Can you imagine having an annual report that didn’t include liabilities? How effective would your plans be without this information? Sure, you could probably continue to do business for a short period of time without your customers experiencing any problems, but you’d be without essential information, that would eventually create big problems.
That’s not much different than operating a strategic marketing plan without correctly measuring the top of your funnel—in particular, knowing where your brand stands as far as attitudes, trial, and usage (ATU). ATU gives you powerful information that leads to effective planning and implementation, identifying brand problems at an early stage, and quantifying the effectiveness of your top of the funnel marketing. If you aren’t sure how to accomplish this, keep reading.
Bottom Funnel Measurements
It’s relatively easy to measure the bottom of the funnel. We can look at CPA, CPM, and CPE and compare the effectiveness of various strategies. But this approach misses the influence and value of the top of the funnel, it only represents a very short and often singular moment in time. It’s rare that companies looking for loyalty and return customers rely on the actual purchase of an item as their starting and ending point. They need to know when and how customers first heard about them, the stages they went through to long before making their first purchase, and what their perception of the brand it.
Although ease of measurement is a factor (it buy-in and investment to measure ATU), a lack of understanding about the top of the funnel is also an issue. When you only measure CPA, for example, you have no information on how your brand messaging is resonating. The best business decisions are always made when you have the full picture of how the marketing funnel is performing, not just one piece of it.
Importance of ATUs
An ATU study gives a snapshot of a brand’s image, awareness, affinity, and usage at a specific time. ATUs conducted consistently and regularly provide an excellent view of how things are changing. As Decision Analyst explains, “An ATU captures a high-level overview of a market or category at a point in time and provides foundational marketing information that’s essential to strategic management of a brand.” In our brand planning article we talk about the importance of brand management.
ATUs “establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) [for the top of the funnel], helping teams establish the metrics that matter, make better business decisions, and communicate insights with stakeholders” Meghan Oates-Zalensky for pharmaphorum. They give a broader picture about the impact of marketing than typical top of the funnel measurements like the number and cost of new leads, content downloads, website usage metrics, and social media metrics.
In the pharmaceutical industry, customized ATUs are important for understanding how HCPs perceive the brand, how much they know about it, what types of patients are using the product and how they’re using it, and projections for future prescribing. encuity research recommends using this information to “examine what payers are thinking about the drug, where it fits within the formulary, how it is being paid for, and what push back is being made against the drug by a generic equivalent or other competitors in the marketplace.”
Like any study, ATUs have limited value if the information isn’t understood and utilized. encuity research notes that the usefulness of an ATU “comes down to whether or not the ATU can be successfully combined with a broader, more comprehensive analysis of the competitive landscape…being able to identify and track the appropriate variables…[and] taking that information and couching it in a context of competitive offerings and real consumer behaviors in the marketplace.”
One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional ATUs is that by the time the data reaches the right departments, it’s out of date. Think about an ATU done between January and February 2020 with a report issued in March…it’s possible that much of the results are no longer applicable. And with a model where the data can only be accessed when the ATU is complete, there’s no room for making adjustments, or adding or removing questions as new opportunities and challenges present themselves.
As Patrick Angelastro for IQVIA recognizes, “as the biopharma ecosystem grows more complex, with new stakeholders, targeted therapies and increased patient involvement in care decisions, the ATU research model needs to go further.”
Real-time ATUs are a solution that provides relevant, usable data compiled via agile methodology. Using Meghan Oates-Zalensky’s Tracking studies: moving with the times article for Pharma Phorum, we can see three steps to move your ATUs into real-time: Smart sampling, adding ad hoc, modular questions in real-time, and on-demand data access.
The most important thing to do is drive consistency of sampling to ensure that outdated information never piles up. Most marketing departments aren’t running tracking studies, a small number are running annual studies, and only a few – the more sophisticated brands are running ongoing quarterly or monthly tracking.
As Caleb Costa writes for PM360, “Speed and consistent forward monitoring are critical in volatile markets. The faster a problem is identified and understood, the faster it can be fixed, mitigating the risk to your brand’s successful navigation of a more dynamic healthcare environment.” He recommends micro-surveys as one method to quickly check in with customers or health care providers. Or, as he suggests in an article for InCrowd, use micro surveys to address questions that come up when designing an ATU or with an ATU in-process to create a more efficient and targeted ATU.
Technology gives access to automated sampling, which streamlines the sampling approach so you’re not exhausting a single sample group and you can automate fielding and tracking responses. Automating also allows you to quickly set up year-round tracking agendas, which saves money
Including ad hoc, modular questions in real-time becomes especially pertinent in light of the coronavirus. “Teams can dive deep into issues that were noticed in a different survey or tracking project, or react to market events that may be captured in an ongoing, long-term study,” says Oates-Zalensky.
On-demand data access uses focused, essential questions to address an issue at hand, with a more flexible process. It gives almost instant answers to questions that can change a marketing focus so that current issues are addressed immediately, which lends itself to a more agile business approach—something companies are very keen to shift to as they struggle with the impact of COVID-19.
Bringing New Life to Old ATUs
If your ATU process has been stuck in set-it-and-forget-it land for too long, it still has value! Consider what Michael Heasley suggests in an article for Quirk’s: Take a company with a long-running ATU for years with a baseline of efficacy data messaging that hadn’t changed for more than two years. Then, the product’s messaging channel was changed. The next ATU shows an immediate bump regarding association which slowly returns to the baseline. The declining association trend (decay) can then be used to “determine when messaging for the product should be adjusted to regain the bump in impact from the prior adjustment.” Now, the marketing team can plan when to introduce messaging changes, and understand that messaging’s lasting impact.
Heasley shows that “routinely-collected data can be further analyzed to better inform marketing strategies, marketing teams can be better supported to further help drive their brands to excellence; in essence, “doing more with less” and “seeing what we can do with what we already have.”
Breaking Down Resistance to Tracking Studies
Management can become used to relying on bottom of the funnel measurements to determine marketing efficacy, and there’s historically been a challenge with the cost of top of the funnel measurements. Oates-Zalensky admits, “Say the three letters ‘A, T, U’ and you’ll hear a collective groan from the pharma marketers in the room. Pharma companies spend an estimated $2.5 billion annually on these…ubiquitous traditional measures of brand penetration and prescriber sentiment, typically conducted biannually… The time and expense of traditional ATUs quickly add up and, in a climate of shrinking budgets, they also become vulnerable to cuts.”
We’ve already identified strategies to collect data in real-time that’s more targeted, but before you can begin, you need approval from the top. Most will agree that there’s minimal value in a one-time snapshot, so if this has been your company’s approach, the time is right for a change that produces real value.
It’s not necessary to spend massive amounts of money hiring a huge research company to conduct ATUs. You can reduce costs by using simple Survey Monkey-type surveys, hiring a freelancer, or finding a smaller digital agency that can do much more for less than a large research company. Be creative!
In Charu Gupta’s article for InCrowd, we’re reminded that collaboration can work in marketing research, just like in other areas. Gupta challenges us to “Imagine what kind of a customer journey you can build for your brand if you engage, for example, qualitative and quantitative approaches, mobile technology, live ethnography, and online community forums.” Gupta also recommends using de-identified HIPAA compliant databases for secondary data that can help you better understand your target market, and mining social data using social listening.
There’s always the question of whether your marketing is working. And it’s not a question you can accurately answer without conducting ATUs that will look at how effective your messaging and brand story is. By bringing in real-time ATUs, capitalizing on technology to run more efficient data gathering, and leveraging the data already available in old ATUs, you can start to really understand where the top of your funnel is working and where to focus your marketing.