Current market conditions have challenged biotech and pharma commercial models in many ways.
Share of voice is no exception.
We gathered several biopharma experts to discuss our options to identify opportunities and measure progress with the share of voice.
Enjoy insights from Hemal Somaiya
Damon Harrell, Vice President of Marketing at Alkermes
Alvin Lin, Vice President of Commercial Strategy at Vera Therapeutics
[00:00:14.940] – Frank Dolan
And welcome to our next session on share of voice I’m Frank Dolan from Arsenal Advisors. I’m really looking forward to this session. Share of voice is a metric, as we all know, is critically important to us. Figuring out what’s going on with our brands and our customers. Well, in recent days, we all know that measuring shared voice is particularly difficult because the interactions that we have with providers has shifted quite a bit. Now, we all love data and taking a look at the different reports and what’s happening with your brand you’ve got the best insight on. But generally speaking, trying to figure out what real share of voice is and what these metrics mean in this environment is a challenge. I’m really excited that we’ve got an incredible panel here today. I want to introduce to you Damon harrell. He’s a VP of marketing at alchemies. Damon, welcome.
[00:01:06.110] – Damon Harrell
Thank you. Good to be here.
[00:01:07.770] – Frank Dolan
It’s great to see you. Just so we can get to know you a little bit before the session begins, can you tell us a little bit about both your career journey and what you’re up to now?
[00:01:17.360] – Damon Harrell
Sure. So I’ve been in pharma for over 25 years now. I originally started with merck and was there for almost 20 years in a variety of marketing strategy, brand manage markets, us exus positions. I left them and joined alchemy’s up here in the Boston area just over seven years ago, came into the company to do commercial strategy for new products and now run the psychiatry franchise, which is ARISTADA longacting injectable for schizophrenia and under FDA review. Right now we have a product called alps 3831, which is an oral product for schizophrenia and bipolar. So schizophrenia mental health is really my focus right now.
[00:02:02.890] – Frank Dolan
And Damon is very modest. He went to a little school that’s really easy to get into called wharton. So great to have you, Damon. It’s always good to share some time with you. I really appreciate it.
[00:02:14.800] – Damon Harrell
Good to be here. Thanks for the invitation.
[00:02:16.680] – Frank Dolan
Great. I also want to introduce to everybody another great dynamic professional that I actually first met at one of our events back when you could have face to face events at Stanford. And that’s Alvin Lynn. Alvin is at portola and he’s running global marketing. And so, Alvin, welcome to the platform.
[00:02:37.460] – Alvin Lin
Good to see you, frank. And nice to meet you, Damon. I’m a former murky myself, actually. I used to work at west point and a little bit about myself. After starting my career in sales and marketing at merck, I went to a number of companies on the east coast, including alexion and Gentemen, and then have since moved out west at some smaller companies like pharmacyclips and portola. Portola was recently acquired by a larger company, and my therapeutics expertise spans the oncology space neurology, immunology, and disease.
[00:03:17.060] – Frank Dolan
Excellent. Well, we’ve got a great panel here. We are having a little bit of a technical issue with Hamal Somaya, which we would love to get her on. She’s a global marketing director of the Oncology Portfolio at Merck, a company. That’s the third time Merck’s come up today, so we’re going to be looking for her to join the panel, maybe let me set the stage so we can get the questions going and we can’t wait to bring her into the conversation. Okay, so let’s talk about share of voice. So I think many of us love data. We’re taking a look at the reports, and depending on which kind of like syndicated data that you’re looking at, there’s no doubt that the number of customer interactions compared to prepandemic levels overall are largely down for the industry. Of those total interactions, a majority of them appear to be virtual, and I’m not sure that every virtual call is created equal. So if we’re thinking about these highly competitive markets that many of our brands are playing in, how might we attack what normally is a very important metric that we would talk at every weekly brand team meeting, sales team meeting, you name it?
[00:04:39.940] – Frank Dolan
So to help kind of level set us, I’m actually going to turn to Damon first because he was very kind. He had a conversation with me recently about this concept, and we really reshape the panel around this very real issue, and he brought some really cool things forward. So, Damon, maybe you can help us set the stage to understand a little bit more about what is share of voice and what’s some of the challenges that brand teams are facing right now in figuring out how to measure it and what it means.
