by Ashik Desai, Columnist, November 1, 2016
As long as there have been prescription treatments, a brand’s salesforce has been the largest line item in its sales and marketing budget. Today, pharma brands are consistently spending more than $12 billion a year on sales efforts. This is a worthwhile investment, and these firms enlist some of the best salespeople in the world.
However, without access to the physicians they need to reach, the sales force simply cannot do its job and, unfortunately, access to physicians has never been more restricted. In 2008, nearly 80% of physicians were considered accessible, which mean that they had meetings with 70+% of sales reps who called on them. Today, according to a study by ZS Associates, just 44% of physicians are considered accessible. While brand sales efforts are critical to the success of a treatment, it also means roughly $1 billion of that $12 billion spend goes to sales efforts each year that don’t ever amount to a meeting, and it means the salesforce is not working to its full potential.
There is enormous opportunity if health marketers can reallocate some of that towards effective marketing channels that support their sales efforts and make their current investment work harder. As we know, there’s no lack of effort, but we need to ask ourselves, how can we innovative to efficiently get messages out to physicians given the increasingly difficult task of reaching them? A big part of it is the follow-through at the practice.
1. Leverage your current marketing efforts. You don’t need to start from scratch. As a starting point, be sure you are leveraging the highest impact platforms to supercharge your existing patient campaigns. By leveraging the interactive digital platforms in waiting rooms and exam rooms you are now likely familiar with, at scale, you can add more pull to your existing marketing efforts to have that final touch-point with the patient before the consultation or even during. These methods are proven to lift recall and ROI for brands. Patients will always have access to the physician, and with thoughtful messaging you can have them extending the reach of your brand’s message where your reps cannot. According to a study by CMH Analytics, 75% of healthcare providers say patient requests and feedback influence their treatment decisions.
2. Use the right kind of non-personal promotion channels. We must take a mirror to what non-personal promotion feels like for a physician. According to the same study by ZS Associates, non-personal promotion is over-perceived by physicians as taking up a staggering 84 hours of their time each year. With the mixed results many of these channels deliver — email, mobile, social, etc. — this means inefficient non-personal promotion is doubly wasteful. Today, you can reach physicians in their actual practice by way of physician platforms, and onto the very tools they are using during consultation and their management of their clinic work flow. That’s when decisions are being made, and when presence is more important than ever.
3. Identify the most effective content for your messaging. With newfound access to physicians through non-personal channels at POC, your normal mass media ad is not what you should be delivering to the physician. Instead, consider the information that would be most helpful to them during consultations and time of prescription, from Patient Savings Programs to MOA’s to new side-effect management guides. With the right messaging, patient and physician technology in the exam room can be leveraged to deliver the information your target physicians want and need to deliver to patients, which means more push for your salesforce, which is trying to deliver these programs.
4. Find a partner in innovation. In a dynamic industry where we are constantly having to learn and relearn the rules, it is critical to find a partner that understands what the North Star is for your brand. Barriers in reaching physicians will only continue to be stronger, as will the need for treatment information. In your search for ways to better reach physicians, find a partner that understands the nuances of effective non-personal promotion, embraces technology and, most importantly, can help deliver unquestionable results for your brand at scale.