From The Editor | April 18, 2022

How One Small Marketing Operation Does Big Things By Asking "What If" Questions


By Perry Rearick, Chief Editor, Follow Your Buyer


As children, using our imaginations was common and even encouraged. We imagined what we wanted to be when we grew up, where we would live, and what sort of life we would have. It was fun but also great training for adulthood when facing challenges that require imaginative solutions.

Imagining More With Less

Like many of us, Janette Buechler, Director of Sales and Marketing Communication at Pharmatech Associates, a USP Company, was also encouraged to use her imagination during her childhood, but perhaps with a little twist. Janette recalls playing a game with her grandmother called What If. They would propose what if questions to each other to stir their imaginations.

Her grandmother might ask, what would you do if you had a boat? Which led to images of sailing to various places. But here’s the twist. Her grandmother would then establish restrictions. What if you didn’t know how to sail, or had no water nearby? The ever-increasing restrictions required ever-increasing creativity. It turned out to be great training for Buechler in her current role.

Using What You Have With Better Results

Janette Buechler. Director of Sales and Marketing Communication at Pharmatech Associates, a USP Company
Although she uses a network of partners for specific services, Buechler is a marketing department of one and she believes in smartly using the resources she has, to get the best results possible.

Shortly after joining Pharmatech, she went to a tradeshow with the team. At the time, Pharmatech did not have dedicated business developers and their consultants manned their tradeshow booth. The team tended to cloister themselves inside the booth and potential customers were literally walking right by them. Quickly building a competent sales team was not something they were ready to do yet and the complex nature of their services was beyond the abilities of temporary booth help.

Buechler applied her what if strategy. Could Pharmatech quickly develop the skills needed for better results at tradeshows? Her answer was, “of course!” Their consultants were smart scientists and engineers who solved complex problems for pharmaceutical industry clients. But they were not comfortable with starting meaningful conversations with strangers.

With some training, Buechler transformed their consultants into salespeople for tradeshows. According to her “they simply needed some fundamental skills and encouragement to open up a conversation with someone, ask better questions, listen better, and talk less.” She modeled the behavior for them, supported them as they tried it, and before long they were comfortable doing what good salespeople do at tradeshows. The positive results were immediate, and they were scoring an increased return on their investment at events.    

Thinking Strategically

For those of you who are part of a smaller team, you know how easily a crisis or spontaneous good idea can take over and that well-planned to-do list becomes shredded trash. Focusing always on the immediate, leaves no room for thinking strategically, planning is not done well, and opportunities are missed.

Buechler maintains a strategic perspective by not being consumed by the tactical activities that marketing teams must execute. She does this by carefully selecting partners for additional services, incorporating improvements that will have an immediate impact on the business, and enlisting the help of the rest of the Pharmatech team in marketing communication. We’ll get to the partnerships in a minute, but let’s explore the other two first.

The B2B landscape is continuously shifting, marketing and sales must keep up with how buyers are making decisions, and Buechler is constantly learning new things to apply to Pharmatech’s marketing efforts. You may be thinking, who has time for professional development? But we’re not talking about a weeklong writing workshop.

The distinction that Buechler makes is that she commits time to learning about things that will make a difference for Pharmatech’s business. As LinkedIn’s importance grew in helping professionals connect, she learned how to use it, how its algorithms work, and studied the best practices of those who use it effectively. She describes it as focused learning with an immediate business application. And she does this continuously, always looking for something new to add to Pharmatech’s marketing operations.

Another important component that helps her maintain a strategic perspective is looking for and understanding wins and sharing them with the rest of the team at Pharmatech. This has a twofold impact. One, she learns from the wins and does more of the activities that led to them. Two, by sharing them, she builds marketing communication skills across the company, essentially recruiting everyone to be a marketer. Since their consultants are their most valuable customer facing resource, the impact of having them carry the company’s messaging is significant, creating more business from existing clients.  

Selecting the Right Partners

It’s common for marketers to outsource work and it is especially important for smaller marketing teams. Pharmatech intentionally constrains spending to keep costs down. As the business grew, Buechler recognized the need to better communicate their value to potential clients. She again asked, what if we found highly skilled partners who could fulfill our growing marketing needs? 

Buechler pursues two important outcomes when using service providers. One, she seeks special skills for specific business outcomes. This frees her from having to execute many of the time-consuming tactical activities. Two, by using multiple service providers, Pharmatech capitalizes on the diversity of their partners’ experiences. In a sense, Buechler says, she is “bringing best practices into Pharmatech.” 

Buechler emphasizes partnerships rather than transactional relationships and she has developed criteria for her selection process. While each partnership offers specific skills--printing, content creation, graphic design--common to each is their ability to be consultative and help her solve problems. They must be able to communicate clearly and with transparency and bring more to the relationship than a deliverable for a cost.

B2B marketing and sales is challenging, and when you’re part of a small operation it is easy to accept one’s constraints as an excuse for not striving for better results. Buechler and Pharmatech Associates shows us that you don’t need a large department to achieve success.

They do so by:

  • Creatively using the resources they have to accomplish the most important marketing tasks that will help the business.
  • Continuously improving their operations by focusing on learning new things that will have an immediate impact on the business.
  • Seeking wins, understanding why they won, and broadcasting it loudly and clearly to the organization.
  • Being selective when outsourcing and partnering with those who will bring more value than simply a transactional relationship.
  • And most importantly, they ask “what if” questions!

Ms. Buechler has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and event planning. Her career began in Real Estate prior to joining Pharmatech in 2006. As Director of Sales and Marketing Communication she is responsible for Pharmatech's marketing department and both internal and external communication. Janette is a San Francisco Bay Area native, a member of American Marketing Association, and an active member of ISPE. She studied Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing at San Jose State University and is inspired by the challenge of building a company brand, the power and influence of social media, and the importance of a professional network.

Pharmatech Associates is a global regulatory consultancy for the life science industry, and the consulting arm of USP. It serves the complex needs of pharmaceutical manufacturers and regulated life science companies bringing quality products to market. Pharmatech specializes in Product and Process Development, Facilities and Capital Projects, Quality Compliance, and Regulatory Affairs. Pharmatech’s team of skilled scientists and engineering subject matter experts advises clients ranging in size from startups to large multinational corporations on projects in Asia, Europe, and North America.