[00:05:08.890] – Damon Harrell
Sure. Happy to sort of run with that. So, real old school, you’re thinking about share of voice. It’s how many times are my people in your office reach and frequency type metrics? You’re probably looking at promotional spend at a pretty high dollar level aggregate, and you’re looking at how often you’re getting peer to peer type education through your programs. That’s real old school sort of share of voice. And the industry is really, I think, focused there and was moving a little bit to more sophisticated thinking with some of the digital media and nonpersonal promotion. But obviously, I think the presence of COVID just accelerated that whole process. And there’s a couple of things that come with that, which is when you’re thinking about now this non personal engagement that you’re having, not all virtual engagements are created equally, and they don’t all come from the same source. So is it your rep providing digital information? Is it your rep on the phone but not there in person? Is it information that you’re pushing out from your home office? Or maybe there’s something you’re providing through a third party partner? All of those are the things that are basically filling our customers headspace.
[00:06:26.210] – Damon Harrell
And I think the biggest challenge that we have when we think about that is our customers, also influenced by COVID, are going to all kinds of different places now to find information and to fill that gap. One of the things I hear from HCPs on a regular basis is they miss interacting with their peers, they miss interacting with industry and their trusted partners in industry, and they’re trying to fill that stimulation and information board in all kinds of different ways. And we’ve got to figure out how we have a presence in those new places where they’re going. Frank, you had said in one of the earlier emails you communicated with us that about a third of the people that you surveyed or where you got the data from said they don’t think that things are going to go back to the way they were precoving. What I find stunning about that is that two thirds apparently do. I think those people are wrong. I don’t think there’s any chance in the world that we’re going to go back to the way things were precovid. I think this is a permanent change. And as an industry, if we’re not focused on figuring out how to compete for space in our customer sort of brain space differently in the future, I think you’re going to fall behind and I think you’re going to have a hard time competing.
[00:07:42.260] – Frank Dolan
Yeah, it really does sound like these virtual interactions are going to be here to stay. Alvin, I’d love to bring you into this kind of foundation. Lane, part of the conversation. What are some of your thoughts here about this share of voice dilemma?
[00:07:59.850] – Alvin Lin
Absolutely. I think precovid field representatives had the benefit in person of not only having lunches where you could interact with many different physicians, but also hallway interactions, total office call, speaking with nurses, speaking with the rest of the staff, not only sharing information, but also getting great feedback. So some of that, I think, has significantly diminished with COVID From what I have seen a lot as to the vast majority of activity is a point based now. And, you know, in terms of the format, companies, whether they have them or not, have had to think about how to have good engagement via live virtual formats. So having the right slide decks, making sure that the clinical representatives are well equipped to have conversations virtually. And then also, I think pharma brands always had these things recorded videos, key opinion, leader segments, things like that. But they have also taken on greater importance in order to try to educate customers. And then other tools that traditionally have been there, but I don’t know, were really used on a mass scale. But even things like Epublications or various email tools that field representatives would have, they’re all trying to do these things.
[00:09:23.530] – Alvin Lin
But again, I think it’s very difficult to completely replace live interactions, certainly the comfort level of everybody using Zoom and other platforms. I think Hans embedded virtual in a way that even post COVID it’s here to stay. But I think on the positive front, people have I wouldn’t say been scrambling, but for companies that didn’t have really good digital toolsets in place, the past year has certainly forced every company to work on those things.
[00:09:58.460] – Frank Dolan
Excellent, excellent, excellent stuff. Well, I think we are now ready for our next introduction. I’m also maya, you’re here. We got you.
[00:10:10.840] – Hemal Somaiya
Perfect. Thank you guys for bearing with the technical issues, and I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me here today. I am Himal Samaya, currently the global and US brand lead for a portfolio of oncology drugs at market EMD Serono. I’ve been in the pharmaceutical industry for over a decade now in different commercial roles and very passionate about bringing digital and technology to use, especially for making marketing and sales efforts more effective and efficient. So very excited to share the stage with some industry experts today and share my thoughts on how is the share of voice trends evolving.
