Reflections from PMRC USA 2019: A seat at the Pharma table

In early February I attended the Pharma Market Research Conference in Newark, NJ – a meeting of the minds centered around the latest trends and tricks of the trade. The two days of lectures, roundtable discussions, and informal mingling opportunities further fueled my perspective on how to drive business growth for Pharma clients.

Reflecting on the experience, my main takeaway is that researchers earn visibility with senior leadership by both harnessing the predictive power of data and utilizing behavioral theory to enhance interactions with stakeholders.

This theme was clear from the outset, with the first keynote session entitled “Leveraging Market Research from the C-suite.” Sanjeev Luther, President and CEO of Rafael Pharmaceuticals, talked about the challenges faced by C-suite executives to synthesize data collected across their organizations including market research, brand, sales, regulatory, business development, and R&D. “If research makes our decisions easier, you will get a seat at the table,” Luther said, adding that insights professionals need to provide data and insights that clearly show the impact of business decisions on the future of the company.

Sourcing stories from his career across several sectors, Luther recalled his experience in consumer packaged goods where “the philosophy of using information from market research to drive business decisions is years ahead of the Pharma industry.” While he recognized the difference between pharma and other sectors, his ultimate take home message was to frame research as a core competency (vs a cost center) that can add value through future-focused data and insights.

This theme of harnessing the predictive power of data emerged again during in an engaging roundtable discussion on artificial intelligence (AI) with N’Goundo Magassa and Mark Wiley from Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The conversation covered the growing importance of AI in market research and the need for insights professionals to increase their capacity to synthesize many existing data sources to add gravitas to their recommendations. “More and more, insights professionals in Pharma will be called upon to get hands-on with large prescriber data sets and blend with primary research to build future-focused insights,” one participant shared – a provocative notion that resonated across the room.

Behavioral theory was another topic frequently highlighted at the conference. From the perspective of engaging with senior pharma stakeholders, I found Dr. Ariella Evenzahav’s (Karyopharm Therapeutics) session on behavioral economics very informative. While we as researchers often use behavioral theory to drive insights for key customer groups, Dr. Evenzahav gave guidance about using the same theory to optimize interactions with internal stakeholders, namely marketing teams. By having a strong understanding of stakeholders’ context, role, and objectives, we can frame our discussions and recommendations in such a way to overcome or leverage biases and handle research situations in the most sensitive and effective way possible.

All in all, as insights professionals we face an industry that is rapidly changing. After attending PMRC I feel that those who pursue and embrace the move toward proficiency in data analytics will be in the best place to make an impact on future business decisions – gaining not only recognition from the C-suite, but the industry as a whole.