November 17, 2011

Pharmaceutical Commercial Operations Leaders Get Industry Update and Learn "What's Hot, What's Not" at TGaS Advisors Invitational Summit

Nearly 90 commercial operations executives representing 28 of the leading pharmaceutical companies met to discuss such key issues as industry confidence, new marketing technologies, the need for higher-level strategic and business skills across all areas and the future of Commercial Operations at the TGaS® Advisors 2011 Commercial Operations Summit. The invitation-only event, held November 8, 2011, in Philadelphia, marked the largest ever gathering for TGaS Advisors, a pharmaceutical benchmarking and advisory services firm and division of KnowledgePoint360. Stephen E. Gerard, President and Founder of TGaS Advisors, said, "This is a unique opportunity for our clients to learn the latest 'outside-in' industry thinking, get practical advice from their peers and our senior-level advisors and look ahead to 2015." One participant described the Summit as "professional development for senior executives."

Breakout sessions explored Digital & Relationship Marketing, Executive Commercial Operations, Managed Markets, Marketing Operations, Marketing Sciences Operations, Sales Operations and Training & Development. A sampling of insights from these sessions follows:

Digital & Relationship Marketing: Social Listening, eDetailing, EHR, Mobile are Top Focus

On the consumer side, social listening (to social media, discussion forums, and blogs) is more standard. This was true for only 53% of benchmark companies in 2010. This year the results are 90%, based on a preliminary survey of Summit attendees from 10 companies. On the healthcare provider (HCP) side, for 90% of companies, eDetailing remains one of the most common tactics to reach physicians. Electronic Health Records is a major growth area for marketing to physicians, moving from 36% to 67% of companies surveyed. Accommodating mobile searching and interactions remains a top focus across consumer and HCP marketing.

The group contrasted "ideal" with "current" HCP relationship marketing programs. The ideal is to base business goals on total customer return rather than brand by brand. The ideal sales and marketing plans are "channel agnostic"; most currently allow channels in market today determine what is in market tomorrow.

Executive Commercial Operations: Dramatic Changes Envisioned for 2015

Commercial Operations Executives discussed the environment and forces that will shape the industry by 2015, challenging conventional thinking on the implications for their companies and for their commercial operations priorities. In addition to continued price and margin pressures, the executives noted the impact of technology advances on integration of data and transparency into healthcare decisions, with profound implications for all segments of healthcare, not just the industry. Leaders created rich descriptions of the range of possible futures, as they discussed dramatic changes in customer facing roles; in marketing's role, focus and capabilities; in sourcing, and in highly flexible resource allocation.

Managed Markets: Commercial Integration of Managed Markets Marketing and the Evolving Role of the Account Manager

As biopharmaceutical companies feel the pressures of industry contraction in the form of smaller promotional budgets, demands for increased efficiency and access/formulary placement pressures, Managed Markets Summit attendees agreed their teams must integrate more effectively with brand counterparts. One such area is the creation of the brand value proposition using Health Economic and Outcomes Research (HEOR) information and the delivery of this value proposition to customers. Attendees also agreed the disconnect between Brand Marketers and Managed Markets Marketers is partly a result of low "cross-pollination" of professionals, creating an opportunity to remove silos separating optimal product promotion and revenue uptake. Another key topic was the evolving role of the Account Manager, including new or enhanced skill sets needed, given the increasing importance of HEOR and the pressure to successfully manage relationships with payers and Managed Care organizations.

Marketing Operations: Optimization of MRL and Vendor Management

Marketing Operations leaders are being asked to optimize the Medical, Regulatory, and Legal (MRL) review process for promotional materials. The landscape has seen several changes, notably the development of complex digital marketing materials, increased regulatory scrutiny, Marketing and Review teams asked to do "more with less" and automation. Participants discussed how best to manage key process challenges — preparedness for team review meetings, "walk-in" reviews and agency involvement in meetings. Participants agreed that automation will enable an effective process, not fix an ineffective one. Key success factors: selecting the right vendor/software, creating a strong change management program and generating/communicating meaningful metrics. Participants also explored internal and external vendor management. Given the significant spend, a 5-10% reduction in cost can represent millions in savings.