[00:10:53.890] – Frank Dolan
Well, we’re excited to have you. In fact, let’s take advantage of your arrival. So everyone was kind of helping create the base case for really, what is your voice, what is the situation we face? And some recent insights, for sure. So, Jamal, maybe you could help us build on this. If these digital and virtual engagements are here to stay, what advice would you give others as they think about their promotional mix, their brand plan for maybe this year and even going in the next?
[00:11:25.310] – Hemal Somaiya
Yeah, I think 2020 taught us some really good lessons. Right? I think COVID-19 Panda Mix was an inflection point for pharmaceutical industry where we just had to pause and rethink how we think about our channel mix between personal promotion and non personal digital promotion. And I think going into our 2021 brand planning, we’ve of course did a lot more heavily on NTP. I will say personal promotion and virtual engagement is something where we have to continue to evolve and train our field force to get better at. But even just using digital more smartly in terms of not just thinking about it as a non personal emotional tactic. But also just leveraging digital to activate your course a little bit more effectively and efficiently and ensuring that you’re coming up with more of an omnichannel plan and an omnichannel approach with heavy focus on NPP is. In my opinion. The way to go for the rest of this year as well as we think about 2022.
[00:12:28.610] – Frank Dolan
Excellent. Alvin, do you want to build on that a bit?
[00:12:34.160] – Alvin Lin
Yeah, I mean, there’s so many topics topics we can touch on today. I was just thinking about a couple in advance of this. I mean, one thing that I think has changed dramatically, and I don’t know really what the answer is. I’m actually curious to hear what the other panelists have done. Is virtual congress’s. We used to spend quite a lot across not only sponsorships, but different engagements. And I think not only our company, but other people I know in the industry have all had significant modifications to how we approach congress’s and I think some different channels that we otherwise would not have thought about, we have certainly considered them now as part of kind of annual core elements and then others. I think we have to rethink just again what makes sense virtually and what makes sense in person. So I think, again, just the last twelve months have caused a big rethink about what makes sense and how best to educate a customer.
[00:13:32.960] – Frank Dolan
That’s actually a really cool point, Alvin. In fact, if I may, I’d like to just pause and ask our other panelists to weigh in on the virtual congress thing. It was certainly interesting attending a couple of those virtually for those that are working on colleges space. We know that ASCO is going to be virtual again this year. They recently released that. So amal. Damon, what your way and what are your thoughts and experiences on virtual congress? What’s the potential for brand impact if they continue to be largely virtual?
[00:14:10.460] – Hemal Somaiya
Yeah, I’m happy to share some thoughts there. Right. I would say virtual congress is definitely an interesting one and one that we are at least at Mark, struggling a little bit on how best to think through strategically on our ROI and impact with different tactics and strategies that we need around congress. Right. For example, booths at congress used to be like one of the critical pillars around what booths right now haven’t been doing that well. If you think about just media placements and some NPP on congress platforming at Costco last year. Right. The ROI just hasn’t been like as much as you would expect it to. As traditionally seen when asked for, used to be in person in life. Right. So I think you have to be very smart in the way you approach these congresses and think about it more in terms of how do you target the attendees beyond just the congress platform. Right. And how do you do some Npile targeting and be hyper targeted by getting in front of them with those right channels and right messages. So I think there is a little bit more thinking for us to do there, but definitely one that is top of mind for me and where I know with my team we continue to think about what can we do differently.
[00:15:28.180] – Hemal Somaiya
Peer to peer is another element of virtual congress, which I think we have to realize the potential of just doing more peer to peer tactics because during the pandemic we have seen that is one element of our marketing mix that has shown us some really good ROI.
[00:15:46.010] – Frank Dolan
Thank you, Damon.
[00:15:47.940] – Damon Harrell
Yeah, I would agree with most of what Hamilton just said to take a little bit of a step back, it’s how are we spending our dollars historically, advertising, sponsorships booths, symposia really were sort of the cornerstone things. Quite frankly, I don’t think the virtual booth works. I know that people have found ways to sort of encourage attendees to go to the virtual booths and scavenger hunt type things and win the prize kind of competitions. If that’s why you’re coming through the booth, I’m not sure that as the booth sponsor, I’m getting what I want out of that. So I’m not a big fan of that, which is not a knock on the folks that are doing that work. I just think if you’re making trade offs about how you’re going to spend the dollars, I’m not sure we get out of that. What we used to advertisement physical placement banners, things in the hall, am I going to spend on that to provide it digitally? I’m not sure. But the one thing that was mentioned is peer to peer. And I would say that as much as anything, healthcare providers are hungry for peer to peer.
