Marketing mix dictated by complex science

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With 30 years' experience in the pharmaceutical industry, David Hoo has served in marketing posts at companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Nielsen Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. Today, as VP-marketing for Advanstar Communications' Life Sciences Group, he is responsible for building brand equity for the group—whose titles include Applied Clinical Trials, BioPHARM, International Pharmaceutical Executive and Pharmaceutical Technology—and innovatively leveraging that brand equity into new offerings. BtoB: What pharmaceutical industry trends are affecting the way marketers target this audience? Hoo: There has been a slowdown in new-product approvals by the FDA that's caused pressure on the top line, and as a result, pressure on the entire cost structure of the pharmaceutical industry. Everybody's looking to do things more efficiently. Like in all spaces b-to-b and b-to-c, digital [media] is becoming a trend because it's more efficient, it's more targetable and it's more accountable. [Marketers] are looking to qualify leads, and digital [media] forms offer ways to do that better. One of the most popular has become sponsored webinars. BtoB: What should marketers keep in mind when targeting this audience? Hoo: The pharmaceutical industry is heavily science-driven, and it's a very complex science. It's also very regulated. So there's a whole culture that most people, unless you're from within the industry, [can't] step into and easily break through. At the same time though, you need someone who's got general communications skills as well as that inside, vertical-specific understanding. There are all sorts of issues that make everything more difficult to do [in this industry], whether you're manufacturing or doing the accounting or the marketing and sales. Everything is just more complex, both from a scientific and regulatory point of view, than most industries. Marketers have to understand these challenges well enough to connect with executives making decisions and not gloss over them superficially. BtoB: What messaging is most effective in reaching these executives? Hoo: You have to understand their needs and the issues well enough to articulate a solution that sounds like it's actionable and not too generic. My belief in all messaging is it has to be need/benefit-driven—whether you're in financial services, or cookies or anything. With pharma people, you want to be able to deliver that in a way that can translate a benefit specific to our industry needs. —M.E. M.
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