Marketing Sciences Operations: Different Skill Sets Needed in New Environment

Brand management is asking marketing sciences to deliver more than research reports and analyses. They are looking for customer insights. Yet generating insights is getting more difficult as teams get smaller, resources are constrained and time to think strategically is rare. Hiring, training and managing the right individuals to meet stakeholders’ requirements is fundamental to success. Deep technical skills are now perceived as secondary assets to such attributes as intellectual curiosity, business acumen, the ability to influence without authority, collaboration, storytelling and consulting skills. Recognizing the need for these talents is the first step to hiring and developing marketing sciences leaders who truly can deliver a competitive advantage.
Changes in reimbursement practices, greater government control and the increasing availability of generic alternatives are all making it more difficult to forecast emerging product sales. Forecasters are challenging old analogues and developing new methods to better reflect rapidly evolving market influences. One of the most important tasks is bridging management's expectations derived from previous experience with current realities constraining product uptake. New techniques borrowed from other industries offer forecasters an opportunity to harvest the collective judgment of brand team members and senior managers in the process. Tracking assumptions, controlling subjective pressures and holding individuals more accountable for their direction will be even more critical in the future.

Sales Operations: Constant Need for Innovation

Commercial Operations Leaders are placing increasing demands on Sales Operations to think differently. Sales Operations leaders are responding by looking for innovative ways to meet increasingly complex needs with limited resources. According to attendees, field technology is a dynamic area of innovative opportunities for supporting the sales force. Leveraging new technology such as the iPad can dramatically improve work/life balance and increase the representative’s productivity. Sales Operations leaders also discussed innovation in Incentive Compensation. Future changes are likely because of the increased importance of compliance as well as potential new data sources that can measure and reward field performance more accurately.

Training and Development: "Be the Change We Wish To See"

Creativity, cost savings and quick turnarounds are a daily occurrence for training leaders these days. Attendees representing 14 companies shared insights on such topics as the virtual classroom, field-based trainers, managing stakeholder requests and the training department of 2015. A primary focal point is educating stakeholders that the virtual classroom is not "30 Power Point slides and a teleconference," but an effective, efficient and cost-saving technology. Leaders also shared concerns about preserving training as a developmental opportunity; leveraging it remotely while continuing the home office tradition; and working with changing medical, regulatory and legal restrictions. Looking ahead, attendees agreed the power of a network and use of data-driven decisions prepare any leader to better plan for change.

About TGaS® Advisors

Ranked as one of the Top Health companies by the Inc. 500/5000, TGaS Advisors is the leading benchmarking and advisory services firm serving pharmaceutical commercial operations organizations. The TGaS Advisors roster includes the top 10 and the majority of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies with operations in the U.S. market. The firm provides the only comprehensive series of benchmarking solutions and advisory services for objectively improving the strategy and effectiveness of pharmaceutical operations organizations. TGaS Advisors, based in East Norriton, Penn., is an operating division of KnowledgePoint360, a global leader in communications and information services to healthcare professionals.

About KnowledgePoint360

KnowledgePoint360 provides a broad range of medical communications services from offices in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany, including medical education, publication support, live educational meetings ranging from international congresses to dinner meetings, scientific content development, exhibit design, digital solutions, training, workflow and compliance solutions to support speaker programs, benchmark-based advisory services, and strategic consulting.

KnowledgePoint360 businesses include ACUMED, BlueMomentum, CircleScience, Clinical Bridges, CodonMedical, eMedFusion, FireKite, Gardiner-Caldwell Communications, GeoMed, Interphase, Medex-Media, Physicians World, Physicians World Europe, Physicians World Speakers Bureau, Scientific Connexions, StemScientific, and TGaS Advisors. Headquarters are in Lyndhurst, N.J., with additional offices in Macclesfield, Maidenhead, Tytherington and London, U.K.; Newtown and East Norriton, Penn., New York, Chicago, and San Bruno, Calif.; and Mannheim, Germany. For more information, visit