Since CES, we’ve mused about what customer experience means in pharma. The answer is, “Ask.” A meeting this week reminded me that it can be so much more than another morose, oddly catchy Smiths song.

A pharma company we work with held an ad board. Nothing new there.

Here’s the new part and, how “ask” works.

They brought us along. As each of their most important customers were on their way back to the airport, they introduced me. The intro was simple and went something like this, “This guy has an app that we think will help you. What do **you** think?” (emphasis, mine).

Those 2.73 seconds changed the game for this company.

Each of these docs is a major player in his or her field. People ask them questions all the time. Many times, people pay them before they ask.

As marketers, we use data to guide our decisions. We make “ask” a data collection tool. We forget it can be a marketing tool too.

Data is a “take ask.”

When we ask people things, we ask a series of questions veiled by one-way glass, polling apps, or our agents. Data asks don’t connect the “ask” to your “give.”

“Take asks” waste precious marketing opportunities. You’re not asking your customers what (else) they need or how you can help. At best, your vendor may have used “ask” to collect data. They showed you a report and you got no credit from your customers.

Here is an example of the same meeting. When I got back, my hotel asked me a question by email. Essentially, it was, “Thanks for coming. Hope to see you again. Fill out this survey.” They failed to connect with me. So, I unsubscribed.

Which brings us to the “give ask.”

Marketing is a “give ask.”

Make it one-to-one, in-person, and connect the “ask” to the value you aim to deliver.

You see, a “give ask” is always good. If the customer hates the idea, you still get credit just for asking, “How do I help you?” It’s like asking someone, “How was your day?” Even if it was lousy day, the “ask” makes you empathetic and valuable.

If you get a good reply, that’s an even better win—and, not just for me. It helps you optimize your plan. If your key buyers like something—do more of it. And, you do less of something else. Common sense really. Amped by “ask.”

You’ve passed ask-101. Here’s graduate level “ask.” Cicero coined, if A=B, and B=C, then A (must) = C.

Today, agencies use it with aplomb. The agency brings a cool company (sometimes us) to meet their client on “Innovation Day.” By Cicero’s transitive property, the agency is cool. Ok, even more cool.

The “transitive-ask” is a guaranteed win for you too.

Serve your customers innovation tapas. Let them sample a few nifty ideas you sourced **just** for them (emphasis mine). Pick companies that have ways to solve your customer’s problems. Curate their news, navigate their meetings, really anything haven’t already tried.

If your customers like any of your ideas, you know what (more) to do. At worst, you show customers that you do more than talk to them. “Ask” means you think about them, understand them, and care about them.

Oh yeah, I forget to mention the answer to the above question. They loved it. It was a unique offering that each doctor felt helped them. Here’s how much they thanked the company. They asked us (and the company) to follow up with them so they could use it. Thanks for asking.

Think about that, a customer asking you to follow up. How great is “ask”?

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