Understanding your targeted audience is a critical first step in developing and executing a successful marketing strategy. In its simplest form, understanding may include preferred language and sources of information, but it may also include level of education and other demographics and preferences. Jumping to conclusions, without the appropriate research and analysis, and using information you think is accurate to create and deliver messages will quickly turn even the most exciting marketing plan into a costly waste of time.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know;
But when you listen you may learn something new.” — Dalai Lama
Unfortunately, many pharmaceutical companies are living in the past when person-to-person interactions and sponsored lunch-and-learns were the easiest and most successful marketing tools. Times have certainly changed. As providers, hospitals and health systems put greater restrictions on direct rep-to-provider access, regulations more tightly control sponsorships, and individual providers use alternative methods of learning about pharmaceuticals, some companies have turned to “firehose communication” — blanketing providers with digital messaging and direct mailings to make up for the lack of direct access.
A recent AffinityMonitor study tracked actual interactions to analyze how pharma companies engage in marketing efforts with providers. Looking at real-world data for 632,000 physicians, more than 100 pharma brands and 123-million interactions, the study found that pharma used multiple engagement channels, including:
- Sales rep visits
- Speaker programs
- Direct mail
- Self-serve digital content
- Email marketing
- Mobile alerts and other digital channels
The study shows that pharma companies send nearly 50 percent more digital messages, such as emails and mobile alerts, than the number of face-to-face calls. Although digital messaging is cheaper and has a place in replacing rep visits, the volume can become overwhelming for a provider who sees more patients, spends a greater amount of time documenting in electronic health records, and has less “down” time.
Turn off the firehose
An effective pharma marketing strategy requires a perfect understanding of providers’ perspectives and preferences on the best ways to communicate, to share/receive information and to enhance prescribing medications. Rather than increasing message volume to compensate for lost facetime, pharma must focus on targeted, high-quality, value-added messaging and embrace strategies and tactics that reflect providers’ preferences and priorities.
- What kind of content do providers want to receive?
- Clinical information communicated by a peer?
- Case studies that accurately portray evidence-based outcomes?
- Patient assistance and education materials?
- Self-serve content they can access (pulled information, rather than pushed messaging)?
- What communication channels do they prefer?
- Person-to-person (rep visits)?
- Direct mail?
- Speaker programs?
- Digital media?
- How frequently do they want to be contacted? The AffinityMonitor study also shows providers:
- Stop opening emails from a given brand after receiving 10
- Stop responding to mobile app messaging after receiving about four messages
- Have a higher saturation point for direct mail
Finding the best solution
This year, HealthLink Dimensions surveyed more than 700 physicians and nurse practitioners. The results of its 2016 Annual Healthcare Professional Communication Report showed:
- Only 11 percent of respondents preferred in-person visits by pharma reps, which is the same percentage as their preference for direct mail
- 68 percent preferred email, which confirms results of another 2016 survey (Medical Marketing Service’s Physician Pharmaceutical Survey)
- 58 percent saw the value of social media, but only 3 percent interact with medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers through social media
- 55 percent believe direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising leads to over-prescribing and rising prescription costs and 52 percent believe DTC advertising is dishonest.
Medical Economics reports that today 15 percent of all physicians are younger than 35 years of age — a generation that has grown up with and expect new on-demand channels of communication, which adds to the pharma conundrum.
Therefore, to be successful, pharma must:
- Listen to providers
- Empathize with providers and the real world in which they are practicing
- Analyze research to better understand its audiences
- Use targeted tactics based on demographics, preferences and priorities
The solution will not be quick, nor will it be easy. One-size-fits-all pharma marketing is a rotary phone in a smartphone world.
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