Alfred asked the question “Who is more patient-centric: pharma or biotech?”
At first blush, the question seems naive. But digging deeper we find issues of segmentation, market structure, relative importance of key stakeholders and other pesky issues. With implications for personas, contact streams, social media and much more. So, they demand an answer – even an incomplete one. It’s a wooly world out there and we also want to sidestep dangers in generalizing about whole industries …
That makes this somewhat of a trick question, so it deserves a trick answer. Let’s meet expectations: some initial thoughts to get the debate rolling.
Biotech products cry out for focused, targeted, consumer-centric marketing – but firms haven’t figured out how to orchestrate the specific, often small target populations that sometimes yield tightly-knit communities they treat. Funded by VC’s, they tend to be science-focused and -driven, and inexperienced with consumer marketing. Many of their products are unknown, and they typically do (ie fund) little to correct the problem. Much could be done to leverage the aggressive, highly-motivated patients and seekers (Hugh Rienhoff’s search for daughter Beatrice is exceptional (see Wired 17.02) but still illustrative). Patients could be in the center: they want to connect with other sufferers, caregivers, clinics, experts, specialty pharmacies, and government officials, to name just a few in their communities of limited hope. So, the evidence is in their favor.
By contrast, pharma products aim at vast target sufferer populations. And, they spend big: many of their products are household names. “Vytorin? I dunno what it’s for but that looks like my Aunt Gracie so I remember it.” Many are experienced with consumer marketing for a century or more (Bayer, J&J, Merck, Pfizer), and sell both ethical and OTC treatments. Yet their consumer relationship models are often built by churning through new patient starts, switchers, with insufficient support for long-term treatment. Everyone knows the standard lapse curve and here's where their patients really need the help. The necessary compliance and persistency interventions could be readily served by thoughtful, educational and behavior-changing patient communications, for everyone’s benefit.
In this light, the consumer-centric business imperatives of the biotech industry could not be more obvious. In reality, many biotechs have not figured out how to assemble their communities to better treat and care. Ideal opportunity; missed opportunity.
For the pharma firms: what, exactly is wrong (I can’t feel anything)? And, what about this nausea I’m suddenly experiencing? – this medicine must be harming me – no one has the time to explain expectations or expertise to answer basic questions (they could, but don’t). Set expectations; no expectations.
Other opinions? Please post your thoughts here so Alfred can have something to work from.