‘Due to the changing healthcare environment (reduced physician access, increasing pressures from managed care organizations) and competitive pressures (plethora of “me-too” compounds, build up of sales forces), returns on investments in sales force have diminished, and the importance of marketing has increased. As a result, pharmaceutical companies are increasing their focus on building superior marketing capabilities in order to differentiate their products. [McKinsey, 2008]
Over the past 10 years since this while paper, there has been a frenzy of ‘marketing excellence’ programs attempting to build new capabilities to ensure ongoing success in the new marketplace. Now the dust has settled, we can ponder whether some core marketing fundamentals, those that are often assumed to be in place and often deprioritised by other more faddish trends and budget cuts, are actually where we should be putting our efforts continuously, not just in one off transformational initiatives.
In re-reading the McKinsey article sited above, the principles remain the same. In order to continuously improve marketing excellence, we have to continue to ensure the foundations are in place. If not, you will get slippage and have to kick off yet another ‘back to basics initiative’.
Instead, we need to continuously build core capabilities and embed marketing excellence in the DNA of the organisation. If we get it right, it should self-perpetuate into an every evolving marketing excellence program, aligned to the organisational and market needs.
So don’t forget the core of your Marketing Excellence Program – your people and building capabilities. Focus on the specific marketing skills you need to solve your current business problems, train up a critical mass and invest in coaching. Agree KPIs to navigate your ongoing efforts and ensure the leadership team support the continuous focus and investment in core skills
Do you have the right people and competency to meet the ongoing changes in the market place and the internal organisation?
When assessing your current performance, your will require insight from multiple stakeholders and from various data sources. You will want a holistic and objective view of where you are, in order to decide, where to put your efforts and limited resources. You should seek out gaps in perception, as well as performance.
Market conditions and company culture provide a context unique to your organisation, and thus affect best practices in strategy development. To create a solid foundation, you will want to identify where do you need to focus your efforts to solve your own current business challenges. Ask ‘what needs to happen and what do you need to have internally to make this happen?’
For example, if the quality of the brand plans being produced is consider less-than-good, then narrow down from the stakeholders what specifically are they dissatisfied with? What areas of these plans failing to meet expectations? Is it the quality of the insights? Or is it the strategy is not differentiating enough? Are they failing to include robust ROI forecasts?
Secure quantifiable data to drive your intervention ad investment decisions. Gain agreement from the leadership team before proceeding.
As an industry, we tend to be data obsessed. Synthesising the data into a valuable story, however, is not always our strength and we often rely on third parties to bring insights to our attention. In saying this, many industries find it hard to objectively view their market performance and bring variable sources of data together in a comprehensible way. We must convert data into ‘knowledge’.
When assessing your marketing performance, use the market data you have, along with a assessment of internal capabilities. This is where Assessments Centres can assist in providing valuable objective data to validate the identification areas of need, as they assess individuals and teams holistically and provide data analysis reports to help you synthesis the human component with the market performance component of your assessment.
Using Actando’s Assessment Centre model an example, Assessment Centres assess across different dimensions using different tools:
- Knowledge Assessment: Assessing knowledge on different skills, processes, using a set of competencies defined to a role and priorities of the relevant customers. These are performed online with the capability to benchmark participants within the industry.
- Simulations (Online business Games): Assessment the capability to implement a specific skills such as brand management. This is a set of simulations defined according to the role and again the priorities of target customers. The assessment can be performed online with again, the capability to benchmark participants within the industry.
- Feedback Survey: 180 / 360 degree review, depending the role to be assessed. A Feedback Survey focuses on behavioral competencies and capabilities. The set of competencies are defined according to the role. The Survey is completed online with the capability to benchmark participants within the industry if competencies are not customized.
- Emotional Intelligence / Aptitude – These are Personality Tests are completed online.
Of course, with these (above), there will be face-to-face interviews. These tend to be customised to your organisation’s unique needs, competencies and priorities, and are often completed internally.
Building Capability Using Serious Games
The challenge with marketing capabilities is that they are a set of broad competencies, and this means often success is not repeatable. Good marketing is the application of some core principles that leads to potentially good insight discovery, good strategy development, the identification of critical success factors and KPIs, and the development of effective integrated multi-channel tactics. Therefore, the design of capability development solutions should reflect this.
For superior training events, it is important to simulate as much of the real world as possible in the process, in order to train truly cross-functional teams. Use a case study to bring the capability to life. Encourage creativity with contests, mock presentations etc., as creativity and improvisation are intimately related to learning. [McKinsey, 2008]
Using ‘serious games’ or simulations, the learning content is delivered in a game-based environment. Using serious games in your curriculum, you can elevate your teaching from motivating individuals to learn a task, to engaging individuals in participating in a fun game. They can act as external coaching solutions.
Games are fun as well as they are:
- Engaging and competitive;
- Scaffolded learning with challenges that increase;
- Opportunities for mastery of skills;
- Able to give immediate feedback;
- Able to include progress indicators such as leader boards; and they are
Target training interventions are an essential component of your Marketing Excellence Program. Whatever intervention you design, it should aim to change behaviour and mindsets. There should be clarity of the role, and clear communication about the capabilities and expectations.
So when designing a marketing excellence program, focus on finding out the specific marketing skills you need to solve your current business problems. Then train up a critical mass and invest in coaching. Agree KPIs to navigate your ongoing efforts and ensure the leadership team support the focus and investment. Make this a continuous process over time, and try to avoid a one-off investment.
One last point - ensure your business processes align to the marketing skills and processes you are developing, to embed ways of working.
Actando can help. We provide flexible Assessment Centres with industry benchmarking, and serious games for marketers to build capabilities in the fundamental marketing competencies. To find out more, contact Actando.
If you are interested in our mobile learning solutions on digital channels, contact Actando.
The Actando Consulting Team