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by: Peter H. Nalen, President and CEO, Compass Healthcare Communications
Everywhere in the industry these days, you hear talk about Healthcare Professional Relationship
Innovation Lab Panelists
Marketing (HCP RM), Non-personal Promotion
• Alan G. Reicheg
, SVP Commercial
(NPP), and Channel Preference Marketing (CRM).
• Devin Paullin
, Ex. VP, Business
on their “to do” list, but few are actually
, Physicians Interactive
implementing them. Why is this? On November
• Mary Anne Greenberg
4, 2009, Compass Healthcare Communications
hosted its Innovation Lab Series workshop in
• Michael J. Laferrera
, Sr. Vice President,
Princeton, assembling a team of participants
Sales and Marketing
, J. Knipper & Co.
and expert panelists to discuss this very topic.
HCP RM: Why Now?
The old model for how to target and communicate with healthcare professionals has been turned on its
head. The time physicians have to interact with sales forces continues to diminish and access to physicians is
becoming increasingly difficult. Up to 35% of all physicians are now considered “no see” docs and some states
such as Massachusetts are imposing restrictions on sales rep activities. Add to this the fact that pharmaceutical
companies are drastically cutting their sales forces and you have an environment that’s ripe for new and more
What HCP RM Is Not
Before exploring HCP RM programs in more detail, it helps to establish a few things that HCP RM programs are
NOT. They are not newsletters or mailers or phone calls created in a remote conference room and then force-
fed to a recipient. They are not comprised of generic content that makes no provision for how the recipient
wants to be communicated with, what his or her level of knowledge is with the brand, or where the recipient
resides along the brand adoption continuum. They are, instead, customer-focused programs, delivering the
right message to the right audience segment at the right time using the right channel. The right message is one
that is meaningful to the HCP. Figuring this out means understanding who the HCP is—what their needs and
interests are, what motivates them—so that you can truly service their needs, not just sell them stuff.
Where To Start
When many pharma marketers hear the term relationship marketing, they are quick to think of patient
relationship marketing efforts such as compliance programs. But given that some physicians either cannot or do
not want to meet with reps and that many prefer other and more varied forms of contact, it’s clear that HCPs want
to engage with the brand through several communication channels.
Building a successful HCP RM program is no easy feat. It all starts with understanding the different segments of
your audience and delivering tailored, meaningful communications to them in the form, method or vehicle they
prefer. Every disease state and therapeutic class is different. Organizations will have to adopt a different mindset
beyond just a rep knocking on a quickly closing door. And there are no simple formulas that will guarantee
success in any given specialty. But there are some best-practices tips we discussed over the course of the
Innovation Lab session that can help overcome common challenges in the HCP RM space.
In the late 90s/early 2000s the adoption of
1 Identify leadership, budget, and resources:
of the biggest challenges to implementation,
interactive marketing path went something like
especially in larger pharmaceutical companies
is: Who is going to lead the initiative? Who owns this
The brand? The sales force? Another
• Identify an emerging trend that presents a new
party? Who will pay for it? And what changes will
marketing channel opportunity (ie, the Internet)
need to be made to the technical infrastructure
to support the program? This may prove to be the
• Research and purchase a large, comprehensive
biggest obstacle. A truly effective RM program should
system or platform that is a “best in class” solution
be thought of as an infrastructure investment; not a
for highly sophisticated marketing campaigns
mere campaign. By its very nature and considering
the many departments that an effective RM program
• Pay an enormous sum for an outside consulting
impacts, this initial step has the highest likelihood of
firm to determine the best way to implement the
derailing or significantly delaying the entire project.
platform and train the organization…and then
Our advice is to pilot a program with one or more
brands that share the same specialist. Do not go
“enterprise wide” right out of the gate. Learn from the
• Attempt to force brands to use the resource by
mistakes that were made with the adoption of online
mandating platform usage as well as providing
programs in Pharma. (See sidebar)
• Do all this before the solution has been proven
successful to brand marketers, or before they
2 Devise the right segmentation strategy:
Who are the right and wrong physicians for
your program? What are the best messages
understand how to integrate it into their marketing
to deliver to your different audience segments?
To succeed in this area, you’ll want to work with
What then followed, of course, is that the platform
outside resources to “really” understand your
is under leveraged and usually deemed obsolete
Successful programs are based
three years later, after millions of dollars have been
on segmentation that’s psychographic rather than
invested and much time wasted. Finally it took
segmentation that’s demographic, script-driven, or
some “Cowboy” brand manager on an overlooked
decile-driven. It’s important, too, not to forget the
brand (See Famvir at Novartis, circa 2001, the first
, as nurses perform most of the legwork
brand to utilize an online coupon) to be the first
and patient interfacing. By first effectively segmenting
mover, which the company then used as a model
HCPs and determining your goals, you can then move
for the rest of the organization Let’s not make the
onto choosing the appropriate tactics and channels
same mistake with HCP RM. Identify a brand or
group of brands that share the same physician
target, pilot a program from which we can build a
broader (if necessary) company-wide initiative.
