One of the reasons the biotech industry is so fascinating to watch is that progress comes from unexpected places. Of course, this is a double-edged sword. While the dynamics of the market certainly keep things interesting, they also make it hard to predict and get ahead of trends.
Few would have predicted ten years ago, for example, that Amazon would be such a huge player in the pharmacy sector. And while many expected wearable technology to transform healthcare from the consumer perspective, few could have anticipated the ways in which the healthcare industry is using the humongous amount of health data being collected every minute.
The critical question for biotech and pharmaceutical companies is how to position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities these trends present. One big trend to watch is the rise of the consumer as customer. In this article, we discuss the changes we’re seeing in this area and the opportunities for growth.
The Rise of the Consumer as Customer
We see the same warning blasted all over the headlines: businesses must strategize differently to compete in The Age of the Consumer. It’s true. Never before have consumers had as much power as they do today and healthcare consumers are no exception. Biotech and pharmaceutical firms underestimate healthcare consumers’ willingness to comparison shop at their peril.
In the past, drug companies could focus on doctors or payers (insurance companies) as their target customers. Those days are gone. More and more patients are taking charge of their health and demanding individualized treatment. While shopping for medication might not involve the same customer journey as shopping for other necessities, for Americans who identify as smart shoppers, they will make value-based choices when it comes to their health.
This presents an incredible opportunity for pharma and biotech companies. Successful companies will position themselves as a source for reliable, understandable information and offer decision support tools to help their customers navigate the complex maze of information overload. So let’s discuss some specific growth opportunities.
3 Opportunities for Growth:
1. Drug Safety and Quality Assurance
In this moment of increased drug innovation, there is understandably a lot of consumer skepticism. It’s becoming more difficult, almost by the day, to be an educated drug consumer. And with the advent of increasingly individualized medicines, we’re likely to see more of a demand for such innovations
Of course, developing new drugs takes time and effort. It’s not cheap either. On average, it takes a decade of research and $2.6 billion to bring an experimental drug to market. While big drug companies have an advantage when it comes to distribution and manufacturing, smaller companies tend to be better at innovating and potentially moving a product down the pipeline.
Some startups specialize in developing new drug compounds. Others look for new uses for existing compounds. Either way, there is an increasing need for pharma companies to get involved on a deeper level with early development to prevent sub-optimal drugs from flooding the market. Biotech and pharma companies looking to get in on the ground floor with startups can position themselves as open to innovation and as a serious friend to consumers by contributing to drug safety and quality assurance.
2. Innovative Pricing Structures
The pharmaceutical industry often gets a bad rap in the media when it comes to pricing. Recall the controversy over the 600% increase of the cost of an EpiPen. But while there are definitely bad actors out there who choose to take advantage of an opaque, multi-dimensional, and often dysfunctional healthcare system, there are plenty of great companies focused on significantly improving patients’ lives.
Being open to innovative drug pricing could be one effective differentiator. Payers, insurers, and government health authorities have indicated a willingness to work with biotech firms to develop more innovative pricing schemes that benefit everyone. In May, President Trump signed into law The Right to Try Act. The law gives terminally ill patients who have exhausted all other options access to treatments they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. It also allows drug companies to recover costs associated with providing such treatments.
Pharmaceutical companies that are willing to be more flexible on price will develop an advantage over their competitors. Those companies that offer cost sharing, payment plans, or other innovative pricing models will be pacesetters.
3. Pull Rather than Push Marketing
Pull marketing is an approach designed to draw consumers to a brand rather than trying to “push” out a product. Marketing for pharmaceuticals used to be simple. A new drug arrived from R&D, you built the brand and developed brand-centric materials, which the sales force then pushed out. Who was the customer? Some Frankenstein-esque persona cobbled together from the mass of doctors you met at a medical conference or other industry event.
Now, marketers face a multi-stakeholder, multichannel, world of rapidly changing technology where anything is possible. The good news is that pharma marketers can get their hands on data that enables them to better understand the needs of their changing customer base. But the challenge is those needs change rapidly. Like all consumers, pharma customers question the value of the promotional messages being pushed at them.
The opportunity here is that your message matters more than ever. Figure out how to communicate in a way that resonates with consumers and you’ll be golden.
- Is your organization green? Develop messaging around your green initiatives. Think of ways to get your target customers involved.
- Do you give back to the community? Create marketing campaigns around the local events you sponsor.
- Does your company make the world a better place? Don’t leave to the consumer to connect the dots, find meaningful ways to pull them in and you’ll be rewarded in the court of public opinion.
All successful companies know how to position themselves to ride the wave of trends in their industries. Finding translation services that support your broader growth goals is an essential piece of the puzzle. When you need to reach your life science global consumers with messaging that resonates, the translation experts at DTS will help you succeed. Are you taking full advantage of the opportunities for growth?