To best explain what kind of conference this was, I saw a lot of corporate Dell laptops and pretty much Apple products (except ipads and iphones). No geeks, not many marketers.

If you strip away the titles of all the presentations and all the underlying “oh my god! Pharma is changing!” rhetoric (please people, stop starting your slide shows with ten minutes of facts about how it’s all changing. I’ve been here three whole months and I know all this already, so I feel bad for the 20-year veterans trying hard not so shout out “Duh!”), there were some interesting trends.

Clearly, the watchword of this conference is “effective.” No one wants to spend any more money on interesting projects, they want things that do what they say they would do. Since a lot of the topics covered involve analytics, I maintain that people are sick of the twenty slides of pretty charts and graphs. When people pay for analytics, they don’t want the work, they want the insight to know what to do next. They want the slide at the end that says “If you you change this to that, you will increase scripts.” Everything else is prelude. (Consultants take note: how great do you look if instead of a one hour presentation of data, do a five minute overview, announce your findings, and then say “I’ll explain how I get to that conclusion if you like, or we can start talking about the best ways to make it happen now.”)

This came up against some internal politics discussions (no, I won’t say who) where some good analytics showed how a certain piece of information, when shown to HCPs, decidedly moved the needle. But when that data was shown to marketers, they chose to not adjust their plan accordingly. It still sticks in my craw as I can’t imagine any professional not taking numbers like that seriously. 

Something else that came up was that pharma wasn’t as different a case as we like to think. Financial services are also well regulated, and have made huge strides in being able to connect with customers because of savvy CRM strategy and planning (thanks to Craig DeLarge, who MC-ed the event for reminding me of this point). He put is succinctly this way: Can what Amex knows save (help) us?

Also, social media is still taking a good part of people’s mind space. 1) no one knows what to do about Facebook. 2) social media and the web in general are scary because the company can’t own the space. 3) no one has mastered the space in pharma and really it’s all about risk mitigation. No one could name a pharma company doing social in any way, shape or form. Then it was suggested that everyone read I concur.

Mobile is also huge. When the presenter wasn’t talking about mobile (for the rep, for the HCP, for the consumer), it was the platform that all communications would output and input to. For all the non-Mac laptops in the room, it’s assumed that we are very close to having all reps toting around an iPad instead of a case.

Between meetings, another conversation that I heard more than once was about CRM vendors. I see too many vendors chasing too few companies, and none of the vendors do a great job differentiating themselves from the others in the pack. I saw a similar shift four years ago in the Content Management Systems world. I think it’s not going to be about the vendor, but that a solid CRM will soon just be good hygiene for all organizations and not brand specific.

The presentations on how to pick a CRM vendor, how to train your staff on new CRM use, and general database technical stuff kinda fell on deaf ears (mine, anyway). But conversations with people from Oracle, SAS, Merkle, Quintiles, Vanguard and ActiveCubes were very enlightening. Thanks for talking to the newbie marketer in the room, folks.

Questions? Want to pick a fight? Cool! I’m on the road, so comments aren’t the best way to get to me, but I love me some twitter. @digital_pharma