Data-driven model engages providers when reps can't

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Pharmaceutical marketers face three pain points that impede marketing and make optimized communications with patients and healthcare providers difficult to achieve:

• A crowded rep channel and many hard-to-see physicians, some of whom will not see sales reps at all.

• Low response rates for traditional direct mail to physicians.

• Compliance and persistency challenges among patients.

The personal selling channel for pharmaceutical sales reps is approaching saturation. Many pharmaceutical companies are realigning territories and must do more with less. At the same time, face-to-face time with healthcare providers is on the decline, and fewer professionals will make time to see reps in the office.

Reps say they face restrictions on at least 82 percent of visits to medical offices, according to a survey by Smart Practice Management (Pharmaceutical Executive, February 2006), and this may worsen given the American Medical Association's recent Rx data restriction program (PDRP) where physicians can block their prescribing information from being shared with drug companies. And though fewer new medications are on the market, important legacy/mature brands still need to be promoted.

Response rates to traditional mail are in the low single-digit range. Health care providers cite a lack of relevance in received materials as a main reason for low response. Many pharmaceutical marketers do not yet use a database as a foundation for engaging non-personal (or non-manpowered) selling techniques, such as dimensional mail, e-detailing and telemarketing, which form part of an integrated, targeted relationship marketing program.

Challenges associated with patient compliance and persistency cost the industry billions of dollars yearly. And though 90 percent of office visits result in a prescription, 10 percent to 20 percent of initial prescriptions go unfilled and up to 85 percent never get refilled, reports Cutting Edge Information. Moreover, 80 percent of what patients hear during office visits is forgotten or misunderstood.

So how can pharmaceutical marketers establish and build meaningful, long-term relationships with health care providers?

Non-manpowered selling. This is a sustainable, data-driven, alternative model for developing and maintaining relationships with health care providers through the integration of multiple channels including detail-by-mail, e-detail and telemarketing.

Non-manpowered selling is a multichannel marketing approach guided by a custom database of physicians that profiles high prescribers in target therapeutic areas. The database facilitates the collection of self-reported data, which can be used to craft personalized, relevant messaging and customized for outreach to specific high prescribers.

Additionally, the database can be deployed to supplement sales force efforts by reinforcing sales messages for added reach and frequency. It also can give sales reps self-reported data that can be leveraged to personalize sales presentations. This non-manpowered approach combines offline and digital channels to ensure each physician can opt to receive messages via her preferred medium.

Beyond the traditional features, a non-manpowered selling solution can incorporate prescription samples in the program and ship them directly to health care providers, either directly from a Prescription Drug Marketing Act-approved fulfillment facility or via a sales rep. An outbound teleservices follow-up serves as a reminder and brings the process full circle.

Detail-by-mail and e-detailing. Detail-by-mail is one non-manpowered selling technique that has proven to break through the clutter in physicians' offices. Several situations are ideal for detail-by-mail marketing:

• To complement the efforts of the field sales force to called-on healthcare providers.

• To reach "hard-to-see" or "no-see" healthcare providers.

• To communicate brand messages to physicians in vacant territories.

• To promote strategic brands that have been given limited or no time in promotional schedules.

A creative, detail-by-mail program is ideal for building relationships while enhancing profiles of top prescribers. For instance, a pharmaceutical marketer can use brief surveys to uncover the communications channel through which individual physicians prefer to receive information, as well as facts about their attitudes, their willingness to participate and insight into their practice and patient base.

These communications also can let physicians request samples, coupons and patient-education materials and let them specify whether they want materials delivered in person or through the mail. This is relationship marketing in action.

Another effective use of detail-by-mail is to drive physicians to an online e-detail site. Electronic detailing, or e-detailing, answers the main challenge of traditional detailing: time restrictions. Through e-detailing, health care providers can view material online, at their convenience.

As they watch the presentations, the time they spend receiving product information can lengthen to seven to 10 minutes. Health care providers can accomplish most everything they would during a sales visit, including requesting samples and receiving company information. They also can give valuable feedback by completing online surveys.

Non-manpowered selling tactics can help a pharmaceutical company maintain a consistent brand voice and facilitate a data-driven, targeted relationship-marketing program. The approach also reinforces brand messages throughout a product's lifecycle.

Non-manpowered selling can help companies understand a health care provider's attitudes and behaviors, as this approach can be integrated with the critical role of the sales force. Finally, these solutions are vehicles for helping physicians maximize patient retention - compliance, persistence and loyalty - which improves overall outcomes.

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