According to a new report published by Accenture Life Sciences, just half of biopharma marketing executives believe they have a good understanding of their customers’ needs.

Furthermore, only slightly more than a third of patient groups polled indicated that they feel the industry is “excellent” or “good” at putting them first.

These figures don’t bode well for biopharma firms as the consultancy suggests that increasingly complex customer centricity means scientific innovation will no longer be sufficient to guarantee commercial success. Instead, Accenture says that “Biopharma marketers need to deeply understand the changing ecosystem of patients, providers, payers, and new entrants.”

Armed with such an understanding, biopharma firms can engage in what Accenture dubs ‘New Science’, a process that solves for unmet needs through new mechanisms and modalities.

New Science often requires new technology in the form of devices or diagnostics. In many cases, this new technology will be a treatment companion, but in some cases the technology itself might be the treatment.

According to Accenture, over half (54%) of biopharma sales between 2017 and 2022 will be driven by New Science, up from 47% in the period between 2012 and 2017. What’s more, New Science innovations have a 50% higher probability of regulatory approval than other treatments.

So how can biopharma firms embrace New Science successfully if they’re struggling to understand their customers?

Accenture suggests that biopharma marketers must become “customer obsessed” by taking three key steps:

1. Orient their go-to-market models to outcomes

With payers applying greater scrutiny to whether or not treatments are improving patient health, biopharma firms must invest in science and technology that not only do so but can prove it.

On this front, advanced analytics is key and Accenture points out that New Science leaders are investing six to seven times more in digital, data and genomics than their peers.

To support outcome-centric models, companies will also need to rethink the patient touch points they rely on. Accenture says that collaborations and partnerships with third parties including payers, healthcare providers, advocacy groups and others can help companies ensure they’re meeting the needs of patients in every part of their journey.

2. Restructure their marketing organizations

With only 13% of biopharma marketing leaders believing that their teams were capable of delivering the performance expected, it’s clear that biopharma firms need to rethink how their marketing organizations are structured.

Accenture suggests that cross-functional collaboration is key. For example, instead of approaching payers as gatekeepers, marketing teams can treat them as partners and aid in addressing challenges related to outcomes, quality of care and cost.

Additionally, Accenture advises more entrepreneurial approaches in which marketing teams become “business owners” and are given new incentives and measures of success. It also notes that CMOs driving greater results than their peers are more likely to see the value in new kinds of roles, such as immersive experience designers, growth hackers and marketing monitors.

3. Grow their data capabilities

Obviously, data is critical to understanding customer needs today, marketers don’t just need more data; they need to be able to analyze it to drive business decisions. Unfortunately, over half (57%) of biopharma marketers say they have more data but are struggling to apply it to make better decisions.

AI could help in this regard and three-quarters of those Accenture polled strongly agree that AI will impact customer interactions but 60% admit their company isn’t ready to use it.

According to Accenture, companies don’t need marketers to become data scientists, “but they need to be able to form hypotheses and understand insights to make evidence-based decisions.” In other words, companies need to make sure that their data investments don’t neglect the need for usable analytics tools, as well as growing the knowledge and skills of the people in their marketing teams.

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