With apologies to Elton John and Bernie Taupin, “Sorry” doesn’t seem to be the hardest word…”Habit” does.
We talk to a lot of people who make choices about products on a regular basis. In this context, we’re not talking about the one time, big ticket, purchases; where committees develop the specs, RFPs go out, Purchasing decides the winner, no one is happy. We’re talking about the purchase decisions that are made every day; pharmaceuticals, medical devices, software, financial products, and the like.
What we hear all the time are words that can be broken down to mean: “it’s habitual”.
Now, everyone will rationalize their choices, often by splitting hairs. “My choice has a 1% lower incidence of itchy thumbs”, or “”It is the only one available in a package of 31”. But in the vast majority of cases, if you really dig down to the reason for their #1 choice…Habit. They started doing it at some point, and they just kept doing it.
It is very difficult to dig back to what the pivotal moment was where product X became their favourite. Often it’s because it was the first on the market, or the first widely available or reimbursed. First-mover advantage is a demonstrated benefit. But often it’s related to a person who introduced them to the product; often a colleague or mentor (eminence-based medicine as a friend calls it), or a sales person who has demonstrated they add personal value.
Occasionally, and very occasionally, a market will be rocked by developments, positive or negative, which causes a significant shift from the habitual practice. In Pharma this is more likely to be a negative event, Vioxx for example.
So, what do you do to break a habit? We’d like to tell you there’s an easy answer…but it comes down to hard work.
Understand your customer’s problems and needs
Gather your evidence
Develop a focused message
Sharpen your communications
Get your friends to help (i.e. Key Opinion Leaders)
Give it time to work
Here’s hoping that your customers feel that, in the words of Chicago, you’re a hard habit to break!
Megann and Steve