Bringing pharmaceutical drugs to market is an arduous undertaking. And although the benefits are great, so are the challenges. Even more so when the drug is designed to help a small group of patients who have a rare or infectious disease. As vice president of strategic planning and performance management for healthcare agency Discovery USA, Jody Zschiedrich (MBA ’04) guides pharmaceutical and biomed companies in reaching those small populations.
“Reaching niche markets requires different strategies than those for medications used by vast numbers of people,” he says. “It requires a lot more education for healthcare professionals, patients and caregivers to better understand the disease, treatment and advances coming to the market in the near future.”
“I work in an innovative industry and Strayer is an innovative school.”
Companies producing specialized medicines generally don’t have large sales forces and budgets for the brand, but they are still looking to “make a tremendous impact on patients’ lives,” says Zschiedrich.
Instead of broad-scale advertising campaigns, for example, companies might focus on working alongside key opinion leaders to better define the disease characteristics and establish the drug’s value. Then, they leverage those relationships to communicate the brand to the broader community.
As Zschiedrich constantly looks ahead for what’s next, he says the pharmaceutical marketplace is starting to focus on deeper connections with the psyche of the customer. The industry is watching a transition from Generation X to Millennials, who are empowered to use available technology and healthcare data, and want to take control of their own medical outcomes. “What that means is that we need a deeper understanding from an emotional perspective,” he said. A biomed or pharmaceutical company “needs to be able to build a brand experience that ties together those rational and emotional links.”
A career in this dynamic industry requires strong quantitative skills, says Zschiedrich, something he built during a career as a civil engineer. However, in the waning engineering job market after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Zschiedrich wanted to make a change but needed a way to leverage those skills in a business environment.
He says that his Strayer University MBA enhanced his existing knowledge base, making him a good fit for the pharmaceutical industry and leading him to the exciting career he has today. “I work in an innovative industry and Strayer is an innovative school,” he says. “The online program was inventive yet rigorous and prepared me to make that career change—one that has definitely paid off.”