[00:17:01.390] – Damon Harrell
They miss that engagement, they miss the interaction. So as you think creatively about the congress, the thing we’ve been wrestling with is how do we create more engagement opportunities? Right? So you may do a virtual symposium, but can you also find a way to say, we’re also going to make a chat room available to have you guys, just as a group, discuss case studies and as a brand lead, you’re going to lose control of that conversation? And I think from a compliance standpoint, you have to lose control of that conversation, but you’re providing a service to those customers. And this is back to that sort of that headspace question is the things that they are doing in these virtual environments, there may be opportunities for us to facilitate a quality experience that’s a little less brand specific than we might historically be willing to sort of invest in. And it’s really, I think, tough for the brand folks to hear. But the other thing that we learned was for the first six months of COVID as much as anything, our customers were just trying to figure out, how do I run an office in the middle of COVID And there was a real shift in the conversations we were having with them where we were doing less features and benefits of our products and more services like, how do we help you guys do this?
[00:18:18.990] – Damon Harrell
What are the things as a company that we can provide patient support, access support information that might happen more easily in a non virtual environment? So we definitely saw a shift in our conversation with the customers as we tried to adjust to not just our new reality, but their new reality and the challenges they’re having in trying to practice medicine.
[00:18:40.990] – Frank Dolan
Those are great points. So you made me think, talking about the exhibit booth thing, I’ll never forget. I have to admit to myself I’m no longer young. And in my 20 something career at seven different firmware companies, I remember one of the first years working a conference booth with our other teammates around the diabetes brand that we had. And this was the year where a lot of the chachis could no longer be given out. And it was an international congress. There were lots of people going through the hall. It was great. One of our boothmates left the fish bowl with some breath mints on top of one of the kiosks by accident. They meant to take it out and kind of put it back. We had some international providers come through not realizing no one’s giving anything away anymore. No more pens, no more pads, no more whatever, and literally took three handfuls of mint and stuffed them in their conference bag. I’m like, this is not the pinnacle of my career. Of all these moments, this is not the one I necessarily want to live over and over again. Anyway. Building on those points that Damon just made.
[00:20:10.090] – Frank Dolan
With all of the things that we have to do. With all of the things in this environment and what our future could look like that we might do. The question I have to you all. And I think what we’ll do is we’ll start with Alden. Is with these different efforts. How might we attempt to measure what is working?
[00:20:33.410] – Alvin Lin
Yeah, it can be tricky. I think certain field systems are able to somewhat maintain continuity from a call reporting perspective where at least field reps can self report appointments. There they’re logging in with their customer and different conversations. I think, again, a challenge to that, that I mentioned at the start of this was I think it’s easier in person when you can just drop by and just say hi to somebody. I think when you are trying to set an appointment, you typically need to have a reason or maybe new information or new updates. And so if you’re trying to talk to somebody or check in on a regular basis, I could see that that might be slightly more challenging than precovid. There are other non personal channels that are not necessarily rep driven that do have good physician level data. If your brand or your company does have a good system set up with CRM and with your secondary data and with your physician Identifiers, there are ways that you can have a vast array of nonpersonal marketing that reaches customers. Hopefully it’s higher engagement content, like information for KLS or the public locations and things like that.
[00:21:58.110] – Alvin Lin
And if set up correctly, companies should be able to measure physician engagement. I will have to say, though, having been at large and smaller companies, there’s huge variance in terms of how well these things are set up. So what I’m describing I’ve seen oftentimes is not really set up that way. I know that everybody kind of talks about that it would be fantastic to have this closed loop. A lot of times they end up being kind of one off campaigns where, you know, at best, you may have some data, but you’re really trying to manually piece it together. So I’m curious if my colleagues here have seen it done well. I think I’ve seen it done really well integrated at one particular company, but then I think the other ones I’ve been at have had to create from scratch because they didn’t really exist before.
[00:22:48.790] – Frank Dolan
Either one of you want to respond to Alvin’s inquiry?
