The future of healthcare DM lies in e-mail

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E-mail marketing is on the rise in the healthcare vertical market, both in the business-to-business and the consumer segments.

As the marketplace and the industry focus on return on investment, and online information seeking becomes ubiquitous among the health professionals and their patients, then measurability and cost effectiveness of e-mail marketing emerge triumphant.

It is apparent that the future of healthcare direct marketing lies in e-mail and other online marketing methods.

In fact, the future is now, in the sense that medical marketing, in general, and pharmaceutical marketing, in particular, are devoting substantial and growing shares of their marketing spend to online tactics, including e-mail marketing.

Pharmaceutical BTB marketing primarily involves companies persuading prescribers û principally physicians û to prescribe their products. This is done in many ways. Direct pitches promoting a product and directing physicians to a Web site for details are often employed.

But techniques unique to the prescription drug industry are also used, including:

ò E-detailing - Pharmaceutical companies rely heavily on personal sales. Since there is a glut of sales representatives û 90,000 so-called detailers calling on a core high-prescribing audience of perhaps 100,000 physicians û face-to-face access has become challenging.

Physicians are in the business of selling their time, so they are reluctant to make time for sales pitches. Therefore, pharmaceutical companies employ e-mail to generate virtual sales calls.

Referred to as e-detailing, this technique has proven very successful. As a result of its success, e-detailing has become almost as competitive as the real thing.

ò CME -Pharmaceutical marketers also use continuing medical education (CME) to inform physicians about how their products can be used to treat various diseases and conditions.

In some cases, CME is the only way to disseminate information about indications that are "off label," i.e., indications that are not yet formally approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency that regulates the ethical drug industry.

Because of the success of these techniques, competition to recruit physicians to participate has become intense.

Start with the list

Thus it is crucial to use best practices, starting with the best data, namely, the American Medical Association (AMA) Physicians List, which allows precise targeting of physicians whom the pharmaceutical companies want to reach.

While the AMA has not made physician e-mail addresses available, some of its database licensees (list managers) have developed broadcast services using non- AMA e-mail addresses. It's very important to use a service that obtains e-mail addresses from physicians themselves.

Quality is more important by far than quantity, as responses are the key metric, not the number of messages sent. The usual messaging best practices are essential for success.

Messages should be short and quickly scannable in the preview pane. Content should be legible within all popular e-mail programs and take into account graphics disabling by using primarily text.

Also, copy should be tested against spam filters, a particular challenge for pharmaceutical products due to the proliferation of consumer spam from illegitimate marketers of counterfeit prescription drugs.

It has been said that to achieve optimal response the ideal quantity for an e-mail campaign is one, in the sense that no matter how many messages are sent, each must be written in as personalized a fashion as if it were addressed to just one particular individual. So it is in medical marketing.

Fortunately, quality broadcast sources have the requisite data to tailor appeals by specialty, age, gender, geographic area and even prescribing profile.

Another unique aspect of pharmaceutical marketing is the offering of honoraria for participation in certain marketing activities, such as market research. Honoraria should be competitive and vary based on specialty and other physician characteristics.

So, for successful online marketing in the healthcare BTB vertical, use industry best practices, including the selection of a vendor with extensive experience in the field and quality data as opposed to quantity of data.

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