I Predict an Earthquake....
The pharmaceutical market research industry is under a great deal of pressure to justify its existence and to work differently in the face of increased pressure on the headcount of the client side. I predict one of the main changes we will see in the next five years is the increasing requirement of agencies to have a deeper commercial understanding, and to work much closer with our end clients in embedding the research outcomes in the commercial decisions which take place.
This doesn't sound like a revolution, but I think it is. Certainly in my years in MR at various different agencies, we have always talked about 'partnership', 'collaboration', and 'understanding your business'. However, I think the change I am predicting will be dramatically different. We will now have to deliver on these promises, rather than just saying this is how we work (which agency says they don't work in collaboration?). We will need to demonstrate how we work together to take insights and make them work hard in our clients' organisations. We won't be able to just turn up at the final presentation, surprise the audience, and walk away.
This has profound implications for the skill set that we need in our teams on the agency side. We need senior people who know how to collaborate. They will have to have a deep understanding of the commercial aspects of bringing a product to market, be knowledgeable about business, the decision making which takes place to bring a product to market and know how to maximise the impact from insights in the business.
The commercial backdrop for any pharmaceutical company bringing a product to market is the changing market landscape they face. This is largely one of fragmentation, both in terms of the types of patient who are appropriate for targeting and in terms of the disease. There are no more broad brush approaches, you need to identify the appropriate cohort of patients and focus on them. Often this means re-framing the disease to make the clinical benefits more relevant and understandable. This type of information must be fed into the clinical trial design. It is my understanding that while clinical trials have become more complex and much much larger, many products fail to get to market because the trial wasn't targeted at the right patient cohort.
Different consulting tools can be beneficial to this understanding. We need to have develop a clear picture of the current and potential landscape for a product, and at the same time really focus the research to answer the core business question (not attempt to answer all of them at once). By using this type of approach, you can design your research to go 'hunting' for insights, targeted on what commercial question you face, not 'fishing' for inspiration amongst potential respondents.
All clients want maximum impact from their market research spend. To do this, the agency role needs to move from 'getting a brief' to being 'a business partner'. This doesn't mean complacency on the part of the agency, thinking that they are guaranteed to get the work. There are no promises in this life. What I believe it means is that we need to have a fundamental shift in how we think about things. We are very focused as an industry on the newest and the latest research, really, I think what clients' are asking for, and what the industry needs, is to work with more of a business advisor, a senior person in the agency who knows how to drive the insights into the business strategy.
This isn't a slow trend in our industry, it is an earthquake.
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