Big Marketing secrets for small pharma services companies

With considerable budgets and high-end design teams, Big Business marketing teams invest big in the latest marketing tools and techniques to maximise brand and product exposure in order to drive sales.

Contrast that to your average small company. Pharma services business leaders are typically juggling client project work, monitoring finances, fighting “fires”, hiring fee-earning staff and writing proposals. And, until the turnover permits or warrants the need for in-house sales or marketing expertise, such leaders are also Sales Director, and Chief Marketing Officer to boot.

But there are Big Marketing secrets that small pharma service businesses can leverage. In fact, many of the basic principles of marketing are the same for £1M budgets or £1k budgets.


Value Propositions

A Value Proposition is, in its raw form, a researched document that maps specific audience groups against specific service benefits with language that is likely to resonate with that group – known as a value proposition matrix.

Whether you’re big or small, it is critical to be clear about whom you are targeting and why these target groups would be interested in your product. Sure, if you’re launching, say, a revolutionary new diabetes treatment, you’ll want to spend a lot of time and money on being really clear about your target audiences: age, gender, lifestyle, concerns, current treatment woes, fears for the future with such a condition, etc. – such information determines the style of advertising, the media channels to utilise, the wording and naming of a product, all in order to touch the nerve ending of the intended customer. But just because you are a small business doesn’t mean you should ignore the process – the benefits of clear focus are the same.

Value propositions can spiral deeper and deeper. For small businesses, it makes pragmatic sense to get a close approximation. Indeed, if you’re running a small organisation, you probably instinctively know whom you are targeting and what resonates with them. But the benefits of the process mean that you can:

    • Run highly specific campaigns designed around specific groups of targets. Gone are the bad old days of blasting 100,000 emails to everyone on a random list. Just because the send-cost differences are negligible does not make it ok! It’s bad for yields, but the real damage is to the brand reputation – blasting away like this leaves little room for personalisation or individual relevance.  Better send 10 emails and get 10 leads than annoy (and alienate) 99,990. This flexibility also enables small but very focused campaigns to be run. For instance, campaigns might be run that are specific to a therapy area, or even a specific company. Such an approach drives up the relevance, and with it the conversion and respect you’ll gain from potential customers.
    • Ensure the rest of your organisation communicates consistently with your target clients, eliminating confusion about the service you offer and the difference (benefit) it can make. You might know what “button” to press with which prospect, but does the rest of your organisation?
    • Carve a “brand identity” by having your website, emails, business cards, brochures (if any) and events messaging (if any) all resonate with the same language and messaging.
    • Eliminate wasted effort on non-focused activities. That too-good-an-opportunity-to-miss can be quickly tested against your value proposition to determine if the audience is right. If it’s not, simply pass it by.
    • Measure progress – “market penetration” might be a bit grand a term to apply to your business, but that does not stop you making a name for your specialism.


Pragmatic Value Proposition design process

Pull your customer facing colleagues into a meeting, fuel them with coffee and Danish pastries, and create a table on a white board, in Word, or, as I do, in Excel.

    • Start by listing the benefits of your product/service in column A.
    • Then, identify the groups of individuals who you talk to when trying to sell your services (probably by job title). Put these groups as column headings in row 1.
    • Then in each corresponding cell, write the pain your target customer faces that is solved by the “gain” of your product/service benefit.
    • At this point, key groups and key benefits should begin to make themselves known. Identify the big three pain/gain groupings, and write a simple paragraph that you might say if you were to meet that client group.


In its most basic form, that’s a value proposition around which you can build simple, successful campaigns. And the cost – a team breakfast. And you can write that off against tax!