[00:22:57.410] – Damon Harrell
Yeah, I guess I’ll jump in. We’re doing a lot of digital nonpersonal. We do it both pushed from the office. We do it with third party partners. The granularity of that data is for those who haven’t really looked at the space. It’s really quite amazing, the specificity with which you know what people are doing with your content, their level of engagement, how they’re reacting to it, behaviors that are likely to follow particular engagements. It is a meaningful time for companies that have the resources to think about making some investments in AI. As you start to collect this data, it can be highly informative in analyzing sort of next logical steps. So you think about the Congress. To me now. One of the most important things about Congress is just knowing who went. Because I’m not going there with them per se. But if I know you went. I could serve you up particular types of content that resonate with that event. That make you more likely to open. That make you more likely to engage. And may make it easier for me to direct you to the content that I want you to see in a way that may be more efficient than really competing inside of the actual virtual content.
[00:24:11.220] – Damon Harrell
Of all the things you could look at, all the parallel tracks that are running in a virtual Congress, it’s tough to get people’s eyes on your stuff. And there may be ways you could use some of these digital nonpersonal technologies to amplify your opportunity outside of the Congress. So that’s one example, but I think that the bigger picture there is. There’s a lot of information that sits in those engagements, and I think the companies that are more successful are going to be the ones that leverage the learnings, where they use information to then bounce to their reps. So the rep knows where the doctor’s been, and they can engage conversation based on that. If the communication comes in and says, hey, I know you saw doctor, soandso talk on this topic, can we pick up that conversation that’s a real communication versus everybody’s inboxes are just filled with white noise spam, right. Every company is trying to get to you some way or another, and if there’s not something in that subject line that catches my attention, my answer is delete. So I think you can feed your systems and make real CRM systems and more complete certain interactions if you’re able to leverage that data.
[00:25:25.390] – Frank Dolan
[00:25:26.290] – Hemal Somaiya
Yeah, I agree with you. And everything that you said. I mean, that’s music to my ears, right? I think personalization is key in this COVID-19 environment, specifically in very crowded marketplaces where share of noise and brand equity, top of mind, is very critical. One thing that we’ve been actively looking for is just using all the different channels where we can get that NPI level data and ensuring to Damon’s point, right, that the data is speaking between the personal promotion and the non personal promotion. The ideal goal or the objective that I’m working towards right now is that next best action, right at physician level, we should know, okay, what works best for Dr. John Smith, for example, right, is it a sales represent followed by a banner at followed by an email? And if it is an email, is it an email from the farmer company or a third party vendor like a medscape or a bio farm? What is the subject line that will best resonate with this position? Is it a branded subject line or unbranded subject line? So there is a lot of details that we can collect from all of these engagements.
[00:26:36.090] – Hemal Somaiya
And I think we have to be just very diligent about collecting all of that data and then connecting all the dots and making sense of that data and ensuring that across this only channel platform, per se, data is shared across the board so that your marketing and sales outreach is the most effective and impactful in this virtual environment.
[00:26:58.090] – Frank Dolan
Hamal, I want to stick with you on that because that is awesome. In fact, I watched one of your talks talking about data and AI, which I think is awesome. There’s a lot of folks out there in marketing that want to try new things. They know that they’ve got to have an initiative, they’ve got to implement new things. When it comes to piloting things and assessing these different technologies, could you give us some advice or a framework for thinking about how we might try a new data product, try a new approach, especially if there isn’t necessarily a lot of internal support to try new things?
[00:27:37.390] – Hemal Somaiya
Yeah, that’s a great question, Frank. I think with innovation and new things, the biggest challenges, the cost associated with it, and the unknown of the ROI or the right. So what Hans worked, in my opinion, is just starting with what you said, right? A pilot program, pick an account, pick a geography where things are not going as well, where you may have seen after this COVID-19 pandemic and in the virtual worldwide is just not realized as much as you would expect. And then try to think how this innovative solution is best going to help you in that specific geography and scale from there on to a scale. I think that’s the way to go when it comes to AI, to what I was saying earlier, right? My mission or the goal has just been getting in front of that right Hcp at the right time, when they have an eligible patient for your brand using those right channels and right messages, right? And not just scraping the surface with that first degree of what is the right channel or what is the right message, but really digging deeper to truly understand some of those historic preferences and the evolving trends at that Hcp level to really make some meaningful impact per se.
