Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 567 – Importance of Capturing the POV of Healthcare Customers with Daniel Fitzgerald, CEO and President of Apollo Intelligence

My guest today is Daniel Fitzgerald, CEO and President of Apollo Intelligence.

Founded in 2020, Apollo provides access to 2M healthcare stakeholders worldwide — including physicians, patients, caregivers, and allied healthcare professionals — serving the life science insights industry on its mission to accelerate health innovation to improve life. 

They support 80 of the top global-100 life science firms, as well as global market research agencies and consultancies, across 14 different countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

Prior to joining Apollo, Dan has been part of the bedrock of the market research industry serving as CEO of InCrowd, Managing Partner of Reimagine, Chief Client and Marketing Officer of Lightspeed, and GM of Global Market Insite.

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This Episode is Sponsored by:

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HubUX is a research operation platform for private panel management, and qualitative automation including video audition questions, and surveys. 

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Jamin Brazil: Hey everybody, you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. This is take two. I’m with Dan Fitzgerald, CEO, and president of Apollo Intelligence. Founded in 2020, Apollo provides access to 2,000,000 healthcare stakeholders worldwide, including physicians, patients, caregivers, and allied healthcare professionals, serving the life science insights industry on its mission to accelerate health innovation to improve all of our lives. They support 80 of the top global 100 life science firms as well as global market research agencies and consultancies across 14 different countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Prior to joining Apollo, Dan has been part of the bedrock of the market research industry, serving as CEO of InCrowd, managing partner at Reimagine, chief client and marketing officer at LIGHTSPEED, and general manager of GMI, Global Market Insight. One of my biggest customers at Decipher. Dan, it is an absolute privilege to have you on the show. Thank you for joining me.


Dan Fitzgerald: Hey, Jamin. And it’s great to be with you as well.


Jamin Brazil: The Michigan State University’s Master of Science in marketing and research program delivers the number one ranked insights and analytics degree in three formats. Full time on campus, full time online, and part-time online. New for 2022 if you can’t commit to their full degree program, simply begin with one of their three course certifications. Insights design or insights analysis. In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build towards your graduation. If you’re looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSM U’s program at B-R-O-A-D dot MSU dot edu slash marketing. Again, B-R-O-A-D dot MSU dot edu slash marketing. HubUX is a research operations platform for private panel management, qualitative automation including video audition questions and surveys. For a limited time, user seats are free. If you’d like to learn more or create your own account, visit HubUX dot com.


Jamin Brazil: I’d like to start with a little bit of context. Tell us about your parents. What did they do and how did they inform what you do today?


Dan Fitzgerald: So interesting question to prompt the beginning part of the conversation here. You know, as I think back at my dad, my dad was really in middle management. He was a professional. He worked for large engineering firms and was on sort of and in contracts and supplier management. You know, did very well. Progressed. I think made the people he worked for look very good. And my dad was an only child that married his grade school sweetheart, my mom. He had four boys. Or they had four boys very early on. I was the youngest of four boys. So, what I took away from my dad thinking back on his professional journey and career was that he was an exceptionally hard worker. Super reliable, responsible, but always seemed to be there for the family. So as an image what I learned from him was the importance of, you know, hard work and getting up every day and making a difference.


Jamin Brazil: Talk to me a little bit about your mom.


Dan Fitzgerald: So, my mom was the big supporter in the family. The biggest fan. The one that sort of kept everybody together. Was really a stay-at-home mom for the most part. Although she did work in a dentist’s office as a dental assistant and a real estate office as an administrative assistant at different points in time when we were in school. Predominantly to make extra money and be a contributor to the family. But my mom was the big fan, the big cheerleader, the constant supporter, the one that was there to encourage me every day.


Jamin Brazil: We’re facing an interesting time. It’s the great resignation as it’s framed right now. As you think about sort of the willingness of people to be very transient in their careers versus- Framing it out a little bit about your father and certainly mine as well in more longstanding established careers at the same spot. Do you think it’s just that evolution is just like here to stay? Or do you think we’re going to go back towards a time where people are more career stable?


