Farmers. They’re not known for being sexy, or cool or avant-garde.

Admit it…you saw the word, and this image of a guy in overalls and a hat you wouldn’t wear and a tan that stops where his T-shirt begins popped into your head. A guy with dirt under his finger nails, and callouses he didn’t get in a gym, living someplace you’ve never been and probably never want to go.

Not exactly the image we conjure up when we think about our role model for a career in marketing, is it? We don’t really think about people like farmers in “ideation” meetings, we don’t think like them as we plan our next campaign, and we think we have little in common with them as we prepare to ask for funding for our big digital initiative. And maybe our thinking is just wrong.

Because while we think we’re such brilliant people with the work we do, sometimes it helps to put things in perspective. Take health apps for mobile devices as an example. IMS Health reported in October of last year that more than 50% of all healthcare apps have been downloaded less than 500 times. Think about that. More than 43,000 apps on a planet with more than seven billion people on it, and you probably have more LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends than users of most of the apps.

That’s a major fail for a large number of marketers and app developers, and to be blunt, it’s not much of a contribution to society. And it’s bad for our industry because it trivializes the value of potentially transformative technology from the digital, mobile, IT and online social communities that might truly help patients and providers as it also captures value for pharma and technology shareholders. And I know many people reading this. You’re just better than that figure would lead us to believe.

Is There Something We Can Learn From Other Businesses?

So maybe there’s something we can learn from businesses that aren’t just given an annual budget that they simply must spend, and they can’t just hand their work over to others while they rush off to meetings they don’t find valuable in the first place. There’s an incredible clarity brought on by the sobriety of literally “betting the farm” on something, and it might be time to bring that level of thinking to our marketing efforts. And that’s the reason I’ve wanted to write this column for a long time now. I want us to focus on projects in this industry that make a positive difference in the lives of patients, providers and shareholders. I want “pharma marketer” to be something we’re proud to be rather than something for which we apologize. And I want you to do it with me.

So just as people like farmers need to make hard choices and invest what is often their own money wisely to ensure a crop, we need to do the same with our budget dollars, and with our time and attention. It’s a prescription for our times in this now cost-conscious industry, but I think we’ll be up for the challenge.

So welcome to my column dedicated to the real world application of technology (digital, mobile, social and more) in the pursuit of real results and measurable outcomes. I hope to highlight examples (both real and illustrative) of how providers and patients are using technology, how brands are contributing to better outcomes, and how costs are brought under control even as life science companies create real and sustainable value for their bottom line. I’m tired of seeing programs created just to “check a box,” and I’m tired of people not valuing our industry. I really just want to be a simple but successful “pharmer.” And something tells me that you might be looking for the same thing.

  • Joe Meadows

    Joe Meadows is President of Think Patients. Joe leads Think Patients, a consulting company that helps healthcare and life science companies improve business processes, engage in applied innovation, and deal with a rapidly changing healthcare business environment, with a focus on helping companies work with care management tools and new patient and provider engagement technologies. Joe can be reached at 484-200-7900.


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