Client Management for Agencies


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An overview of client management considerations for agency staff servicing biopharma, especially applicable to health outcomes and brand support. Has been used in staff training.

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Client Management for Agencies

  1. 1. Optimizing the Biopharma Client Relationship Laurie Gelb, MPH
  2. 2. Health decisions: uniquely complex <ul><li>No “typical” physician or sufferer to study, but rather a spectrum of evolving beliefs that link behavior across organizations and individuals </li></ul><ul><li>Specifiers (HCPs), purchasers (payors) and consumers (patients) differ most of the time </li></ul><ul><ul><li>High stakes: wrong decisions can impair, disable or kill </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yet future outcomes are seldom completely predictable </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ongoing re-evaluation of rx decisions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Patient can stop taking rx or start/stop OTC without notice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prescriber can switch or discontinue treatment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Payor can change costs, access to agent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extreme: FDA can reinstate a withdrawn drug! </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Life on the brand side: a full table <ul><li>Who’s on the team? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Depending on the occasion, forecasting, regulatory, medical affairs, finance, scientific pubs, industrial ops, PR, HO, Marketing, market research, pro-ed, third party agencies, consultants; sometimes senior management sits in </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tele or videoconferences common, send slides around beforehand if want to ensure receipt given dial-in issues; may use Web to go through slides </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Life is largely reactive – go to meetings, review drafts, answer questions, travel as needs arise, address milestones (like next quarter’s message) as time passes </li></ul><ul><li>Budgeting: few projects split because of accounting constraints – usually one check writer but many kibitzers </li></ul>
  4. 4. No life of leisure <ul><li>Bombarded by weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly data/reports; but booked for so many meetings that reading anything requires taking it home, coming in early, staying late or reading on the road </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E-mails : patient, script, promotional tracking and ad hoc studies. Excel spreadsheets. Slide decks with lots of graphs and tables. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Occasionally, you try to match these up with what you really shipped to wholesalers, what advertising you really bought, etc. But mostly, everything’s apples and oranges and it changes daily anyway. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other e-mails: issues blown out of proportion due to grandstanding, important issues ignored because no one wants to stick her neck out or contradict someone important </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Endless travel – to ad boards, clinical meetings, co-promos, agency get-togethers, thought leaders, preceptorships, internal team meetings/ retreats, global meetings, market research viewing </li></ul>
  5. 5. Life on the brand: sell, sell, sell <ul><li>A brand team sells every day to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Payors, coalitions, employers, think tanks, oversight agencies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Health care professionals, including research sites and academic institutions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sufferers and patients; advocacy and support groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sales management and reps: “This quarter, we need to focus on patient convenience…” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Senior management: “We’re doing great. Can we have more money? And when do I get my promotion?” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So question must be, “How will this help revenues ?” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Revenues come from units x acquisition cost for strength/formulation, so units are not the whole ball game </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Life can be good… <ul><li>Marketing crafts the optimal messages for reps to take out each quarter </li></ul><ul><li>Sales management gets and keeps the reps pumped up </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sales hit forecast, so there are no production issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wall Street analysts make note of the drug’s success </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Medical Affairs and Health Outcomes implement post-marketing studies that further establish the drug’s benefits and ultimately expand the label </li></ul><ul><li>Trialists turn into loyalists, key thought leaders come on board, formulary access is maintained through refinement of dossiers, relationships and the data (not to mention savvy contracting) </li></ul><ul><li>Pharmaceutical Executive does an interview with the brand leader </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The agency on the campaign collects awards </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. … but the honeymoon always ends <ul><li>One day (maybe a month after launch) a competitor launches or goes generic, publishes a new paper, gets a new claim; treatment algorithms evolve, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Management starts questioning the value of its investment in your compound </li></ul><ul><li>Very rarely is your brand unchallenged until the generic (Coumadin an exception) </li></ul><ul><li>The LA Times reports that eleven patients taking your drug suffered hepatotoxicity and Public Citizen files an FDA petition to remove your drug from the market </li></ul>
