Leaning About Ransomware: Digital Extortion

We loved our beautiful product.  We forgot about all the pain and heartache.  It was special and unique.  We waited anxiously for the market to respond.  And waited.  And waited. For some reason, the market didn’t appreciate our new product the way we thought they would.   We had a bang-up launch plan.  We had all the tools in place.  We had sales materials, patient brochures, a digital media campaign, we trained all the sales reps, we had supporting clinical data.  But sales uptake was slower than we expected. Our senior management started asking questions about why we were behind expectations.  Our sales team got frustrated and blamed marketing for all their problems.  Our board started asking questions.  Nobody knew why it wasn’t working.                

I started thinking about this dilemma when a colleague of mine wrote a series of excellent articles on overcoming inertia in life science product launches and the need for more powerful value propositions to drive change (The Marketer’s Challenge, Changing Behavior, and Tradeoffs and Unintended Consequences).  I wondered, why is creating market change so hard?                

It turns out I learned the answer in 8th grade science class.  That was the year that we studied a series of modules that were supposed to expose us to the many exciting disciplines of science.  We did a module on space and the origin of the universe and was time travel really possible.  The chemistry module was fun – usually something blew up.  Biology was great, we got to dissect things.  But physics, BLEGH.  
Boring.  Not something we would ever use. Until now.  Because Newton’s Laws of Motion explain a lot.  And they point to a possible solution to our marketing problem.                 

Newton’s first law of motion, also dubbed the law of inertia, says an object at rest will stay at rest.  And an object in motion will stay in motion at the same speed and in the same direction.  Unless an external force pushes on that object.  Think about that.  Nothing changes unless an external force creates a change.So, if a physician is currently prescribing a drug for their patient, the easiest thing to do is click “renew” in their EMR system.  Why do something different?  Maybe there is a new drug that could work better for the patient.  But then they would have to spend time educating the patient about the new drug and why it might be better.  They’d have to check the patient’s insurance to see if it was covered and what their co-pay would be.  And the patient hasn’t complained about their current drug.  So, the physician clicks “renew.”                          

Whether it’s a prescribing physician, or a hospital workflow, or an accepted diagnostic work-up, clinicians will continue to do what they always do unless an external force creates an impetus for change. Launching a new product to the market does not itself create a force, it’s an object.  We as marketers have to create the force to drive change. So how much force does it take to create that change?  Newton answered that one too, in his second law of motion: Force = Mass x Acceleration, or rearranged, Acceleration = Force/Mass. The amount of force required to make a market change is proportional to the acceleration you want to achieve (BIG Change = BIG Force).  And it is inversely proportional to the mass of the object.  Which makes total sense.  The larger the market you are trying to influence, the more force it will require to create that change. Let’s try an example. If I tell 10 friends about an awesome new eye mask I tried that makes my dry, itchy eyes better, I might get 3 of them to try it.  That’s a 33% return from a pretty low effort on my part.  Of course, it won’t move the needle on the company’s P&L, but it is a good ROI.  And if my 10 friends, tell their 10 friends…you can see how it builds momentum. But if I want to get 10,000 physicians of a particular specialty to script my new drug three times a week, that is a huge (and expensive) amount of force I need to exert.                                

So as life science marketers, what should we do?  What we do now is try to defy the laws of physics and spend whatever we can afford to create change in a large market, and we under perform.  The force is just not large enough to push the mass and create the acceleration we were hoping for. If you think about the second law of motion, two of the three numbers are known.  We know how much force we have (budget).  And we know how much acceleration we forecasted to our investors (market share gain quarterly).  And those two things define the mass, or size of market we can influence.                  

The answer to our conundrum is TARGETING.  Define the market size you can effectively change with the budget you currently have.  This might mean initially focusing on the top 20 gastroenterologists in 8 cities where you did your clinical studies and you have a KOL supporting your product.  It won’t move the entire market, but if you gain traction and demonstrate you can get three scripts a week from that subset of physicians, investors get excited, investments start flowing in (which increases your budget), and strategics take notice.  Success in a small pond creates momentum and you can graduate to larger and larger ponds.  (If you’re interested, check out the law of momentum.  The math really works).                        

So, what about Newton’s third law?  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If I exert force in a market, there will be a commensurate response.  And it will push in opposition to my force.  In other words, never underestimate the competitive response you will inadvertently create. Which again points to TARGETING as our best answer.  Even if I could muster enough budget to create a very large force to drive a market to change, the problem is I will run up against an equal and opposite competitive force, and, depending on the market share of the competition, their response could crush my strategy.                      

But if I target my actions to a smaller subset of the market, where I can be successful in creating change, I will experience a much smaller competitive push back, and have a much higher likelihood of success. Think about this: what would happen if we stopped building launch plans for products, and started building launch plans to create change? May the force be with you.