Dan Fitzgerald: I mean, that’s a very provocative question. Very interesting question. We have been on an interesting I’d say journey and rollercoaster. And, you know, I can look back to my own career where I made a couple of decisions early on to try new things. To, you know, swing for the fence, and was constantly looking for what was next. And then as things kind of settled into my career, I learned the importance of, you know, planting your feet and seeing something through a little bit further. You know, maybe completely over the finish line. And I’m not sure that some of the workforce today has experienced some of the adversity and the economic difficulties that the two of us have seen in our careers. Navigating through good times and bad times and downsizing moments. And so, I do expect there’ll be a bit of an awakening on some of these points and potentially a swing back to more stability and more sustained commitment to the businesses that they’ve been committed to.


Jamin Brazil: And in fact, we’ve enjoyed a long-term economic prosperous environment really since 2007 or ’08. You know, we had that great recession, and we really haven’t seen a downturn in any way shape or form at least in a material way, which of course has led us to this, like, boom that we have had. And then subsequently you’ve got managers and even executives who because they haven’t had that- You know, had to do layoffs or what have you. You’ve got these pretty material missteps that are happening right now. In fact, I just saw the statistic this morning at layoff dot FYI, which is a published- It takes known information and consolidates it on layoffs that are happening specifically in the tech sector. But there’s been 333 startup companies that have done layoffs this year impacting almost 60,000 people which is pretty- Which is a pretty remarkable point. And so, one of the things that I’m looking forward to later in our conversation is picking your brain on things that executives can really be thinking about so that they can be prepared to handle some of the challenges that may be awaiting us in the future. But before we do that, I want to talk about Apollo specifically. So, I live in the central valley of California. California has a thriving economy. However, in the center of it is actually one of the poorest zip codes in the United States. Most people don’t know that. With the rising costs of healthcare and growing systemic diseases like- And I see this all the time. -childhood obesity and of course COVID. It has never been more important to bring the customer’s point of view to decision makers as they’re making those decisions. And so, my question to you is what is the market opportunity? And how are you addressing it?


Dan Fitzgerald: In terms of clarity and the markets that we support today as you outlined in your intro, one of our brands serves the direct to pharmaceutical and life sciences brands and therapeutics with a very progressive technology-agile research platform. And then another brand, Survey Healthcare, supports the agencies and consultancies out there in the marketplace, getting first-party data from, patient, voice of the consumer, if you will, and voice of the healthcare professional, to support those product and drug life cycle advances through their pre-launch to active launch and post-launch. And what I’d start with before I get to the opportunities is really the importance of the customer point of view in the decision-making process. It doesn’t really matter what market I’ve ever worked in. And you and I have worked in parallel businesses through much of our career. Access to the critical customer journey segments is essential. It’s essential to business. And life sciences is no different. And the work our clients do understanding kind of the market that we serve now is critical to addressing both healthcare costs and healthcare illness. And in fact, if you look at Apollos’s mission as published, our mission is to accelerate health innovation to improve life. And we’re doing that by reinventing the paths to insights and creating new paths to learning if you will. And that path has traditionally been very slow. It’s been manual. It’s been accepted by industry stakeholders and consumers despite some of these failings, you know, far too long. so our real time data and insights platform enables global pharma companies to officially develop, refine, deliver. You know, these life changing innovations or products or drugs. And time is the precious asset. Our ability to collect this feedback and support critical decision making with both speed and quality is transformative to our clients and these pharmaceutical decision makers. Because speed to insight facilitates speed to innovation, which directly enhances our client’s power to address, you know, the growing systemic diseases in our society as well as the high cost. So, to really sort of influence and impact health outcomes and improve life as a result. So, these medications and therapies that we are working on and supporting through the insights and through the knowledge that we’re bringing, the learning that we’re bringing to support their advancement in many cases cannot only cure disease but prevent them. And keeping people from becoming patients. So, the market opportunity for our business and the market opportunity that we’re serving within the pharmaceutical and life sciences segment of the industry is really a mess. And, you know, it’s interesting Jamin, we’ve- You and I’ve traveled, you know, this road of transformation within insights and research for over a decade on the broader cross vertical market consumer landscape. It’s interesting. Three years ago, when I formulated Apollo and with some investors acquired InCrowd and began to build this platform and build this business, I discovered a McKinsey report identified that the pharmaceutical industry is second to last only to the public sector in terms of digital maturity. Now clearly that’s a lot different on the scientific and R&D side. But a very sort of shocking data point. But things are changing very rapidly. And the pandemic has created the sense of urgency that might have been needed and has affected a great deal of change there. And across the pharmaceutical and life sciences segment these agile processes are taking hold in all facets of the business functions. So, despite this digital maturity gap if you will, this is a very competitive market with constant growing consumer demand. There’s tremendous competition. There’s tremendous investment. Rapid change. Pressure to bring drugs and therapeutics to market faster. Stakes are high. People’s lives and wellbeing is at stake. There’s growing investments and new compounds, R&D, and therapeutic categories. Proliferation and expansion of clinical trials. Investment and data modeling and predictive analytics and applications for AI. So tremendous amount of motion and activity in this market. And the secular tail winds, you know, that are driving demand for high quality speed to insight. And really a new dynamic learning environment that can keep pace with the market is phenomenal. And that’s really where we sit at this intersection of access to critical stakeholders in our client’s journey. The application of technology, the importance of quality and pharmacovigilance, and strong expertise in the space. These pieces kind of working together. So, the opportunities have never been I think richer for the area that we participate in.