  8. 8. Listen and learn… <ul><li>Don’t take client feedback literally </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I may or may not speak for my team </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I may or may not believe what I’m saying </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Biopharma is a political snake pit and vendor projects are frequently used as pawns, or diversions to draw fire </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What if you’re told more than you want to know? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Listen politely--knowledge never hurts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ How can we help?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keep focused: what is the problem? A solution? Talk about approaches, not people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Help a client garner compliments, and you have a relationship </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. One simple rule <ul><li>Bring the person to the table that knows the most about the topic/function/dz state </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Territoriality may be a rule of life in pharma, but has no place on our side </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clients do not want to be used as the beta test, the first draft, the opening act </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Put your team’s best foot forward from day one! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Will multiple experts confuse the client? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Never, if their roles are clear – and their expertise should speak for itself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But, bring no one to the table who has nothing to add </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Deskwork is more than a lit search <ul><li>Trial data, especially pre-launch, is often not published [in essence, first pub is the PI]. Look for IR presentations, often on own Web site [Google/cached] </li></ul><ul><li>Also look at Trends in Medicine, PR Newswire, biospace,, F&C,, PBM sites </li></ul><ul><li>Do not presume that the PI, esp. for mature brands, represents use in practice. Off-label use and non-sponsored trials are very common to advance indications, dosing, combo tx. Check the literature and peer-to-peer chat to see what’s really recommended </li></ul>
  11. 11. … but not on the client’s dime <ul><li>Do the pre-work before you write the proposal or show up for the kickoff </li></ul><ul><li>How is this disorder treated? How are the client’s brand and others positioned clinically—are there inherent differences? Is there a major competitor on the horizon? </li></ul><ul><li>There is really no recovery from a stupid question or draft, or a meeting that lacks client-perceived value [Lunch & Learn trumps Meet & Greet] </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of therapeutic insight and understanding what really goes on at a P&T table, exam room, ER, etc. eliminates many vendors without even trying </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use knowledge management to leverage resources </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ask about what the team knows more than you: the brand’s marketing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What we know and don’t, what’s changed, near-term priorities and long-term plans, previous research, post-marketing studies, treatment-centered market research, etc. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. What do humans want? <ul><li>Solutions, not problems </li></ul><ul><li>Answers, not questions </li></ul><ul><li>To feel that we are building, not re-doing, what has gone before </li></ul><ul><ul><li>And that our previous efforts count for something </li></ul></ul><ul><li>To keep our jobs and grow our salaries </li></ul><ul><li>To know that we are getting fair value </li></ul><ul><li>To feel confident in our choices </li></ul><ul><li>To be re-validated as a professional <marketer/scientist/clinician/whatever> </li></ul>
  13. 13. What do clients want? <ul><li>To feel good about their decisions, and to be validated as they go </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The better you look, the better they look </li></ul></ul><ul><li>To be able to report tangible project progress when someone stops them in the hall </li></ul><ul><li>To be able to clearly link project deliverables with product success </li></ul><ul><li>To be able to depend on you time and again, without the dreary process of finding and orienting new vendors </li></ul><ul><li>To say confidently, “These results are as good as we can get for this level of project.” </li></ul>
  14. 14. What do clients (and you) want to support? <ul><li>The right pt gets the right dose of the right agent for the right duration at the right time for the right indication, with optimal results </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Which is no more than Marketing 101: exchange theory says equal value received by both parties (need to have a need) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Whether you call this “evidence-based marketing” or “applied HOR,” it should increase the probability of achieving a beneficial clinical outcome for a given pt </li></ul><ul><li>So there is not any “fundamental divide” between HOR and marketing, clinical research and marketing…other than common sense regulatory and budgetary divisions </li></ul>
  15. 15. Clients don’t want to be your… <ul><li>Project coordinator </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They want to direct the project, not baby-sit </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Scribe, recorder or clerk </li></ul><ul><li>QC manager </li></ul><ul><li>McDonald’s customer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Do you want fries with that?” [“Do you want any patients excluded?” What do we recommend, based on the objectives?] </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Therapeutic expert [that’s what we sell ourselves as; they’re supposed to be the product expert] </li></ul><ul><li>Trainer [“our drug is not indicated for that”] </li></ul>
  16. 16. What clients don’t want to hear <ul><li>“ You’ll have that in an hour” [then it takes two] </li></ul><ul><li>“ We’ll do our best,” instead of “you’ll have that by X” or, simply “sure” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I don’t know why that was in the proposal” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh, yeah, I forgot we took that out last meeting” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We’ll get back to you on that” [when it’s something basic] </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hi, it’s Marla” [5 minutes after the telecon was scheduled to begin] </li></ul><ul><li>“ What did we decide about that?” [what happened to your notes?] </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Using proprietary data from a client on another’s project </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing proposals, projects, prices or stories among clients, prospects or intermediaries, including any firewalled corporate unit </li></ul><ul><li>Disclosing individuals’ or organizations’ identities or attributable comments without consent </li></ul><ul><li>Concealing or withholding non-proprietary methods, honoraria, instruments, etc </li></ul><ul><li>“ Bait and switching” – exaggerating level of senior staff involvement; database size, plan relationships, revenues or any other asset </li></ul>
  18. 18. Wherever our projects go, our clients are in the same boat!