Science-based businesses run on data, and not just in development and manufacturing. C-suite strategic planning demands real numbers and data to assess profitability, identify best-selling products or services, gauge how customers are reacting to new developments, and determine where they should focus their attention in the coming quarter, fiscal year, and beyond.
Strategic Pivoting for Service and Profit
In post-COVID hindsight, clear examples of successful long-term strategic planning emerged at the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
First, a question: do you think that Moderna and Pfizer were planning a vaccine for COVID before it arrived?
It’s safe to assume that they weren’t planning on a new viral global pandemic. They weren’t planning on needing to create a new coronavirus vaccine and subsequent booster shots because they couldn’t possibly have predicted the pandemic.
But, AstraZeneca was thinking about new diseases…and was planning for them, though they couldn’t know the specifics of what would overwhelm the world in 2020.
No one could have foreseen the ‘what, when, and where’ of this virus, except in the general sense that pandemics are part of human history and there will inevitably be another one. But, these companies had their business structure and strategy set up in such a way that they could quickly pivot to serve humanity. They had a view of the big picture.
Moderna didn’t plan on a COVID vaccine, but they had the mRNA platform and the necessary skill sets. AstraZeneca didn’t plan on a COVID vaccine, but they also had a platform which had been successfully used for the MERS vaccine.
The companies created platforms that enabled them to pivot. They were thinking far into the future. That is what successful companies do. They think and plan far beyond the next quarter or even the next two quarters. They are constantly thinking, “Where are we going and how are we going to get there?”
So, who in your organization can help your leadership team pivot? Who should have a seat at the table as long-term strategies are crafted?
The chief marketing officer (CMO).
Marketing “Creatives” Love Their Data
Marketing is too often seen – and dismissed – by senior management as “the creatives,” usually accompanied by a groan and a shake of the head. And yes, certain aspects of marketing can be more difficult to tie to real-world results and return-on-investment. (Others, like lead generation, are very trackable with the right systems in place.)
The reality is that marketing – as much as any other function in today’s life science organization – is powered by data and driven by long-term planning.
The Importance of Stakeholders
Marketing leverages real-time data to support and inform decision-making – which is a big part of the strategic planning process. The CMO is exactly the person to provide an analysis of what’s working, what isn’t, and why, and should clearly be a part of leadership meetings alongside the CEO, COO and CFO.
Even though companies that include marketing at the table stand to gain solid competitive advantages, marketing is frequently swept to the side and given no place at the strategy-defining table. In fact, when budget belt-tightening occurs, marketing (and free coffee for employees) is almost always first under the knife.
Planning for Long-Term Growth
With any business, you need to look at the big picture to create long-term success.
Let’s say the big picture is a forest and the details are the trees. While you need the trees (or details) to meet next quarter’s objectives, company leadership still needs to be able to see the forest beyond the trees to create the future vision of the organization. This allows you to see where your science-based company is going and how you’ll get there.
When the chief marketing officer doesn’t have a seat at the table and isn’t included in business planning, they can’t see the forest either. This often leads to a situation in which they lack the information needed to do their job successfully, are unable to plan for future marketing needs, and simply react to the moment. Just as importantly, they can’t provide their informed expertise to the CEO and senior team members to help them shape the data-driven vision of where the company is going.
This matters a great deal since a company’s strategic vision will ultimately be driven by the ability of sales and marketing to plan for the long term.
How to Get Your Seat at the Table
We’ve established that marketers really do need a seat at the table, but how do you make that happen if you’re a marketer in a science-based company that doesn’t think that way?
It’s all in your approach.
Get the CFO on Board
You need to talk to them in their language. Talk about budgets and investments. You’ll have to make a solid case, with data to back-up why marketing is so important to the business. Prove your results by showing the success of previous campaigns backed with hard data. Talk about how new investment will be spent and why, with estimated data based on previous real results to show expected returns.
You need to prove how marketing adds to the bottom line and allows the business to connect with what clients really want. You’ll want to show your results, along with likely patterns for the future.
If you can get the CFO on your side, you’ll have a strong ally when making the case for marketing to be included in leadership meetings.
When you do speak to the executive team, aim to provide financial reasons based on real metrics to support your plans and strategies:
- Look at your marketing strategy from the C-suite’s point of view. They’ll be looking at it in-line with general financial objectives and overall business planning. Present everything with that in mind.
- It’s all in the data. Demonstrate the value of your marketing efforts with data, metrics & KPIs, statistics, etc.
Marketers are an important part of company growth and long-term planning. It’s time they took a seat at the table alongside the CEO, COO, CFO, CSO and the board!
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.