This blog post is the second in a three-part series on why biopharmaceutical companies should develop and implement an international customer segmentation and targeting strategy, what it takes to get started, and how one company has found success.
In the first post in this series, we looked at the challenges inherent in translating a philosophy of customer engagement into a practical approach to segmentation and targeting that works at the global level. In this installment, we’ll examine the ways in which an organization can address these challenges and implement an international process for customer segmentation and targeting that enables the right activities to be delivered to the right customers at the right time.
The Maturity Challenge
When thinking through the issues surrounding customer engagement, it’s important to keep the idea of maturity in mind, both in terms of the overall state of the organization as well as the variance seen between individual countries. It’s highly unlikely that every local market will be at the same level when compared to the overarching vision, but it should be possible to define a framework that allows the evolution of any individual market to be tracked through a series of states. For example:
Once these possible states are understood, they can be grouped into a set of acceptable archetypes, reducing the complexity of dealing with a high degree of variance across countries. When taking this approach, bear in mind that there may be multiple dimensions to consider. To avoid the need to support dozens of different processes, it becomes necessary to define groupings based on identified areas of commonality.
As the first step towards a truly global approach, it’s necessary to define a common, transparent strategy that describes the fundamental way in which an organization interacts with its customers. This will foster an understanding of what good looks like with respect to segmentation, resource planning, field engagement, brand focus, etc., and can be used to inform the desired progression along the maturity curve.
Once this is clear—and, ideally, once it has a good level of organizational buy-in—the next step is to define a vision: How will the customer engagement process be run in the future, and what will this look like three years from now? Developing this blue-sky view will allow the many stakeholders impacted by potential changes to understand where the organization is headed, and makes it easier to focus on the elements of key importance. In the real world, it won’t be possible to implement a perfect process, so companies should decide what to prioritize, such as:
- Flexibility to meet a wide variety of needs across business units and markets, and over time
- Support for collaboration between levels and functions
- Empowerment of the field to engage with and contribute to the process
- Ease with which stakeholders can participate
- Production of insights from data, driven by clear business rules
- Consistency of reporting
Once focus areas have been defined, it becomes easier to design a process that emphasizes these organizational priorities. For example, if field empowerment is critical, then your company needs to allow sufficient time to engage the field force in the design process. These extra activities to engage the field force shouldn’t be an afterthought, either. It’s critical that they’re built into the design process timeline from the outset to ensure efficiency.
Rolling out any new process as a “version 1.0” and testing it through simple templates (in Excel, for example) allows companies to design the right process for them, and then decide on the right technology platform to support it. By starting with a simple template, no complex implementation project is required, so companies can course correct and make adjustments quickly and easily. Once buy-in is established, companies can identify a more advanced technology solution that matches their priorities and scope (both functional and geographic).
Here are some best practices for organizations to keep in mind when starting on this journey:
- Under most circumstances, the drive towards centralization should be tempered with flexibility for the local business matched to a limited set of maturity/process archetypes.
- Make sure to plan for the future, both in terms of process evolution (such as the introduction of multichannel activity plans) and market expansion (like rolling out a solution established in Europe to the Asia-Pacific markets).
- Explicitly check and confirm that any new process serves the customer engagement strategy defined for the organization.
- Don’t overcomplicate things. If you have a hard time explaining your process to others, it might be time to re-evaluate.
- When deciding on a technology solution, shop around. This is a big and lasting decision, and all platforms have their particular pros and cons.
- If field engagement will be a big part of your strategy, make sure to consider the need for training and ongoing learning resources for reps (especially when activities may be limited to a specific time period in each cycle).
- Wherever possible, run a pilot program first to limit risk and maintain the ability to course correct. For example, try out a new process on paper or with simple templates, and then try out your chosen technology solution in a single market or cluster.
- Try to limit the magnitude of total organizational change that’s happening at any one point in time.
Establishing a truly international approach to segmentation and targeting is a complex challenge, and solving it is likely to be a multistep process. However, if you approach the task in a systematic way, it’s entirely possible to design a process that allows your organization to deliver an effective and consistent customer experience at the global level.
In the final post in this series, we’ll show how all of these factors came together to fully unblock the segmentation and targeting process.