What is insight and how does it fit within Key Account Management (KAM)?
In a previous role I had the pleasure of leading Global Marketing Excellence for a major pharmaceutical organisation. Marketers are all too familiar with the concept of insight generation, it is the backbone of marketing. What do we mean by insight, and what is the role of insight in the broader organisational sense?
A very wise marketer summarised insight for me, and I have retained their definition throughout my career.
Information is what happens. Insight is why it happens.
Quite simple, but a definition that is not prevalent in many organisations.
Of course, the definition of insight needs to be taken a little further. There is no real benefit to understanding why things happen without being able to act on it to achieve your account objective.
When we consider marketing, we generally understand that we are trying to tap into the emotions of our audience to induce behavioural change. How often do we take this concept further, and into our KAM model? Not as often as we should in my opinion.
When we operate within a KAM model, we want to drive behavioural change.
Whether it is at an individual stakeholder level, or at a broader account level, behavioural change is what we are trying to achieve. We want external stakeholders to advocate our organisation, to raise awareness of particular diseases, to endorse our products, to buy more, to recommend to their colleagues. The intention is to stop them from behaving as they do today, and make a change.
So how do we exact behavioural change?
We are creatures of habit. Have you ever attended a 3 day meeting and observed your fellow delegates sitting in the same seat each day? Human beings fundamentally like routine, order and structure. Asking people to change seats causes discomfort, a sense of uneasiness and, generally, some nervous laughter. At the first opportunity, people will move back to their original seat. (You are nodding at this!)
Imagine then, the task of asking an external stakeholder in the context of the pharmaceutical or medical device industries to change or modify their behaviours? Hoping they will invest, sometimes, millions of dollars, into a product or piece of capital equipment is a mammoth task that cannot be done without really understanding the individuals involved, and their environment.
One of the most important aspects of an effective Key Account Management (KAM) model is therefore to have a forensic level of insight, not only about individual decision makers, but also the environment and stakeholders who are involved more broadly.
We need to develop a sense of enormous curiosity, to be inquisitive, to deepen our understanding of what lies beneath the surface.
I am sure many of you have encountered small children who bombard you with ‘why’ questions to the point of exasperation! But we can learn a lot from them. Children have a wonderful sense of curiosity in an endeavour to understand why things are as they are. I am not sure when we lose that as adults, but when we reconnect with this side of ourselves, things are not always as they seem.
Let’s consider this in the context of the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. In order to change behaviours, we first need to understand why people or organisations behave as they do today.
What are the drivers beneath the surface that are not perhaps as obvious to us?
Behavioural psychologists have published reams of work in this space, and I am not going to profess to be an expert here by any means. However, it is important to recognise the drivers of behaviour that our external stakeholders may not even consciously acknowledge.
From a physician’s perspective, decisions may be made with differing reasons. For example, an individual may be driven by a need to increase their presence as an ‘expert’ in their field. Equally, they may be driven by a greater need to put their institution on the map as a centre of excellence. That is not to say they do not consider patient benefits, but this may not be the aspect that is of greater personal importance to them.
In today’s healthcare environment, providers, whether at a primary care practice, hospital or governmental level, are generally measured with targets. These may be financially oriented, patent outcome led, or research driven. In many markets, these metrics are the subject of public scrutiny and contention. The world expects more accountability, particularly when dealing with the emotive subject of healthcare. So it comes as no surprise that metric attainment can be a critically important driver for many external stakeholders.
However, whilst it is important to recognise these metrics, we often become blinded by them and forget that individuals within these organisations are often not solely driven by organisational measures.
There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating metric fatigue.
Payers and healthcare professionals alike, often become exasperated by certain targets and metrics, because they know they are simply unattainable, or that nobody will really hold anyone to account if they aren’t met, or because they don’t necessarily measure what is truly important to that individual.
Account team members need to work effectively as a cross functional unit to become more forensic in their knowledge of accounts and individuals within them. Physicians, patients, payers and providers can be categorised all too easily without anyone taking time to really understand their individual motivation and needs.
In recent years, we have noted the slow and often painful process associated with launching new medicines and products. In many circumstances, a lack of insight has contributed to this. Making unfounded assumptions about what external stakeholders require often leads to a ‘one size fits all approach’ to launch.
I have observed launch checklists which require each external stakeholder to be presented with health economic data, clinical data and all supporting evidence about a product regardless of their role or function.
Taking time to understand the external stakeholder, what interests them, what drives them, what is important to them, can and will make all the difference.
Once we know what lies beneath the surface, what really drives an individual to behave as they do, it is much easer to tailor the conversation to ensure that we relate to their needs and motivations. We can individualise our conversations with external stakeholders to provide relevant, pertinent information which resonates with their drivers.
Consider yourself. Think of a recent example of a positive meeting or customer experience. Which aspects led that to be positive? Was it that the person, or people you met were very polite, interested in you, succinct, detailed, well prepared, empathetic? Were there things that you liked that were not really related to the purpose of the meeting? Was it a success because the person, or people you dealt with really just understood you and your needs?
Marketers generate insights galore and are experienced in this space. If you have read any of my previous articles, you will know the importance of effective cross functional working as an inherent part of any KAM working model. Market level insight should be shared with the cross functional account team, and then the techniques used to generate insight should be employed to further generate account and external stakeholder insight.
Once the insight has been generated at an account level, it is important to validate it and cause correct if necessary. It is critically important to share account level insight across your organisation. This will help to identify key trends and support more effective business and brand planning in turn.
So before you rush off to show your latest new app for patients, or the complex budget impact model with bells and whistles, press pause and reflect on the individual or account decision making unit you are going to see. Take time to consider them as a person or people, do you really know what is important to them and why? If you really don’t, then reach out to your cross functional account team colleagues and start to generate some insight.
Insight generation for your priority external stakeholders and accounts will open your eyes and make a huge difference to your ability to engage.
Unleash your inner child’s sense of curiosity and begin to ask why!
Try it and let us know how you get on.