Without a map to determine your professional direction and a compass to achieve “completeness,” it will be difficult to reach your marketing goals.

strat·e·gy

noun
A plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result

in·teg·ri·ty

noun
The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished

Strategy and integrity are two words commonly used in business but, in my opinion, it is uncommon to see either used correctly. I’ve often written and spoken (some may say “preached”) about strategy that, as the definition above indicates, is a plan to reach a goal, although most marketers use the term to describe virtually every action they take. Face it, we have “publication strategies” that are usually little more than a list of the publications that will be used, “selling strategies” that are simply targeting the same high volume prescribers that your competitors target with the message that tested the best, and a “contracting strategy” that is usually just the best way to give lower prices to the payers that threaten the best. Rather than being a plan, most “strategies” are simple assemblages of activities and tactics that are selected separately—often because they look or sound cool or because a competitor is using it, so it must be good—then lumped together into the marketing plan.

Integrity is not something I’ve written about, but I have fretted about it—a lot. Note from the definition above that this is not about adhering to some moral or ethical code. It’s more about completeness. Here I am referring to the common practice of working in a vacuum—promotional activities and objectives are seldom considered when contracts are developed for managed care or providers, and the overall brand objective (if one exists) is seldom considered when setting the initial price for the product. If you think about the market, and your efforts, as a complete organism or ecosystem with each aspect of it affecting most or all of the others, as opposed to a machine with distinct parts that can be fine-tuned individually, then you’ll understand why a focus on integrity is so important.

Each aspect of the market and your marketing affects the others, and you need to keep that in mind—addressing them separately, or even in the wrong order, can create huge problems. For instance, we were once discussing a product forecast with a company and I asked how many sales representatives they planned to put behind the product, which to me is an important input to any forecast. The response? “Once we have the forecast we will know how many reps we will need.” This very large and successful firm did not consider marketing efforts in their forecasts, which is essentially an assumption that marketing does not affect sales—by managing the two separately you prevent even the assumption of connectedness. In a similar vein, many companies will do pricing research, and set prices, without considering differences in potential product objectives, acting as if there is a singular price that is right for the product regardless of the goals and strategy for the product. Continuing with the lack of integrity, almost all companies are engaged in contracting that is done without regard to product strategies—contracting is done to secure favorable formulary status (or prevent unfavorable status) without considering the overarching product strategy or the operations of the market—and this is often a costly mistake.

To develop a strategy with integrated marketing activities we first need to back up and ask: What are we trying to accomplish with the product? The typical answers tend to be: “We want to be number one,” or “We will become the gold standard” or something equally as vague—that’s not an objective, it’s a cliché. Instead, you should establish either a specific goal, such as “$1 billion in top line sales in three years” or “to gain and maintain a 60% share over the next two years while increasing net profits” or something similar. Notice that two aspects of these provide a measurable goal, which allows you to know whether you have achieved it (as opposed to the vague “market leader” goal which could mean you have a 10% share while your 10 competitors each have 9% shares or that you have over a 50% share) and a specific time frame, both of which allow you to evaluate your performance. Without these two elements you do not have an achievable goal, at best you have a direction. It is like the difference between getting into a car with the intent of getting to Yellowstone Park by Tuesday and returning home Saturday and simply driving West (or East, depending on your starting point) and seeing what happens. The latter might make for a great adventure for a college student but it’s not the way to manage a business.

In establishing your objective you must first look at the market and your product and ask: “What can we realistically expect from this product and what conditions must be met for us to reach this objective?” Setting an objective of $1 billion in sales when the entire market is only $300 million means you either need to grow the market substantially or discover some new value that nobody has ever considered. Both of these can be (and have been) done but it takes a lot more than willpower and big marketing budgets to accomplish—it takes having the right product and a lot of focus.

Once you’ve determined the objective for the product you need to develop the plan; what steps will you take with the intent of achieving the objective? You need to know exactly where you want to go and exactly what needs to be done to get there. Without that specificity you are engaged in dreaming, not planning. For every marketing action you consider you must first ask: “How will this get me closer to the objective and how will it fit together with the other things we are doing?” If the answer is not obvious then don’t do it, instead you should search for and implement alternatives that will be consistent with your other efforts and move you decisively toward your goal.

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