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John Mack, Publisher & Editor Want to Know What Really Sucks? OpEd by John Mack

Does your marketing suck? According to Mark Stevens, author of the book Your marketing sucks, it does (see “Your Pharma Marketing Sucks” in this issue).

But let me tell you what really sucks…

It’s the economy, stupid!

If this “economic recovery” didn’t suck, we wouldn’t be having this conversation about marketing and how much it sucked.

Whether or not pharma marketing sucks, it seems to be working — pharma companies are still making plenty of money and the economy doesn’t seem to be having much of an impact on drug sales.

But what about the rest of us — the “little” guys that service the industry? I’m talking about the ad agencies, the communications companies, the marketing consultants, etc. that make up 45% of Pharma Marketing News subscribers. How are we doing?

I think it could be summed up nicely by “it sucks!” That is, we could be doing a lot better.

Of course, I don’t have any numbers to back that up. It’s just a gut feeling I get talking to and observing many people on this side of the pharma business. I wish I had forty or fifty bucks every time I heard a salesperson at an industry conference ask, “Where are the clients?” It’s just a bunch of us vendors schmoozing around the hors d’oeuvres table. As Mark Stevens says in his book, schmoozers should be fired because the only thing that matters is closing. “Nothing happens until someone sells something,” as he is fond of quoting (not sure whom).

So, where are the clients — the product managers and other purchasers with budgets?

They are in their offices busy at work — extremely busy and over-worked! They don’t even have time for a free lunch! That’s because one thing this recovery has going for it is increased productivity, which means more output from less workers (merger anyone?). And less use of outside agencies and consultants to perform tasks that are now done in house or perhaps outsourced overseas.

I don’t wish the pharma industry ill and I hope it continues to do extremely well. Lately, however, not much of its high profit margin income has trickled down to the pharma service industry, in my opinion. I think it’s the same with other industries-they are not hiring staff or outside help as they once did during better economic times.

I’ve seen heady growth predictions for some pharma marketing sectors such as DTC ad spending for 2004 (see “Key Issues Facing DTC Marketers in 2004“). Even if true, that’s just one segment. We all can’t get on the TV DTC gravy wagon!

So, the economy sucks and there’s less low hanging fruit to go after. That’s life. In order to deal with the hand we’ve been dealt and get our share of the available crumbs out there, we really can’t afford to have marketing that sucks. We have to engage in some “extreme marketing” as Mark suggests in his book.

Vol. 3, No.3: March 2004
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