A Picture-Perfect Consumer Data Mart

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As I help my husband set up the marketing database for his custom picture frame shop, I'm reminded why we need the newest generation of technology, tools and marketing strategies: to gain in-depth customer knowledge.


Granted, health care has more complexities than matching someone's family portrait to the color of his living room wallpaper. But one thing is certain: My husband knows his customers. How many pharmaceutical firms can truly say the same?


While many industries lack comprehensive customer databases, ignorance about the actual users of their products is rampant in the pharmaceutical industry. Common industry practices and culture drive this dearth of information.


Even with the easing of FDA regulations, the more risk-averse pharmaceutical companies have been slow to establish a relationship with their end users, the consumer. Top executives in the industry still view themselves as manufacturers who must expand through strong new product pipelines. While this strategy has been quite successful -- just look at the introduction of blockbuster drugs this past year -- increased consumer knowledge will take industry profits to greater heights.


Few, if any, senior pharmaceutical executives are aware of Enterprise Customer Management, the seamless management of all customer interactions across the enterprise. ECM gives companies the ability to respond to the needs of individual customers while maximizing the profitability of each relationship. Database marketing and the knowledge of consumers often is delegated to product managers in vertical therapeutic markets. Most product mangers use direct marketing to generate leads for the sales force, boost seminar attendance at educational meetings and target their best prescribing physicians. However, ask a product manager if his consumers have anything in common with the consumers of the product manager in the next office, and he won't have a clue.


To get started in implementing an enterprise consumer database, find a senior executive to champion the cause. All large companies struggle to gain a complete customer picture across divisions, product lines and other organizational barriers. The more decentralized the pharmaceutical firm, the greater the challenge and the reward.


Pharmaceutical firms with OTC divisions and/or strong alliances with pharmacies should integrate those divisions with their therapeutic vertical markets. Directly engaging consumers, especially aging consumers, can generate huge gains for those organizations. After all, the majority of aging baby boomers and mature adults shop from one to three times per week. Mature customers spend more than twice the per-capita average on prescriptions and account for more than 40 percent of prescription sales. As Americans get older, they tend to shop at discounters often and maintain strong relationships with trusted brands. They also are the largest consumers of eye-care products.


Integrating information from all sources -- including Internet, direct TV, print media, brochures, pharmacy programs, BRC cards, newsletters and call centers -- leads to a complete enterprise customer management program. The database will let the organization gain a clear picture of the ultimate customer. The data from an integrated marketing database can be used to:


* Identify and target the best customers.


* Build patient and consumer acquisition programs.


* Develop lifetime value proposition.


* Establish compliance programs.


* Establish brand loyalty.


* Stave off attrition of brands coming off patent.


A pharmaceutical firm that implements an enterprise database can fully leverage a wealth of information and develop a sustainable relationship directly with consumers. What could be more compelling than for an organization to gain a "perfect picture" of its customers?


Barbara A. Frank is director of business development of pharmaceutical and health care at Centrobe Inc., Stow, MA.
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