Selecting the Right Healthcare BTB List

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Healthcare is a nearly $2 trillion industry, accounting for 15 percent of gross domestic product. Thus, healthcare professionals are probably one of the most hyper-marketed business-to-business vertical groups. Moreover, improper marketing can subject marketers to criminal penalties, and healthcare is literally a matter of life and death.

The stakes could not be higher. Therefore, lists and other data used in healthcare marketing must be of the highest quality. Sophisticated healthcare marketers require lists that are:

* Accurate. A list of physicians, for example, must include only medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy, not other professionals who refer to themselves as doctors or physicians (e.g., chiropractors). Also, addresses, demographics, psychographics and other data must be highly accurate to aid precision targeting.

* Comprehensive. Healthcare marketers rely on comprehensive lists to measure and maximize market share.

* Robust. Healthcare marketers require extraordinarily robust data. For example, pharmaceutical marketers need physician-prescribing profiles by therapeutic class (e.g., statins) and specific products (e.g., Lipitor).

* Accessible. Many healthcare direct marketers require data that can be used by their sales forces and integrated with syndicated prescribing databases.

Here are tips to identify the best healthcare BTB lists:

Rely on list professionals with experience and expertise in the field. Begin by contacting those with the greatest selection of healthcare professional listings in commercial list information sources (SRDS, MIN, NextMark). Find out how long they've been in the field, whether they focus exclusively, or at least substantially, on the healthcare market and which lists they represent.

Use authoritative lists. Association lists are particularly reliable. Take doctors. According to "The Complete Direct Mail List Handbook," by the late Ed Burnett, "The primary list in this field, without a doubt, is the AMA (American Medical Association)." What Ed said in 1988 remains generally accepted today. The AMA list is widely regarded as the gold standard by pharmaceutical and other medical marketers for many reasons. It includes all U.S. physicians, both members and nonmembers of the AMA. It is the only list that includes practicing physicians, physicians in training (also known as residents) and medical students. As Burnett said, "The list is amazingly current. Each of the contractors that run the file must update it weekly."

Association lists are often, but not always, the best choice. Knowledgeable, experienced list professionals can recommend the best list for any given profession.

Look for multimedia lists. Healthcare marketers must use all available media because of the challenge of breaking through the clutter to reach busy professionals whose time is their product. Look for list sources that offer postal addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses. For e-mail lists, ensure that the e-mail addresses have been provided voluntarily by the professionals themselves.

Choose lists that reflect the complexity of the healthcare marketplace. Healthcare purchasing processes are complex, so look for managers with integrated lists of all parties involved: health professionals, administrators and third-party payers.

Seek robust data. Amid stiff competition, relevance is key. The more you know about health professionals in terms of their specialty, interests and preferences, the more relevant your messaging. For example, the best physician lists offer information about how physicians prefer to be contacted (e.g., by direct mail).

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