Staying Relevant in the Marketplace

In January, Jim Blasingame released his new book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance. Blasingame is a syndicated radio show host who focuses on small business and his new book is directed at small businesses and entrepreneurs. But I found the advice and wisdom inside very applicable to pharma and device product managers.

I like this book because it contains a healthy dose of common sense. Being The Common Sense Guy, I know that the problem with common sense is that people often deny it. I always hear things like, “I know I should do this, but it will take too much time, or it will make so and so mad, or I have to be careful because of regulations.”

In the foreword to the book, Steve Forbes says, “Technological innovations now empower customers to go over, under or around the walls of control that businesses enjoyed for millennia.” This is true, especially when it comes to social media—it’s common sense. But pharma and device marketers often are in denial. The biggest excuse I hear is, “We’re in highly regulated industries, and using social media may create some big problems for us.”

While the use of social media is somewhat limited in pharma and device marketing, you ignore it at your own peril. The Moment of Relevance in the subtitle of The Age of the Customer refers to the need to be relevant to customers. As the author notes, your customers and potential customers have access to virtually all the information they need before you know they are interested—or that they exist.

I watched this phenomenon unfold with my mother. She passed away five years ago from complications due to COPD. As her conditioned worsened, she spent hours on the Internet seeking information about the disease and products that might help her. She got most information in COPD Internet chat rooms. Different companies and products became relevant to her depending on what she heard. But a lot of the information she received was just plain wrong. This is a challenge for pharma and device marketers. Patients often share incorrect information in these chat rooms.

As pharma and device marketers, we need to find a way to make our message relevant to potential customers while playing within the rules.

Several customer expectations come into play at the moment of relevance, including:

  • Does the seller have a website?
  • Is the website easy to navigate?
  • Is the website optimized for local search?
  • Does the seller have a mobile site?
  • Is the phone number easy to find?
  • Can mobile visitors click to call?
  • Is there online support?
  • Are there multiple options for visitors to give the seller permission to follow-up digitally?
  • Are there social media elements?
  • How well does the site let me help myself?

All of these expectations must, and can, be met in a compliant manner.

According to Blasingame, every person you hope to influence is asking two questions: 1) What’s in it for me? and 2) Why should I care about you? In the age of the customer, he says, you’re under the relevance microscope 24/7/365, and warns, “The greatest danger to any brand in the new age is not being uncompetitive, but rather, being irrelevant.”


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