[00:28:52.010] – Hemal Somaiya
But yeah, I think to your question, starting with something small specifically where there’s an issue and trying out the solution would be the best way to realize the impact of it all for something innovative.
[00:29:05.400] – Frank Dolan
That’s awesome. Alvin, you want to weigh in on AI data and pilots?
[00:29:11.890] – Alvin Lin
Yeah, I love this topic. I think it’s where the future of marketing is heading in our industry, especially as physician level data and other companies kind of make that part of standard in marketing campaigns. I think one challenge though, just one food for thought for somebody who may be trying this from scratch, I think some basic building blocks. If you want to have a good target list, a good target list that as you heard prior, has NPIs or some Identifier that you can then match back with your marketing partner that you’re working with. So this could be whether it’s an email or a third party vendor or a website, a content holder, you have to figure out some sort of cross matching so that they can send information back to you for who engaged with your content. In terms of the mechanics, though, I do think there are difficulties and I don’t know what the answer is, but one thing that I’ve seen from a data aggregation standpoint is who’s the person that integrates the data coming back from the medscape or whatever other content portal that does cross match for you. And then meanwhile, you have engagement data coming in from headquarterdriven emails or driven emails, or you have media companies that run all sorts of banner advertising or other media engagements.
[00:30:41.440] – Alvin Lin
What I’ve seen is oftentimes the aggregator, probably just due to convenience is the media plan partner. But I think that that kind of is interesting then because it doesn’t necessarily the way that they report information back to the brand lead is from the lens of the media plan. And so some of that rich information from other multi channel campaigns could potentially be lost unless a marketer is kind of really vigilant about integrating it the right way. So I’m really keen. I think that’s the future. I think everybody’s thinking about these issues. That’s just something that I’ve seen. I kind of smile when I hear AI. I think that is the future. I think really anything that involves intelligence at this point is getting the term AI signed to it. I think there are ways to just think through kind of the patient journey, what makes sense in terms of what a customer gets next based. On what they just saw or what it was exposed to. Whatever we call that, whether it’s fancy artificial intelligence or it’s literally humans who kind of map it out, I think that is the future, whatever you call that thing.
[00:31:50.310] – Alvin Lin
[00:31:52.160] – Damon Harrell
Frank, if I could just jump in there, I think I’ll make a really important point, which is how you think about your vendor selection and partners has changed. What you need those people to do for you, I think is evolving and it is changing. And getting partners who can think in a broader lens versus their own just subject matter expertise is a really important consideration as you pick your partners going forward. And the other thing that’s really macro level is we’re having some really interesting conversations about where do we want to build in house expertise on these things and actually do hiring and staffing and developing some subject matter expertise versus what’s the stuff you’re just going to outsource. Right? There are certain levels of true AI technology that I don’t think we’d ever want to build inhouse and we’re just going to have to find a partner to help us do that. And there are other places where we’re having conversations about do we need to hire people with these skill sets and long term embed them into either brand teams or analytic teams or wherever their homes are. But it becomes a question of are we hiring now for the future or are we just going to spend dollars against it?
[00:33:00.510] – Damon Harrell
Never actually try and build it inside the building?
[00:33:04.540] – Frank Dolan
That’s a really interesting point. So I’m involved with an organization called Mass Challenge and where I play a role is helping to advise startups in the life science space. They have a business plan, competition a couple of times a year. And I’ve got to tell you, when I look back at my pharmacy, I’m thinking, gosh, why would we invest in building some of these things on our own? There is a solution to almost every problem that we face in some startups somewhere. So that’s fascinating thinking about do you use the flexibility and the expertise of a vendor versus doing it all under your roof? Fascinating stuff. Does anyone want to weigh in on that whole idea of do it yourself versus assessing external capability?
[00:34:01.090] – Hemal Somaiya
Yeah, I think data is king. Right, Frank? And the more data we just own ourselves, it’s the right way to go. But then to build that whole infrastructure, to own all of that data, to process all the data, that’s where the challenge comes in. So I think it’s a fine balance of how much do we own ourselves plus partner with a vendor that is able to report at that NPI level on an ongoing basis in the way and the format that you like just selecting that right partner. And I’ve tried both ways and finally have found to your point of startup that has really been able to help me get to that vision of that right message, right time, right channel. So I work with this company called Pharma Psycho and I’ve had amazing experience working with them so far, both from just reporting and data element perspective, but also just the timeliness of what is needed in this virtual world, in this Panama world.
