As pharmaceutical marketers, we’ve inundated our audience with messages in the past two decades. As a result, HCPs are putting up barriers and trying to shut out all the ‘noise, noise, NOISE!’. In 2008, 80% of HCPs were considered accessible to pharmaceutical sales representatives, seeing at least 70% of reps that contacted them. By mid-2017, pharma sales rep access was down to 46%1. In fact, one 2016 study found that HCPs typically experience about one sales representative request per working hour2. Pharmaceutical companies are doing a lot of talking when listening is the key to building productive relationships. And, here, digital marketing’s ability to generate dialogue in an on-demand fashion can serve as a life-line. Noise doesn’t sell products—communication does—and multi-channel non-personal promotion is a key that should be used to open doors that have been locked in recent years.
One-Way Non-Personal Promotion is a Thing of the Past
Ultimately, if the goal is to increase prescription numbers, pharmaceutical marketing plans should be designed to deliver valuable content to both patients and HCPs—and to foster pharma sales rep access. It is a strategy that has been proven to work.
With less access to doctors in their offices, pharmaceutical companies are increasing their spend on digital tactics. Email, native advertisements, website promotion, and social media advertising are tactics that have seen more dollars thrown their way in order to get messages to hard-to-reach targets.
However, the recent increases in digital tactics in pharmaceutical media plans may not be enough. In his 2017 study summary, Malcolm Sturgis of ZS Associates notes that pharma marketers would do well to identify the individual needs and preferences of doctors and to deliver tailored marketing messages. Ideally these messages should address an HCP’s individual needs.
Rather than sending mass waves of general messages via non-personal promotion, pharma companies need to come up with strategies operate on a target-by-target basis. For example, one HCP might prefer to receive outcomes information routinely over email while another might only want patient materials via direct mail. One HCP might prefer to speak to a sales rep in a series of phone calls. Another might want to receive digital non-personal promotion only.
In the past, leads could be developed with brand awareness tactics like print advertisements. Pharma marketers saw great returns in the office because it was pretty likely that the ad impression would be followed up with a rep visit. In this way, pharmaceutical companies could get away with promoting the brand from the top of the sales funnel.
Currently, developing leads by nurturing the bottom of the sales funnel with top-of-the-sales-funnel tactics is an inefficient use of resources. The tactic misses opportunities to capture leads and instead distributes promotional messages that aren’t likely to receive a sufficient follow-up.
Different times require different tactics.
Dialogue in Non-Personal Promotion
The first brand experience HCPs should have is one where value is offered. For example, if an HCP reading Endocrine Today sees an advertisement for a webinar discussing a treatment implications of new statin research, they’ll have a clinical and professional reason to provide their contact information to access the webinar. This provides an opportunity to move many otherwise-inaccessible targets to the digital space where their contact information can be captured, and where a relationship can be built.
This isn’t exactly new thinking; it’s the way B2B marketers have been thinking—and working—for a decade.
At bfw, we’ve migrated this practice from non-healthcare clients to healthcare and had success generating webinar attendance through print advertisements, and we’re confident that this tactic will create the conversions we’re looking for. Why? Because it provides value. And providing value is different from a distributing a promotional message.
A Multi-Channel Way Forward
HCPs requiring personalized communication can be drawn closer with “news you can use” through a larger number of channels than ever before.
If HCPs want content emailed to them, they can subscribe to your mailing list. If email is not preferred, then they can follow a social media channel that is created for the brand and promoted on branded communication. Chatbots on the page can automatically open for new page visitors and ask them if they would like to contact a sales representative.
Similarly, branded advertisements can feature phone numbers that HCPs can use to receive brand updates via text, to call a home office rep, or to request a sales visit.
Pharma marketers should offer a range of ways to talk to a sales rep in their non-personal promotion. Call-to-action buttons to schedule phone calls and Facetime conversations are just as important as those that offer in-person visits. A submission on one of these options needs to be linked to a CRM. Then the correct sales representative will receive a text notification of the target’s request with the help of CRM database integration.
Marketers can take advantage of these diverse channels by seeking feedback with every piece of distributed content. And digital content allows the easy capturing of this information. Use of “Subscribe to our Newsletter” calls-to-action. Offer social media opt-in reminders in your non-personal promotion. Embed forms that solicit feedback. Give HCPs the opportunity to receive push notifications. Provide phone numbers and “Contact a Sales Representative” buttons are tools that convert targets into leads.
Escalating Content Production to Lead Generation
Once your lead pool is large enough, employ key opinion leaders to Tweet about their brand experiences. (In case you doubt the power of Twitter, dial up CNN, Fox News or MSNBC. Time how long it takes for a Twitter feed to hit the screen.)
Place print advertisements with superiority claims. Sponsor DocAlerts on Epocrates©. Send out emails offering sponsored lunches. Generate the buzz about your product that has been put at the beginning of the sales cycle in recent years. There should now be familiar channels of communication between the brand and the HCP through which contacts can acquire brand materials or request a visit.
This strategy also builds off of itself via search engine ranking strength. If a website is regularly updated with content over a period of months and years, search engines begin to see that site as an authority for topics that are regularly included in such content. They will ‘rank’ a site higher for topics that are important to its brand and attract their audiences without making the first move.
And never overlook the importance of cadence. The key is to inform and engage without inundating your influencers. A great internal test of this is to take a look at your own inbox—if you’re seeing the same series of emails from the same marketers with such frequency that you’re now ignoring them, you understand firsthand how too much messaging in too short a period can have an undesirable effect on your audience.
Tailor the Non-Personal Promotion Strategy to Your Audience
Organizing a non-personal promotion plan in this way may not be necessary for all targets. Certain specialties offer greater pharma sales rep access than others. For example, oncologists have been found to be the least accessible specialty for pharmaceutical sales representatives.2 However, oncologists are often twice as likely to open email messages about clinical practice information1. For such targets, incorporating a moderate to high level of non-personal promotion makes sense.
The key to leveraging this sort of multi-channel strategy to is a tight and integrated data system. At any point of the relationship, a question could lead to a request for an in-person visit. For that to happen, all of the digital resources offering the opportunity to schedule an in-person visit should be linked to your CRM database. This will allow the automated capturing of information which can be use for a follow up by a sales representative. In the end, if it does come to cold-calling, your representative will be equipped with data that can help them succeed.
Healthcare marketers need to be more creative than ever with their non-personal promotional tactics to generate pharma sales rep access. One thing is certain—there is no shortage of tactics at our disposal—and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Give us a call or leave us a message and find out how we can use our healthcare advertising experience to make your pharma marketing plan a success.