing strategies and tactics always must be to engage our customer stakeholders to deliver against their needs. While technologies and channels may differ in quantity and scale, the measurement of any given campaign ultimately must arrive on discerning the level of effectiveness that we are compellingly delivering our value proposition and ultimately help improve the lives of our patients. 

Paul notes the importance of the sales role in delivering against this goal of improving patients’ lives. When asked about his outlook for the size and impact salesforce will play in the pharmaceutical industry’s future, he underscored the importance of the role. “While no one knows what level of face-to-face customer interaction we will return to, or how long it will take to get there,  the role of the salesperson must be a part of the promotional equation because of the power of relationships.” When you have a highly engaged and competent salesperson who can deliver compelling messages in a credible way to trusted customers, it is hard to fully replace that with technology or digital tactics. The combination of both a clearly a formula for success.  For our colleagues in account and sales roles, this is refreshing news and one that does not signal a demise but an evolution.

Measuring the effectiveness of any campaign or tactic does require new thinking and new math, according to Mr. Murasko. We discussed such challenges as measuring share-of-voice considering today’s untraditional promotional mix.  At current, virtual interactions continue to outpace face-to-face interactions; therefore, every leader asks the question, “how do I weigh promotional activities to yield a formula that accurately measures our share of voice?”  Paul states, “what we do know is that not all interactions are created equal, and no prescribing action is ever due to a singular promotional activity.  That is why you need a omnichannel approach to ensure you are engaging with your hcp when, where, and how they want”

Perhaps more by force than by choice, pharmaceutical brands have had to explore emerging tools and technology.  In fact, companies may have seen some approaches as too risky or nebulous before the pandemic.  Covid19 has truly been a digital accelerator in pharma!  Emerging innovations include using lexical analysis to understand customers’ information-seeking behavior. Increasingly we are offered data solutions leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive deeper insights to understand the customer journey. Of course, the biopharmaceutical industry is not the only sector that is still patiently waiting for the alleged pot of gold to reveal itself through the power of social media. These new tactics beg the question, what do we need in the next wave of marketers? We asked Paul about his view on the need to upskill their existing marketing teams and think about the hiring criteria for future marketers.

Paul indulged us with his optimism around the excellent training that biopharmaceutical marketers currently have. Growing up in the medical device and the pharmaceutical industry has allowed him to understand both short and long product cycles. In medical device marketing, brands need to have potent and efficient campaigns since devices evolve quickly and the market opportunity can be limited. Having captained many successful pharmaceutical brands, Paul appreciates the need to establish then nurture markets to build confidence in diagnosis and treatment. He states, “what brings both industries together is a passion for serving as many patients as appropriately possible. Today and tomorrow’s marketers must be guided by this passion to cogently evaluate, test and learn while implementing a strategy or tactic.”

He is passionate about consistently upscaling all of his stakeholders, not just his team. Our industry is going through such an evolution that it is incumbent of every great commercial leader to make sure all of their collaborators inside the organization understand the risks and the opportunities associated with delivering the brand promise. Paul shares, “now is a perfect time to listen carefully to new solutions that are available to your organization as well as to collaborate with peers who understand our challenges and offer a broader perspective on collective ways we can solve them. Networking and collaborating with my peer group has never been more critical. In fact, with everyone forced to interact virtually, collaboration has never been easier.  Let’s not lose the positive momentum pharma has gain over the past year!”

In conclusion, Paul Murasko is genuinely a Great Mind. Paul’s work history bridges medical devices and biopharmaceuticals. Paul’s leadership history bridges the people across companies who collectively want to deliver on our shared value to improve and extend patients’ lives. As a frequent speaker and contributor to industry discussions, Paul shares his wisdom with others so we could all benefit. As Paul says, “it makes sense for all of us to root for each other and be successful because at some point we are all patients.”

A Year of Digital-First Engagement

5 Lessons Learned from the Pandemic for Commercial Life Sciences with Insights from Novartis