How Unprofessional Vendors Screw-Up Pharma Marketing Efforts

According to the IMS data, Pharma companies around the world spent about US $70.7 billion for marketing activities. This amount is almost double the amount Pharma companies have spent on R&D of new drugs and treatments. It is not wrong to spend the reasonable amount on marketing activities but a spend on marketing is too hard to digest especially when Pharma companies do not have a matrix to calculate the ROI. When one realistically analyses the amount spent on marketing activities, it is quite obvious that most of the sum is spent on a number of different vendors to achieve one single marketing goal.

IMS data also reveals that Pharma companies have spent 65% of marketing money on ‘detailing’. Whereas, they spent only 3% of their budget on digital initiatives.

Pharma companies still employ a variety of different agencies who claim to “specialize” in one particular side of detailing. So different vendors emerge on pharma’s payroll, all involved in only one task of detailing. For one marketing campaign, Pharma may involve at least 5-6 different vendors; a PR agency to connect with the audience, a medical writing vendor to create a medical content, a media vendor to create videos, a publisher who creates marketing collaterals, an IT company to assist in data management and so on. The problem is all these vendors are just working to complete their contract and are almost blindsided about the “Marketing Goal”. Often a marketing manager has to step in to get these multiple vendors onboard. Settling issues and making vendors fall in line to get things done becomes the biggest responsibility of marketing managers. Especially if the vendor is unwilling or incompetent to cooperate the entire marketing campaign’s focus shifts from the delivery of marketing message to making things happen on time. Handling this “ten-headed monster” becomes quite difficult and managing them becomes the priority for Pharma marketers.

So expecting these vendors to be perfect is another thing, but getting them to at least address basics has created the big gap between the ideas of Pharma marketers and actual delivery. Over the time, Pharma marketers appear to have settled with mediocre quality of ideas and work from the vendors which are totally disconnected from the marketing goal.

For example, if Pharma companies want to deliver high-grade clinical information or solution, they need to maintain good standards of communicating their message. A poor selection of vendor often results in disastrous results and maligns company’s image unnecessarily.

How Unprofessional Vendors Affect Pharma Marketing?

Selection of channel and vendors to communicate marketing message needs to be given priority by Pharma marketers. In several ways unprofessional vendors hamper the Pharma marketing, some of them are:

Shifting marketing’s focus from outcome to communication and synchronization: Selection of poorly performing or unprofessional vendors creates a lot of friction and gaps in communication between various internal departments, other vendors. The marketers then expected to make all in fall in line, shifting their focus on marketing goal to communication and synchronization between vendors. It can be said that 90% of marketing manager’s time is wasted in communication and vendor management, frequently yielding poor results.

Additional bottlenecks, reduced efficiency and increased cost: Having one or multiple vendors who quite often extend their deadline is always hazardous for marketing. Vendors who do not communicate or deviate from the marketing brief without prior consultation or marketing managers who cave to unreasonable vendors often create additional bottlenecks. With the additional bottlenecks and poorly performing vendors, the costs and time of the marketing always keep escalating, reducing the overall efficiency.

No Energy for Post-Marketing Initiatives: Unprofessional vendors often suck a lot of energy and seek attention from Pharma marketing managers. With delayed timelines, increased costs and poor output marketing managers often want their project to be concluded. Many times it appears that with that urge to complete the project, marketing managers often settle for mediocre work and do not want to get involved with any additional follow-up activities of these marketing activities.

What Happens Once the Project Is Over?

Already tired of unprofessional vendors and worried about internal pressures, marketing managers, in general, have two tendencies to explain the outcomes.

