There was a time when clinical evidence—primarily efficacy, tolerability and safety—could be counted on as the most predictable basis for oncology treatment decisions. However, in recent years, my clients and I have seen non-clinical factors become increasingly important to oncologists.
Monetary value, in terms of cost of regimen and out-of-pocket costs, has emerged as the most prominent non-clinical factor, but it’s only part of the story. We’ve seen intangibles, including emotion and habit, take on greater importance in oncologists’ treatment decisions. For example, it’s common to see oncologists develop attachments to certain therapies and sometimes refrain from prescribing a product indicated for a niche patient type to all eligible patients who would benefit.
In areas in which competition has intensified, such as where immunotherapies are now indicated, these intangibles are especially important for marketers to address. The idea of providing a patient hope can be, for some oncologists and patients, the tipping point over clinical evidence or monetary value in making decisions. In such situations, manufacturers, especially those who are later to market, need a simple but emotionally compelling rationale to connect with oncologists and influence decisions.
To engage customers more deeply than a traditional clinical argument and value discussion, oncology manufacturers should consider three guiding principles:
1. Get to the actionable emotion. At each decision point, try to understand the emotions that are influencing oncologists’ decisions. Gathering these insights requires delving deeply into oncologists’ beliefs, habits and behaviors, as well as their patient type.
2. Tell simple stories. Marketers can apply the insights to develop compelling stories that make the desired emotional connection. The simplest messages often are the most effective at helping oncologists navigate today’s complex and fast-changing environment.
3. Empathize with your customers. Understanding oncologists’ emotions and experiences at each stage of the patient journey is critical to building relationships based on loyalty and trust. Given the frequency of new product launches, oncologists are being deluged by messages on clinical and non-clinical topics. Marketers who are both aware of and sensitive to oncologists’ needs and feelings, and who address them through marketing and sales efforts, will be in the best position to cut through the noise and make strong connections.