Choosing the right method for Competitive Analysis

June 22nd, 2022 by

Some of the questions that any marketing team from a pharmaceutical company needs to answer is ‘How differentiated is our product’. A single condition or a disease can be treated through multiple therapies. Obviously, the magnitude of therapies is growing, as new molecules are discovered for conditions, that were untreatable in the past. But also new types of Therapies are coming into the game, from behavioral changes such as diets, physical exercise, and sleep schedules, to digital applications which become more and more “prescribable”. Additionally, the “old” fight; proprietary vs. generic becomes more relevant, the more therapies are competing in the market. This leaves the brand with the questions of differentiation. Many such topics were discussed and reiterated at NextPharma’22 Summit.

Years ago, when I used to be a young Global Marketing Excellence guy at Solvay Pharmaceuticals, I came across a principle which was presented back then by ZS Associates. Most likely they didn’t invent the principle, but I guess the name they gave it, is theirs. It was called Treatment Decision Process (TDP) and it is as simple as it is true. Summarized in one sentence it describes that different channel are good to communicate with different consumers, patient, payer or prescriber needs.

An example: When the main challenge for your brand is that not enough hospital doctors know how to diagnose the patient correctly, you should not invest strongly in marketing channels that are directed to a “brand choice” challenge, but focus on channels and tactics focusing on moving the behaviors of stakeholders who influence diagnosis.

This sounds super simple and no-brainer, right. However, we see a mismatch quite a lot in our consulting practice.

The first thing to choose the right channels though, is to understand the patient pathway through the healthcare system. You may want to call it Patient Flow, Customer Experience Mapping or simple Treatment Decision Process. In essence it’s all the same in different states of granularity.

Second is to capture the right drivers and barriers for those leverage points in the patient pathway. There are some “old” fashioned tools one can find with any brand team such as SWOT analysis. It’s an old concept, but quite powerful when done correctly. Unfortunately, a lot of teams don’t give enough attention to this process that looks easy on first sight but will make or break your strategic decision making when not done properly.

At the NextPharma Summit ’22, one of the most discussed challenges was ‘OmniChannel Projects’, and I feel, that the 1st strong step towards mastering the OmniChannel miracle is understanding the customer needs and the market realities in and out and plan for all the impacts it can create.

Now, we fully understand that spending a lot of time on a SWOT exercise in the context of an annual brand planning duty isn’t the most attractive way to use precious brand team time. However, it’s worth doing it and there are much more powerful ways to come to extremely eye-opening results, even for brands that are in the market for long times.

We would call it Relative Competitive Analysis, you may call it Competitor Perception Analysis or else. Basically, this exercise can be done with any level of data availability, whether you are lucky and have market research data or you “only” have the expertise of your colleagues in your brand team. Some teams are doing it just as a Delphi Session within the brand team members and country representatives in the context of a co-creation workshop. You don’t need a lot for it.

Set-up an Excel-file that lists attributes such as “How easy is the drug to be administered”. Come up with a list of attributes that are relevant to your customers within your therapy area. On the top draw a scale, start with 0 to 10. And then score your product and all your competitor products against the respective attribute. The one question you need to keep always in mind when performing this exercise:

“How good are you relative to your competitor in the respective attribute, in the eyes of your customer?”

When you score all the attributes in your list from you and from your competitors’ standpoint, you’ll get a good feeling where your offer (brand, company, etc) has advantages (Strengths) and dis-advantages (Weaknesses). Now it’s time to open your SWOT grid in your brand planning template. After the exercise, the SWOT items are much more relevant and thoughtful, as they come from an analytic exercise and not from gut feeling.

Obviously, you can do this exercise in an Excel sheet. However, this becomes quite cumbersome, quickly. There are some tools out there that help you organize this analysis. The one showing the most flexibility and user experience would be Enavia’s Relative Competitive Analysis tool (www.enaviahub.com).

My team and I will be happy to support you in your Competitive Analytics and strategic decision making. Please reach out for a free consultation.

-Daniel Kohlstaedt

Managing Director

About the author:

Daniel Kohlstaedt is the Managing Director of PurpleLeaf Strategy, with almost 20 years of pharmaceutical commercial excellence experience. PurpleLeaf has created the a set of light tools to uncover the differentiation potential of any pharmaceutical brand in relation to its competitors, which sharpens the overall strategic decision making. All tools are cloud-based and can be simply integrated into the existing brand strategy development approach.

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