Have you ever really sat down and thought of the skills you need to be a successful marketer? If you haven’t then you should really try it some day because the list is extensive, and much longer than you would initially have thought.If you think about the four general elements of any marketing programme: analysis, strategy, tactical planning & implementation, each has its own unique skillset that the brand marketer is required to master. In larger organisations, marketing teams might have access to some support in the form of business intelligence teams who provide analysis and insights or possibly global or regional teams to help set strategy ; but the final responsibility for brand success still lies with the local marketing team. This means that every member of the brand team needs to be on top of their game, possessing the required skills to deliver the required results.
1. How do we traditionally learn these skills in the pharmaceutical industry?
Traditionally, pharmaceutical marketers have some form of academic qualification and at least some experience in the field working as a member of the sales team. They are promoted into the marketing department and are expected to learn on the job, picking up practical insights into the requirements of successful marketing campaigns as they work with their colleagues.
Learning on the job allows new marketers to “do” marketing in the way that the company expects, using their procedures and processes, without needing to take time out to do so.
2. You sound sceptical about the traditional approach, why?
Firstly, marketing teams are simply too busy and under too much pressure to carry new marketers for months before they are up to speed and contributing their share to the workload.
Secondly, the assumption is made that the current marketing team actually possess the required skills to the expected levels to be able to teach the new marketer what he or she needs to know.
Thirdly, time is extremely precious for marketing teams and it isn’t always possible for the senior marketer on the team to take the time to teach the new marketer what they need to know. It is all very well expecting on the job training to happen but it is seldom organised formally with a standardised approach. This makes on-the-job training in most companies very hit-and-miss in terms of delivering on objectives.
Fourthly, and linked to our second point, how do you know what the person is being taught is actually best practice for your industry? Just because this is the usual way of doing things within the company doesn’t necessarily make it the best way.
Finally, we all like to learn differently and once again, on-the-job training is seldom structured in a way that meets the needs of different learning styles.
3. You referred to different learning styles, how do we prefer to learn?
Learners are generally grouped into three distinct categories based on their preferences for the way material is presented to them. These groups are referred to as being visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners.
Visual learners rely on visual stimuli, preferring colourful material that is filled with pictures, diagrams and other visual elements to support the narrative being presented by the trainer. In order to meet the needs of this group the training programme must include printed or online materials combining text and images. It is also preferable to ensure that printed slides are available for use during any face-to-face training.
Auditory learners have a clear preference for verbal communication, preferring to listen to presentations and explanations, using discussion with other delegates to process the concepts that they have learned. These learners prefer face-to-face training where material is presented verbally within a group environment. It is also essential that training courses offer plenty of time for discussion and interaction to allow auditory learners to process the information they are receiving.
The final group are referred to as kinaesthetic, tactile or movement learners, people who prefer to learn through hands-on activity or simulation. This group learns by doing, using movement to reinforce the points that have been presented. It is therefore critical for the training course to be effective that some form of simulation or practice is included within the course structure.
In addition to the three elements above, we also have different preferences with regard to the type of information being presented to us, and how we internalise this information. Some of us prefer to learn through concrete, real-life experiences and examples whilst others prefer new information to be shared using more abstract models or ideas. Differences also exist in the way that we process new information. Some individuals prefer to process information by practising through active experimentation and others regard reflective observation as a more beneficial method of processing the information that they have received.
For any training programme to be effective, meeting both company and employee needs, it is essential that the programme design takes these differences into account. This means that the old approach of single channel delivery of information, be it face to face or online, is no longer appropriate if the organisation is to derive the maximum return from their training expenditure. The best way for companies to ensure that they meet the needs of each of these groups is to adopt a blended learning approach to developing the desired skillsets.
Now that we have identified the training challenges marketers are facing in the pharmaceutical industry, we still need to discuss how to practically implement effective and innovative training programmes. This subject will be covered in the second part of this article on blended learning.