Pull-Through Marketing: Implementation is Sexy!

By Chris Cushman

I bet you have never heard anyone say that before, have you? Make sure I get credit for it when, moving forward, you use it over and over again. What you have probably heard before is the following from Morris Chang, CEO of TSMC: “Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.” Don’t get me wrong—I like strategy. But I think execution/implementation gets hosed more often than not.

I had a chance to visit the Cannes Advertising Festival a few years ago with some colleagues—an absolutely amazing experience. As I was walking around with my Creative Director, we kept commenting on the strong execution of the best work. How simple, flawless, engaging, etc., it was. Granted, there were strong insights and strategies behind most of the work, but the really interesting (and most importantly, successful) programs had downright sexy implementation.

I’m writing this as I’m sitting here at the University of Cincinnati in my Influencer Marketing class while my students take their finals. Last week, five groups presented their influencer marketing plans for the semester to our client. The reason I bring this up is that I noticed that the groups with the best influencer marketing plans really thought through the implementation logistics. How are we going to identify influencers, how will content be created, what does the event look like, what is the feedback circle and how will we measure? All five groups had really interesting influencer marketing strategies, but the groups that really wowed the client (and me,  for what it’s worth) spent time thinking through the tactical execution of those plans.

In our world of healthcare marketing, this idea is called “pull-through marketing.” On February 1, 2014, Partha Anbil posted an article on PharmExec.com titled “Managed Markets: Positioning Your Product For Success with Pull Through Strategies.” The article did a great job of outlining the many ways that our industry defines pull-through marketing:

  • Some define pull through as a process aimed at increasing market share and generating sales for a specific product within a given time
  • Others define pull through as broadcasting a formulary listing to enhance the value of man- aged care
  • Others define pull through as a bridge builder to

The article went on to explain both what pull through marketing programs are and what should be considered, to ensure you are successful:

“Pull through programs are a response to a customer environment that is astoundingly dense and increas- ingly interdependent. It’s not only payers who now control the levers on patient access to medication; there is an array of emerging stakeholders and influ- encers that set that perception, including Integrated Delivery Networks, Hospital formularies, Key Opinion Leaders, physician and organizational technology platforms, local standards of care, and national and regional healthcare policies.”

So in order to implement successful pull-through programs one needs to consider lots of factors, many of which are regional/local in nature. What is the IDN situation like in Detroit? Who are our strongest KOLs in Miami? What are the regional healthcare policies in Southern California? Infusing regional relevance into your marketing plans will both drive success of your pull-through programs as well as set you apart from your competition.

As Mr. Chang pointed out, “Execution without strategy is useless.” Teams still need to spend quality time up-front, thinking through the strategic decisions that will put a quality experience in front of their customers. But in order to make sure the desired outcomes are achieved, regional relevance needs to be taken into account when executing those strategies. And that is sexy implementation!