Jamin Brazil: You know, it used to be the case that as a patient you would go to your doctor, and they would make a recommendation for you if you needed some sort of prescription. And form there you would buy the prescription. Now it’s the case that consumers are seeing- being marketed to directly for prescriptions and bypassing the filter of their primary care physician or whatever professional may be there, which creates eventually confusion or even misinformation or misinterpretation of information on behalf of consumers. Now obviously that’s never going to go away. In fact, it’s continuing to grow. A big pharma company I can’t name- But they were telling me that one of the biggest problems they’re seeing is influencers. Social media influencers making recommendations for healthcare. And just completely blindly their followers and fans will start demanding and looking for these types of drugs. And so completely unfounded medical information and recommendations. And yet people are just all in on that. Is that component, the B to C framework of medical- Is that part of the narrative that you’re addressing? In other words, trying to get consumer insights faster to whoever your customers are so that they can help inform the marketing decisions that are made?


Dan Fitzgerald: Yes. I think what you’re hinting to is sort of the direct-to-consumer marketing has been prevalent for many, many years. And what’s happened now is all these different sorts of motions and disruption with the pandemic, with the increase in telehealth. The fact that pharmaceutical sales reps have been disconnected from coming in and educating physicians and providing some of the continuity that existed for many, many years. So, there’s quite a bit of disruption in the customer journey process, which is creating more change, more complexity. So, continuing to stay close to the market. And we talk about dynamic learning. An environment where you kind of have an always on access so that as you are observing and tracking trends and patterns and the success of certain launches and programs that you’re able to quickly diagnose the behaviors that you’re seeing with the insights. Connecting the why to the what if you will. So, these are things that are very much in flux and create that need for constant agile iterative learning because things are moving that quickly.


Jamin Brazil: You know, COVID is a great example of that in terms of influencers having a controlling or really framing out for their constituents what people should think about medication as opposed to health care professionals. What you’re describing it sounds a lot like a tracker. But technology enabled tracker which allows you to then insert dynamically questions. Am I thinking about it correctly?


Dan Fitzgerald: Yes. So, think about an environment where I can quickly gain access to my critical stakeholders, physicians in a certain specialty category that are seeing patients with a very specific condition and being able to deliver a short survey to them on their mobile device and get an answer within 24 to 48 hours.


Jamin Brazil: Which is largely unheard of today especially if you’re talking about niche or low IR, difficult to reach audiences.


Dan Fitzgerald: And so that’s- the power of the Apollo platform is not only transforming how research and insights have been collected, but also unlocking new possibilities that didn’t exist at this level of quality and sophistication before. So that’s what we’re passionate about. That’s where our focus is. But the influencer category that you mention and some of those dynamics, it’s interesting. During the pandemic we did quite a bit of research. Actually, won some awards for our COVID series. We were tracking frontline treaters and the preparedness and the experiences of frontline treaters before any COVID cases emerged in the United States. And we tracked that continuously for about 15 months in many different categories and segments. And I’ll tell you that what I’ve learned over the last few years is, providing the voice of the physician or the healthcare professional is a very important piece of the puzzle. And they don’t feel, often, that they’re as heard as they should be. So, they almost feel like their voice has been muffled through all that we’ve experienced over the last few years. And there’s a lot of dimensions to that that probably could be covered in another series. But you’re really highlighting just how transformative the healthcare and the patient journey process is right now.


Jamin Brazil: How important are benchmarks for companies that you’re dealing with?


