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Pharma Marketers’ Blog: Looking onto the Capability Crystal Ball

Authored by Maxine Smith, Managing Director, Uptake Strategies for the PME Pharma Marketers’ Blog

In this article, Maxine congratulates the winning entry – Allergan Aesthetics, an AbbVie company with support from Makara Health and Actando – as well as the shortlisted entries that covered capabilities ranging from straightforward product and market knowledge to MSL team learning to customer relationships.

Maxine noted that the programmes were structured very differently from those of previous award winners.

If 2021 was the year of omnichannel, what should we be looking at as the next substantial change?

Maxine responds to this question with various answers that we should be considering, including owning our own learning and doing it little and often. Maxine states that in the same way that, as an industry, we are trying to enable our customers to be the drivers of engagement, channels, and content through omnichannel capabilities, we should also be looking to be the owners of our development and see it as an ongoing, iterative journey and not a set of one-hit interventions.

Maxine also mentions using our data effectively. As more of our customer interaction moves to an omnichannel approach, we will need to consider how we are going to be ready to handle all the data at our fingertips.

Read below or click to access the published version

If 2021 was the year of omnichannel, what should we be looking at as the next big change?

I recently had the absolute pleasure of attending the 2021 PMEA awards. Apart from the excitement of having real, in-person conversations, I was struck by the range of capabilities showcased in the PMEA Excellence in Capability award category.

Congratulations to the winning entry – Allergan Aesthetics, an AbbVie company with support from Makara Health and Actando – as well as the shortlisted entries that covered capabilities from straightforward product and market knowledge to MSL team learning to customer relationships. The earlier Communique Awards also highlighted several Professional Education entries from companies that were successfully supporting customer-wide capability development. The programmes themselves were structured very differently from previous award winners.

That got me thinking about where we as an industry will look next for capabilities and skills. If 2021 was the year of omnichannel, what should we be looking at as the next big change? In my view, there are several areas we should be considering, many of which are as much about how we are learning as what we are learning. I see us putting increasingly more emphasis on what I will term ‘portfolio capability development’ (borrowing from the ‘portfolio career’ concept) as we create our own blend of skills and capabilities.

Owning our own learning and doing it little and often

In the same way that, as an industry, we are trying to enable our customers to be the drivers of engagement, channels and content through omnichannel capabilities, we should also be looking to be the owners of our development and see it as an ongoing, iterative journey and not a set of one-hit interventions.

Expecting greater investment in capability

The skill set of teams and individuals is working its way up the leadership agenda. Strengthening and investing in skills is being seen as a real competitive differentiator. We can therefore expect more emphasis on our own development from a corporate perspective.

Development focused on how we work together

We should be looking to continue the increasing prioritisation of social and team skills. At an organisational level, we can expect to continue to see more emphasis on ‘how’ and not just ‘what’ we deliver including how we flex to change and how we manage pressure.

Using our data effectively

As more of our customer interaction moves to an omnichannel approach, we will need to consider how we are going to be ready to handle all the data at our fingertips. If we are being totally honest with ourselves, most of us would agree that we don’t always make full use of our current data resources, so how can we succeed when the data volume grows? We will need to be more rigorous in the development of our goals and how we examine the data to know which sources best inform the decisions we need to make.

Learning how to fail gracefully

To me, tenacity and resilience feel like qualities that will be needed in greater abundance over the next few years. If we are working together, using our data effectively, staying close to our customers and continuously challenging our thinking, the one thing we can guarantee is that this will lead to more change. We will try different approaches which may fail but, as I was reminded by a client recently, we can see failure as the signal to stop or see it as standing for the ‘first attempt in learning’. This is the attitude we will need to carry with us at all times.

As marketers, we will still need to continue to hone our specialist skills such as strategy development, launch expertise, insight generation, data interpretation, planning and execution and more. However, we will need to do so in the context of constant learning from data, iterating and reprioritising, influencing and connecting with broad cross-functional teams and challenging our way of thinking. This will bring with it many structural and procedural changes in the way we work.

Consequentially, all this change will be underpinned by our own capability and desire to learn and flex. Much of the emphasis for capability development seems to be aligned to us as the determinant of our development. A critical element to overlay on this is considering how open we are to learning new skills and adapting to new challenges as the industry evolves.– our career growth may be directly linked to our change and adaptive mindset. We will need to continually reflect on how and when we learn and not just what we learn. Something for our New Year’s Resolutions list, perhaps?

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