The reality of the Nigerian pharma market today is that competition is tough and most companies sell generic products. The implication of selling generics (aka “me-too” products) is that most of the products are old, do not offer a unique advantage and are not protected by patents. In the circumstances above, customers and healthcare providers exert great influence on the specific brand that get prescribed, that get dispensed and are available on the shelves. Even the unique brands under protection have competitors and get substituted.
Building a lifelong partnership with customers is the only way to accelerate business growth in today’s highly competitive market, and guarantee that we are in business tomorrow. Therefore, to succeed in the marketplace, companies and salesmen need to continually and continuously run a process by which customer loyalty is created so that a stable, mutually profitable and long-term relationship is developed.
In defining relationship that way, it is noteworthy that it must be a mutually rewarding connection between the parties so that they expect to obtain benefits from it and both parties must have a commitment to the relationship over time and are, therefore, willing to adapt their own behaviour to maintain its continuity.
What is the grand strategy for relationship marketing?
Make the customer want to buy from you because of you for a very long time. If the customer wants to buy from you because your product has a “technical advantage”, the truth is that such an advantage can be, and will be copied, sooner or later. But your unique relationship with the customer CANNOT be copied, if carefully developed and built. Be foretold, however, that building such relationship requires strategy, time, resources and attention.
Why should you pay attention to relationship marketing?
a. It is imperative if you are selling generic pharmaceuticals, as the trade and healthcare providers and administrators have a heavy influence on what gets into the PLO, what get on the shelves and product substitution
b. It is faster and much cheaper to sell to current customers
c. It makes it easier to overcome objections, especially price objections
d. It enables consistence of sales performance as you are assured or regular orders
e. Saves you in times of trouble (urgent need for money, short-dated products, heavy stock levels etc).
Relationship marketing and management Issues
a. Some customers are more important than others. It is a known fact that customers do not contribute equally to our sales and collection, indeed our performance. Then it makes sense to isolate the most important ones and deploy more resources towards them, as this will yield higher returns.
b. Lifetime value of customers. The value of a customer to a business is not just the last order. It is the total purchase over a “lifetime”. So, decision with respect to a customer cannot and should not be based on the recent purchases but also long-term value of purchases. In the same vein, investments in the customer should take into consideration the “lifetime” potential purchases.
c. Organisational buying. Selling to individuals is different from selling to organisations. There are various roles in organisation buying – users, buyers, owners, gate-keeper, deciders, approvers, etc. These roles vary from organisation to organisation, from time to time, from purchase to purchase. To understand the “buying centre” requires in-depth knowledge of the organisation, time and attention.
d. Personalised offer. Needs of customers are different. Best offers are the offers made with a particular person or organisation in mind. Relationship marketing makes it possible, practical and believable to make such “personalized” offers.
Strategies and tactics for relationship marketing and management
a. Social strategies and programmes. These are personal and interpersonal bonds created via human social interactions and opportunities. Birthdays, marriage anniversaries, life-events, group activities. In this regard, it is frequent and personalised communications that develop bonds and make the relationship special and difficult for rivals to duplicate. The outcome of social programmes is often that customers reciprocate with repeat business and referrals. It has a has a direct positive effect on profits and is longlasting
b. Structural relationship marketing programmes provide a service/product to increase productivity and/or efficiency for customers through targeted investment that customers would not make for themselves. For example, if the company provides free analysis of operations of customers or training for its staff. The results are to create a structural bond that makes it difficult for companies to switch to competitors.
c. Financial relationship marketing programmes provide economic benefits such as discounts, free shipping, favourable payment terms, etc. Customers respond financially to protect customer relationships, though they do not necessarily enhance the relationship because all companies do it.
Professional relationship development
In the pharma industry, healthcare professionals and service providers exert a lot of influence on what is bought and what is prescribed. It is then necessary for pharmaceutical companies to create a general relationship with the healthcare groups like PSN, NMA, NANNM, etc. and specific relationship with individual specialists, consultants and administrators for long-term growth. The latter can be achieved by sponsorships to professional and association events, scientific meetings, conferences, research programmes, collaborations, etc.
Tunde Oyeniran, a Sales/Marketing Strategist, Selling/Sales Management Trainer and Personal Coach (Sales Management) is the Lead Consultant, Ekini White Tulip Consulting Limited, Lagos.
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