iStock 000037928706SmallA client and I recently co-presented at Eye for Pharma on the topic of the client’s journey in building a customer-centric marketing capability. In preparing for this presentation, we sat down together and spent some time reflecting on the progress so far. While the journey toward becoming a truly customer-centric commercial organization is not complete (we still have a ways to go!), the client has made great progress over the past three years with ZS’s help.

In an organization that has typically been heavily sales force driven, in an industry that has typically been slow to adopt technology and emerging marketing channels, convincing people they need to adjust sales versus marketing mix based on Healthcare Professional (HCP) preferences and to integrate sales and marketing channels has been no small feat. As we reflected on the journey, it was clear that ZS’s analytical support was critical in helping create a body of evidence highlighting the need for this change, as well as dispelling some common myths in the company. Here are five common myths about digital or nonpersonal promotion that we disproved:

Myth 1: Sales force and digital promotion are at odds.

BUSTED: Many fear that nonpersonal promotion will limit rep access to HCPs—“If clinical information, samples, and patient resources are on the Web site, the doctor will no longer have to let the rep in the office”. However, ZS analysis has shown that electronic sampling has no negative impact on rep access.

Sales and digital promotion are not at odds, and in many cases the opposite is true. Often, there is actually a synergistic impact for HCPs reached by both reps and nonpersonal tactics. The resulting sales growth is greater than the sum of what both channels would generate independently.

Myth 2: Sales force alone is enough.

BUSTED: It is still typically the case that the sales force represents the largest promotional spend and is the largest driver of sales. However, for certain customer segments, preferences are evolving. Rep access is becoming more challenging, especially in Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs) and other provider networks, and HCPs are spending more time online and on mobile devices for professional purposes. More and more of the health-care conversation is happening online or through Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems. If you ignore digital channels, you miss out on opportunities to join the conversation.

Myth 3: Digital impact is unproven.

BUSTED: This is purely false. Prescription lift from nonpersonal and digital promotion has been measured time and time again, and the returns are very positive. After accounting for fixed costs to develop content, platforms and partnerships, the return on the margin is even better.

Myth 4: Digital promotion will replace the sales force.

BUSTED: Even with HCP preferences evolving and increase time spent online or with mobile devices, scalability of many nonpersonal channels continues to be a problem. About 5% of e-mails are opened, 0.1% of banner ads are clicked and less than 5% of HCPs typically engage with digital services.

The sales force is needed to help scale the nonpersonal! E-mails following a rep detail are three times more likely to be opened, and e-mails triggered by the rep with a personal FROM address are five to 10 times more likely to be opened. Coordination is critical to maximizing the value of both channels.

Myth 5: Digital can solve the “no see” problem.

BUSTED: Typically, HCPs are “no see” not because they don’t like the rep but because they are skeptical of pharma promotion in general. Unbranded content andthird-party partnerships are needed to engage these prescribers.

Customer-centric marketing touches many people within the organization from different brand teams to sales force to marketing and sales operations. There is wide variety of opinions and biases that this group has and, as a result, achieving change is not trivial. Analytics have proven very powerful to demonstrate quick wins for the organization, the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”) for the different individuals, and to dispel any misconceptions associated with this new way of engaging our customers.

Topics: sales, Digital Channels, Nitin Jain, Pharma, Pharma Industry