Dan Fitzgerald: Well, I think that being able to provide normative data and establish baselines and track performance trends is absolutely critical. And that’s a big part of what we are leaning into as we’re collecting more short form data and insights is building better normative databases that we can share, you know, with our clients to help them understand what good, better, best is. What the watermark should be as they’re constantly measuring and diagnosing and analyzing trends.


Jamin Brazil: It is interesting in our space the things that healthcare companies needed to pay attention to has definitely gone through an evolution. And I believe will continue to do that. You have been a successful executive in the consumer insights space for a couple of decades. Hope I’m not outing you on your age.


Dan Fitzgerald: I’m like 100 years old.


Jamin Brazil: At least. You have been instrumental at at least one turnaround at GMI that I know of. And maybe even others. And helped build very attractive businesses for employees, for customers, and for executives. So as an operator myself- And I’m sure my audience would love to hear the answers to this question as well. What are three tips that you’d give other executives to help achieve an environment that is great and thriving for employees, customers, and investors?


Dan Fitzgerald: So, a couple of categories of areas. And, you know, there’s so much to dig into here. But I would say as you outlined, I’m an operator and I’m a builder at the core. So, for me it doesn’t matter what you build, what you deliver, what market you’re in. For me it begins with striving to be the best version of yourself and do what you do as well as you possibly can and always strive for excellence and steady improvement. So, focus on continuous improvement and refinement. And the point here is build value. And this may seem simple and corny. But build value and focus on sustained success. You know, think long term while operating in the moment. You always have to understand where you’re headed, where you’re going. And for me I haven’t found a lot of shortcuts to success. You know, building value and sustained success comes from allowing and building the different parts of an organization to work in tandem and to work in concert. And building value at the core will always give you a lot of options. And optionality is the key. So do it right and do it to the best of your ability. It doesn’t matter what you do. Continue to strive, to learn, to grow, to refine what it is that you’re focused on. But build sustained success. Focus on value. Don’t look for shortcuts. That’s kind of number one. I’d say number two is a big part about people and team. That of course drives the business and is the magic. And our job as leaders to assemble and forge strong teams. Provide vision, focus, set priorities, empower, challenge, support the heck out of them and reward them. And some concepts that are important. Know the limitations of your team and your organization at all times. And be honest with yourself. Because good ideas, the right plan, the right thing to do can still fail because you don’t have the right channel or the right skills or the right operating acumen at that point in time at that moment. So, things can break down. So, understand what’s executable at any point in time and what you’re capable of. Be realistic and don’t get out of sequence with some of those different areas. And I’d say the third area is really about building high performing teams and leading. You know, to me I never set out to be the most popular leader. I set out to be trusted, to be respected, to be my authentic self. To be consistent and steady with my decisions and allow the team to see that I’m always driven by what’s in the best interest of the company, the employees, the clients. And some concepts that are important to embrace here is make time for your people, the team around you, your employees, even when you don’t have the time or don’t feel like you have the time. It will always pay dividends if you just sit and listen and share and provide perspective. Those interactions, that active participative management and leadership will pay dividends and build a culture where everybody plays a critical role. No one does it alone. And ensure that questions can be asked about the business. It’s ok to ask why we’re doing something. Because you want people to be critical thinkers, and you want them to understand why they’re spending so much time doing a certain task. And if you can’t give them a good answer, then there’s probably not a good reason for them to be doing that. And you want them to be critical of identifying other ways that they can potentially make improvements and do a particular task more effectively. So those are some concepts that I think have always served me well.


Jamin Brazil: Dan, my last question. What is your personal motto?


Dan Fitzgerald: So, there’s kind of two here. They’re connected. So, life is a journey. Constantly be learning and growing. And then life is short. Make a difference. Make it count every day. So those are connected. So, every day I wake up and I’m grateful and I try to make a difference through my actions, and I try to make the day matter. And in order to do that you have to be open and learning. So those two moves together.


Jamin Brazil: Our guest today has been Dan Fitzgerald, CEO, and president of Apollo Intelligence. Dan, thank you so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Dan Fitzgerald: Thank you, Jamin. Appreciate it.


Jamin Brazil: Everyone else, I hope you found as much value in this episode as I did. This is a huge honor having Dan on the show. If you’d like to contact him or learn more about Apollo Intelligence, you can check out the show notes. I’ll have his contact information as well as a link to the website there. Have a great rest of your day.