Rethinking Global marketing teams in a digital age

01.09.15   |   Business Process & Organization

Our experience suggests many Pharmaceutical companies are missing opportunities to increase the return on their digital investments as a result of how they plan and budget cross-market digital programs, outside the US. This is because these organizations delegate digital tactical planning and budget allocation to local operating companies.

This approach worked fine in an ‘analog’ world because marketing programs could not scale easily. In this world, it was sufficient for thinly staffed Global or regional marketing team to supply global brand standards and guidelines, and the local countries would apply these tools across distinct programs on a country-by-country basis. The center of gravity sat squarely with the operating company.

There are two fundamental problems with this model in a digital world. The first relates to the accessibility and scalability of digital programs across markets. Whereas analogtactics (think paper brochures) will rarely be seen outside of the operating company, digital tactics easily cross borders. This makes the economic case for designing cross-market tactics compelling due to scale economies. Brands can design a single program and spread the investment across markets. However, these investments often don’t take place at the level they should because budgeting decision-making is frequently optimized at the country level vs. the regional or global level.

Which brings us to the second problem – uneven local market digital experience and capability across markets. In many local markets, marketing mix decision-making is based on historical experience and comfort levels. As a result country managers typically default to “known” tactics. For most country managers who came of age pre-Internet this means allocating the vast majority of budget to the sales force and reserving a small sliver of funds for non-personal or digital programs. This occurs despite the mounting evidence that the coordination of sales force activity plus non-personal programs outperforms sales force activity alone. And, the fact that Health care providers are now spending more time with digital channels than any other channel including the sales force.

The consequence of this inexperience is that digital programs are frequently underfunded which creates a vicious circle of underfunding when these programs not surprisingly fail to deliver on expectations.

So what’s the solution? We believe global Life Sciences companies should move toward more central funding and development of digital strategies. There are several different models companies can adopt with varying levels of centralization. But they all remove structural barriers that inhibit development of cross-market digital programs, adequate budget allocation to digital programs in general, and the provision of the tools that make these programs a success.

Global and regional marketing teams, in partnership with their global and regional IT colleagues, are in a unique position to lead the way. On the front lines of global tactical planning, these teams are the first to see the benefits of cross-market digital programs and can make the case for a better approach to senior management.

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