[00:34:59.960] – Frank Dolan
That’s great. I’m going to ask you, and I’d like to get Damon and then Alvin’s input on this as well, the reality of so many folks that are watching this, folks that are in marketing and even in sales, just generally in commercial, every single day there you’re overrun with Solicitations, with some new solution, whether it’s a data product, some AI widget, or some training program, whatever. It’s like they’re either going to double your market share or they’re going to reduce their cost, but they’re going to transform your business. And it’s hard to separate. Like what claim is possibly real? It seems like we could use 1000 vendors. Would we even need a salesforce anymore? Because all these things are going to improve our share of voice, improve our sales performance. So Jamal, how do we make sense of some of these claims? What framework do you apply to scrutiny when a new vendor with a new solution knocks down your door and says, hey, this is something that you and your team absolutely need?
[00:36:04.990] – Hemal Somaiya
Yeah, Frank, that’s a good question. Right? And definitely a problem we all face. I think it does get overwhelming at times. The way I approach it is really just ask them for other examples of brands for where they have worked and really look at metrics with other brands and you take it a little bit with a grain of salt. Right. Because it’s self reported through them. But I think that’s the only way, in my opinion, for you to really vet them because then you are saying, okay, you implemented this somewhere else. This is how the metrics turned out to be. Is this good enough for me? And seemed like good enough again to my earlier point, I would start with something for pilots, if it is an expensive solution and a startup per se, to really see that impact firsthand before I brought with them. So I think that comes top of mind as I think about some of these conversations that I have with them.
[00:37:08.340] – Frank Dolan
I can’t imagine how many emails you’re getting a day right now, Jamal. It’s going to be crazy. Damon, how about you? How do we help people do their jobs and defend the castle, yet bring in the right arsenal to get the job done?
[00:37:22.910] – Damon Harrell
Yeah, I’ll make the argument that I’m too stupid to really be interested in a lot of that stuff. As a team, we really have the discipline to try and sit down and say there’s two or three things we really need to do well this year. And I’m not going to allow people running into my organization with solutions for problems that I haven’t identified. Figure out the couple things that are really important for you to get done. And if you come across a technology or a vendor who’s already in that space, have them in, have them come talk to you. I think the discipline of filtering all of that noise is you should already know the thing that you want to fix and then you can sort of vet for technology that may help you do that, versus you start looking at technology and services because they’re interesting, you’re going to get distracted and you’re not going to do anything well. So I think it’s the discipline there. I know myself, I can’t do more than a couple things well. All that other cool technology that’s working on other stuff, I’m just not going to pay attention to it.
[00:38:30.110] – Frank Dolan
Very practical advice. Okay, Alvin, let’s help people do their jobs. What’s your advice on that?
[00:38:35.810] – Alvin Lin
Yeah, it’s a really interesting question. I think a couple of thoughts I have is it absolutely is the case that the system is set up. Commercial leaders are thinking about so many different things. Digital is certainly one of them, but there are many other things on the plate as well. And so the system is set up, I would say for status quo and for kind of static inertia. I’m a little different, I think, in that I love hunting for new technologies and I’m always trying to do something better. And I also don’t mind having a lot of different one off statements of work, which I know is different. I know a lot of other brand leads may for simplicity, just like to run everything through the same one main go to agency of record or main media partner. And then larger companies also have preferred lists. So in terms of affecting change, it can be difficult. So you really need that internal advocate especially, or ideally if it’s a commercial leader. And then I would also point out, especially for agency people who are listening in terms of who’s the budget owner also has an impact.
[00:39:54.630] – Alvin Lin
So I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time over the last two years. I’m really impressed with where data is going. I think there are advancements way beyond what IMS, Fqvia or Symphony used to provide. There are a lot of different vendors in the Bay Area and elsewhere that have better line of sight, in my opinion. However, in terms of who’s actually spending the money in companies, you know, people have to be aware of the fact that Sales ops is involved in targeting information, because targeting information is oftentimes first built off of kind of field interactions and then you may supplement that with your non personal lists. So you absolutely have to loop in sales ops. And then also many times it is involved either as a partial budget owner or certainly a key stakeholder. So I think for agencies trying to figure out how to navigate this. You need not only a commercial leader that believes in it, and that’s not for everybody. Some people are just looking for the path lease resistance. But then once you have buy in from the commercial leader, you have to figure out who actually would own the statement of work.
