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Parole d'expert : Customer-centricity in Life Sciences : 3 golden rules

Parole d'expert : Customer-centricity in Life Sciences : 3 golden rules

In "Parole d’expert", Morgan Philips Executive Search gives the floor to business specialists. In this new interview, David Bernellon, multi-country general manager and international marketeer answers questions from Anne-Sophie Nicolai, Associate Director and Consultant Life Sciences at Morgan Philips Executive Search.

David Bernellon photoDavid Bernellon is a multi-country general manager and international marketeer with 20+ years of experience in the Healthcare Industry. He has a track record of driving sales growth and successful go-to-market transformation both in Medical Technology and Pharmaceutical industries.

Today he is sharing with us some takeaways for you to consider to successfully drive “Customer-centricity” and adoption of innovative technologies in Life Sciences.

Q: Customer-centricity is the grand-road in commercial operations. Everyone talks about it however; a lot of Life Science companies largely fail in delivering truly Customer-centric strategies. Why is that the case?

I remember sitting at our global townhall meeting listening carefully to our COO commenting about the quarterly results of our Medical Technology company. Results of new product launches were pretty good. Our COO all of a sudden stood up and said “we need to sell more stuff!”. The message was simple, clear, unfiltered, and spontaneously sparked enthusiasm, and laughter, among employees. Hurray! And off we went to sell more stuff!

A PUSH strategy is certainly still of relevance in many businesses however, this example of what happened less than 10 years ago, shows how this traditional view of the business has blinders and may cause companies´ Customer-centricity to fade away.

The fact is that every year, companies in Life Sciences spend billions in budgets to develop and PUSH new products in the market. However, statistics show that many of them fail or largely underperform. One of the explanations why this is the case is that, they don´t target the “Jobs” that customers are trying to get done.

Q: What are your advices to ensure that the customer has a seat at the table when creating new products and Value Propositions in Life Science?

Know your Customers´ “Jobs To Be Done”

First and foremost, knowing the "Jobs" a customer is trying to get done allows companies in Life Science to sell more and improve their Value Propositions over time in ways that are relevant to their customers.

On this subject, one good framework is the “Jobs To Be Done”. It was presented by Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School Professor who labeled it as a theory, in his excellent book, Competing Against Luck (2016). It suggests that “products and technology come and go, but “Jobs” persist over time. As a result, companies integrated around a “Job” can achieve greater market differentiation and success.” Bottom-line, understanding the “Jobs To Be Done” brings much more clarity and dynamic to the understanding of why customers will and won’t buy your products.

Avoid a “solutions in search of problems” mindset

It often happens that companies delude themselves into a “solutions in search of problems” approach.

Medical Technology and Pharmaceutical industries tend to be blinded by new gleaming scientific or technological breakthroughs, but they often have little to do with the actual Jobs To Be Done by Health Care Practitioners along the way from R&D to the Patient.

This may lead to the creation of a Value Proposition that is intended to solve a problem which sometimes does not really exist.

Crucially, Life Science companies have to shift from being mesmerized by “product features” and re-focus on “customer benefits” in their Value Proposition. As a result, developing a Value Proposition in a “co-creative” and multi-disciplinary way, helps to bring the customer back to the table.

Make sure your customer has a seat at the table

A deep understanding of the customer via market research is essential to creating Customer-centric Value Propositions and designing effective marketing communications.

Your customer insights should gather qualitative observations and specifically identify the core “Job” and its desired outcomes, not just at a “functional” level (product features) but also at an “emotional” and “social” level.

Again, the solution to this is to develop a value proposition in a co-creative and multi-disciplinary way with your customer at the table.

Q: What is the role of Leadership in the quest for a more Customer-centric organization? Does Leadership plays a critical role here?

During my 20 years in the Healthcare industry, I had the privilege to work and lead in fantastic teams and organizations. When it comes to Leadership, the answer is “Yes”. Customer-centric corporate culture actually begins with a customer-centric leadership. The leader is the one is generating the energy and make sure that the customer has a seat at the table in all layers of the organization, including the C-suite.

Customer-centric Leadership

In my experience, there are 2 essential leadership skills that deserve specific attention in the quest for Customer-centricity, these are: “humility” and “empathy”.

The “humility” to listen and learn from your teams and customers is a key leadership skill. Often it is not about how much you know as a leader but merely how much you are willing to learn from your teams and from your customers.

This is so much more effective than being a top-down or charismatic leader, traits that tend to be over-represented in organizations, but which steer them away from the reality “in the field”.

“Empathy” is the quintessential quality that leaders should have and instill in their teams, because it is the skill that will allow you to build a solid connection with your customers.  It is not a ‘soft’ skill. Anything but!

I’d call it a ‘wise’ skill but one that needs nurturing. As a leader, it starts with genuinely connecting with your teams before actually taking it out to your customers.                    

Emphatic leadership helps creating outward-oriented company cultures. Empathy-led organizations are enabling themselves to find out if the core audiences they are trying to reach are actually reached.  This allows them to predict the effect of their actions and decisions on their main audiences and strategize accordingly.

Q: A meaningful digital strategy can help to increase customer engagement, user experience and satisfaction. For you personally, what does the role of “Digital” plays in the quest of Customer-centricity in Life Science industries.

Indeed, a meaningful Digital Marketing Strategy plays a key role in Costumer-centricity. We have been playing with “digital transformation” (435 Mio. results on Google) for over a decade, with the objective to connect and engage better with customers, whether B2B or B2C. This is fantastic news, and the COVID pandemic has contributed to a substantial acceleration of this trend.

But here is the nub. If you go on the other side and actually audit customers themselves – real customers - you often come to realize that they are not getting the experience they want. They often report that they are confronted with digital solutions that are anything but intuitive, that do not deliver pertinent content or address their needs.

This presents a significant quandary for Life Science companies that have put immense effort and investment to get Customer-centricity right, but are not achieving a better customer experience. And remember, customer experience drives user satisfaction, which in turn determines your overall success.

A meaningful content marketing strategy

When it comes to digital strategy – one of the low hanging fruits that can really have impact on your Customer-centric journey while generating sales leads, is to start to sort out your content marketing strategy.

Content marketing is a marketing strategy used to attract, engage, and retain an audience by creating and sharing relevant content. In the information-rich world of Life Sciences companies, there’s an almost limitless opportunity to capture your customers’ attention by feeding them the most insightful and relevant content possible, exactly when they’re ready for it.

However, behind every communication a clear and consistent plan needs to be developed. You need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes to understand exactly what makes them tick and what will make them engage with you.

What answers are they searching for? What’s making them read on? What will motivate them to act? And most especially, what will make them come back for more?

So, 3 golden rules! I hope you like it and this was useful.

I worked alongside several Life Science companies to help make it as easy and simple as possible to realize their strategic vision. Do not hesitate to leave a comment and get in touch with me.

 

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