I am a winner! – Over the time, marketers have conditioned themselves to declare the marketing campaign as a successful, especially when there are many other vendors are involved. If there is no clear measurement matrix, (which is often the case with Pharma marketing) marketing managers often declare the marketing campaign launch as a successful completion of a marketing campaign. This is called “self-serving bias” where executives or managers overstate their success in order to maintain their recognition within their organization. Surely, not all executives or marketing managers have “self-serving bias”, but, often the unwillingness to coordinate with same unprofessional vendors pushes them to declare the marketing activity as successful and hence, gives them an opportunity to not engage further with these vendors.

unprofessional vendors head sand

The blame game– it happens many times that Pharma companies link their sales outcome to marketing activities. Though this matrix is not at all clearly defined, marketing managers are often held responsible for any shortfalls. In a serious pressure, marketing managers are often put on the defensive. In many cases, when marketing managers try to engage with vendors to rectify issues, unprofessional vendors often start the blame game. “Attribution theory”, a famous theory in psychology can help understand the key difference between professional vendors and unprofessional vendors. As per the theory, professional vendors, often have ‘internal locus of control’, meaning professional vendors often treat success or failure of any project as a consequence of their abilities or actions. Vendors (organizations) who have a strong sense of ‘internal locus of control’ are often approachable and adaptable to satisfy client requirements.

On the other hand, unprofessional vendors have ‘external locus of control’. That means they often consider other vendors or clients responsible for their failure in delivering the value. Vendors with ‘external locus of control’ often initiate and go at lengths to justify that they were right, and blame other vendors or clients for any failure in the delivery of marketing goal. Unprofessional vendors often demonstrate the attitude “I am perfect, adjust yourself” attributing their failure to other vendors involved in the marketing campaign.

In order to deliver the best marketing outcomes, it is important that marketing managers select a single or a limited number of internal and external vendors who can professionally deliver what is expected from them.

The most effective strategy is to have a single vendor responsible for end-to-end marketing for a channel, that can create, optimize and deliver the best quality of content to the doctors. A single vendor who can provide end to end solution is often easy to work with as the vendor is solely accountable for the delivery of the marketing to the doctors. “A Single Neck to Press” situation helps both marketing managers by reducing the burden of communication and synchronization and vendors as there is limited scope interference of other vendors.

Mantra For Successful Marketing Vendor Management:

First and foremost of all, it is important that Pharma marketing managers understand that they are better off with end to end solution than trying to fix one thing at a time.

  • Hire an interior designer for your house renovation project: Every marketing initiative is nothing less than house renovation project where Pharma needs to create awareness, position their brand and target their audience. When you want to renovate your house, it is better to hire an interior designer who can redesign, restructure and complete your project than hiring separate people do each of these things. Hiring multiple vendors just increases the costs, delays and may result in the inconsistent quality of work. The same thing applies for Pharma marketing. Hire people who know what should be done, at what time it should be done and how it is to be done. The holistic approach saves a lot of time and money.
  • Focus on the outcome: Community like Docplexus offer end to end solution for Pharma’s needs. At Docplexus, we have already analyzed, tested and implemented various marketing strategies over the last two years. With over 2,25,000 doctors we have gained insights that can help Pharma companies to efficiently achieve their marketing goal. Pharma should work with vendors such as Docplexus, who just need to hear about Pharma’s marketing goal, and devise and implement marketing strategy for the best results.
  • What you pay is what you get- The most fundamental rule of sales “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” is very true when vendor management is concerned. Reducing the costs by employing various low-cost vendors must be avoided. Instead, pharma companies should understand that they will only receive what they are paying for. Cost focused vendors and clients are rarely focused on quality and will provide pharma with mediocre ideas and outcomes. If Pharma companies are focused on reducing the costs of marketing by hiring multiple vendors, they need to think again. Multiple vendors hired at lower rates causes pharma marketing to suffer.

Is there a simpler way to Engage with Doctors?

Of course, there is a simpler solution to problems most of the Pharma marketing managers are facing. Selecting a vendor that can provide end to end solution is the most important of it.

At Docplexus, we have built our capacity to provide end to end solution for our clients by connecting with over 2, 25,000 registered Indian doctors. Since last three years, we have been carefully studying how Pharma marketers can efficiently deliver their marketing message to doctors. Once Pharma companies tell us their marketing goal, we create strategy that is effective for audience doctors. Instead of handouts and brochures, we focus on delivering the clinical and marketing message with great, targeted content that is always well-received by doctors. We have already implemented innovative ways to deliver great insights through Webinars, CMEs, KOL video interviews, articles which are regularly appreciated by doctors all around India.


Docplexus – Pharma’s Trusted Marketing Partner
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