Are You Ready to Hear Your Customers?

One of the most fundamental tenets of marketing is listening to your customers. Every pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device company boldly proclaims that they put the patient first and work closely with practitioners to assure that unmet medical needs are answered. Unfortunately, it almost sounds cliché. The intent is pure and on target, but what about the day-to-day execution. That’s where things can get challenging. We are creatures of habit. We have to contend with internal politics and sometimes, larger than life personalities. Everyone has someone to answer to. So where does that leave the people depending on all of us?

Every year significant dollars are spent on all types of research. Quantitative studies. Qualitative interviews. Focus groups. Meet and greets. Advisory boards. Patient gatherings. Each is an opportunity to gain valuable input from those people who we are trying to influence, educate and help. As essential as it is to ask the right questions (in an unbiased manner), it is equally important to be prepared to hear what they have to say.

Here are three things to ask yourself: 

  1. How’s your hearing?
    In order to get out of the process with the most valid information, you’ve got to go into it without bias – not an easy thing to do. We all make assumptions. But the opportunity at hand is not to lead the witnesses, but learn from them – to truly understand their mindset, their motivations and their concerns. The only way to hear clearly is to be open minded.
  1. Now that you know, what are you going to do?
    Information is power, but what are you going to do with your new-found knowledge? One thing to consider is that when you ask someone for their opinion it generally matters to them that you respect it. It’s a form of validation and self-worth. It’s not that you have to follow every direction provided from constituents, but it is important that they know you genuinely care about their perspective. Acknowledgement around points of consensus and disagreement can help form solid foundations for relationships if it is handled with directness and diplomacy.
  2. Whose objectives matter most?
    When you ask people about an issue, it is natural for them to approach it from their vantage point. How does this affect me and the people I care about? As stewards of brands, we have to weigh the objectives of our customers, our company’s leadership and ourselves. Prioritization of objectives and removal of subjectivity can be essential to arriving at a pathway forward. We all have our own likes and dislikes. We all have grooves that we feel most comfortable in. But we must challenge ourselves to step outside our comfort zone, assess what we have learned and have the conviction to make decisions based on sound information -- and from that, what we know to be right.

Are you ready potentially to be purposely disruptive? Are you ready to stay the course? Are you ready for anything? Then you are ready to hear your customers.

by Jonathan D. Katz