[00:40:57.880] – Alvin Lin
And oftentimes it might sit with commercial ops, sales ops or it.
[00:41:03.790] – Frank Dolan
Great insight. So my final question is going to be really about people and the three of you with great resumes, your leaders in your organization. I’d love you to speak to either the aspiring or some of the newer marketers out there. The stakes for this industry are very, very high. At the same time, things are changing rapidly, both in our customer market, our customer condition, technology, so forth and so on. It’s endless. So the skills that some of us brought into the marketing roles may not necessarily be the skills we need to be successful in the future. So, Alvin, Damon and in Hamal, what advice would you give to marketers as far as where they should concentrate their upskilling to be able to really compete within their organization, but also for their brand in the marketplace? Alvin, do you want to start?
[00:42:04.840] – Alvin Lin
Sure. There’s something that Damon said that I think is just really sticking in my mind, and I think it’s a great point. I think being adept at not only digital marketing, but kind of data skills and that analytical type of position, I think, is crucial. Clearly those marketing elements are here to stay and I think having good understanding of how they work and how to excel at them is fundamental. I’m actually just thinking in my mind how in the future, typically teams may have sales ops and market research teams, but some sort of that data role. I don’t know where it sits, but it’s certainly something that I’m going to take away from this chat. But I think, yes, moving forward, you know, the standard skills that people would have in addition to the typical paths people would have as they make their way through an organization, I think absolutely kind of the data analysis skill and being adapted, digital marketing is becoming an essential element.
[00:43:06.190] – Frank Dolan
I love it. Damon, your thoughts?
[00:43:08.380] – Damon Harrell
Yeah, I guess two things come to mind. One is, as you think about your business, it really has to be assumption driven. Right. You need to know the assumptions that you’re making about your business and the market, and if those assumptions aren’t changing, then you shouldn’t be making big changes to your business. Now, having said that, as volatile as the market is, I think the idea of having a plan mapped out for 12, 18, 24 months is too old school. The companies that are going to be successful are the companies that are going to be agile. And it’s the discipline of being agile, but still focused on your destination, your goal. Right. What defines winning shouldn’t change, but you’ve got to be nimble on how you get there in today’s market, the idea that I’ve got a plan and I’m not going to change it and I’m going to look at it every six months and nothing happens between those six months, you’re going to get crushed. In today’s environment, you got to be much more agile than that. But it’s the balance of being agile without being undisciplined about your assumptions on what drives your business.
[00:44:18.040] – Frank Dolan
[00:44:20.060] – Hemal Somaiya
Fully agreed. And Alvin, with everything that you guys said, I think the ability to just connect the dots across multiple ongoing things in addition to the digital ability, and then looking at, okay, what’s working, what’s not, and being able to quickly adapt to this.
[00:44:48.860] – Frank Dolan
You have muted, unfortunately there we go.
[00:44:54.410] – Hemal Somaiya
I’m sorry. Yeah, but I was just saying I completely agree with what Damon and Alvin said. I think the ability to just connect the dots across multiple different activities, whether it’s data, whether it’s all the digital channels and outreach, whether it’s personal promotion and being able to continue to evolve and adapt to Damon’s point and being agile is the way to go. And that’s the skill set that we would definitely need as we think about succeeding in a post pandomic environment.
[00:45:26.510] – Frank Dolan
It doesn’t get better than that. Great advice from the three of you. I want to thank you on behalf of our entire audience that’s watching this live and the folks that have registered, they’re going to watch it and replay your time and treasures mean so much to this community.
[00:45:41.230] – Alvin Lin
[00:45:41.710] – Frank Dolan
I’m also Maya. Alvin Lynn Damon. Harrell. Thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.
[00:45:49.840] – Damon Harrell
[00:45:52.540] – Frank Dolan
All right, well, thank you, everybody, and thank you to our panelists. We’ll see everybody in the next session.
[00:45:58.900] – Alvin Lin
[00:45:59.760] – Damon Harrell
Take care. Bye.