3 Build the right databases.
Having a database at all levels. To do so, it is imperative that all parties see
that meets your RM goals is key to delivering
the value of the program from the beginning and be
customized communications to each specific
allowed to not only participate in the upfront design
audience segment. Successful and strong relationships
but also have direct access to all ongoing reporting
can only be attained when the database can continually
“learn” and react over time.
are notorious for having physician databases that are
anything but robust. And many lack the capability to
6 Measure results.
It’s amazing how many
companies budgeting for HCP RM programs fail
appropriately design, build, and maintain the right
to invest in proper metrics. ROI strategies are
kinds of databases. Unfortunately, many vendors
key to analyzing which strategies and tactics worked,
who excel in this area have proprietary databases
which didn’t, and which audience segments are worth
that pharma companies can only rent, preventing the
investing in. It is hard to predict which tactic will work,
pharma companies from truly owning, mining, and
and which path is most successful for each segment.
leveraging its own data. Still, there are tips for creating
There are no easy formulas for determining all this. At
an effective database. It’s essential, first of all, to set up
a minimum, everyone needs to identify and agree to
your database correctly from the beginning, ensuring
specific measurement criteria before ever launching
that the data fields you collect are indeed the right
a single program.
Given the pioneering stage of HCP
ones and that the right people are using the database.
RM programs and the number of variables involved,
It‘s critical, too, that the database be designed to
pre-program ROI analysis is difficult. Many times, a
acquire and decipher incoming information—eMails
combination of models, formulas, and basic trust
opened, poll questions answered, site pages visited, rep
among your partners and internal measurement team
observations—so that the database continually learns
is all that will suffice. You take your best collective
where each target is on the behavioral continuum
guess ahead of time, implement a pilot of your
and what is required to move them further along.
program, and then closely measure the results.
ensures that your communications meet the specific
information needs of each segment, reflects their
knowledge of the brand and where they are on the
7 Develop a program of tactics. This is
eMarketing or Interactive Marketing, but about
continuum. Your budget and technical requirements
giving your targets another opportunity to
must also be able to support the data to be collected
engage with your brand. It’s less about selling and
more about customer service.
There is seldom one
singular tactic that you can pursue at the expense
Abandon political silos.
Beware the turf battles
of all others. Tactics should be regarded as an entire
that may ensue, although this may be easier
program. Thinking multimodal is key. We have to give
said than done. Chances are, a lot of hands will
physicians a chance to respond to determine their
be touching your RM program, and there will be many
preference for not only the tactic but also how it is
interested, affected and vested parties—from individuals
delivered. The good news is that physicians are already
in multiple internal departments to a network of outside
accessing some of the technology you’ll be using. An
vendors. This is not the time to retreat to political silos.
estimated 80% of all physicians under the age of 45
These different teams need to work together and
carry smart phones and nearly 1 in 4 participates in
complement each other’s contributions. Pick the core
eDetail programs . There are many vehicles at your
competencies of each group and have them focus on the
disposal—take the time needed to invest in the right
task at hand.
Everyone needs to know how to play well
together in order to deliver the best program results.
5 Address sales force fears.
Nearly everyone 8 Don’t lose sight of the message.
If you’ve been
delivering the same message to your audience
would agree that the in-person relationships
for a while, changing the medium in which
developed by the field force are the number one
you communicate that message is not likely to have
relationship marketing vehicle available.
much of an impact. Concentrate instead on delivering
not uncommon for sales reps and their management
information that’s new and meaningful to physicians.
to view HCP RM programs with resentment. In reality,
Translate those hours and pages of physician insight
these programs aren’t intended to replace the sales
research into meaningful content that can result in
force—ideally, these programs should serve to assist and
Find a balance between branded
augment sales force efforts.
A successful RM program
and unbranded communications. Focus on providing
must be integrated with all the efforts put forth by the
needed services to your audience versus simply selling
sales group, and be developed with their involvement
yourself and you just might find yourself becoming the
Clearly, HCP RM programs are growing in prominence. Finding success in this area requires understanding your customers like never before in order to offer them meaningful information and tools that they actually want to use. By integrating these tactics and resources so they all work well together you can successfully shift from the mindset of physician “selling” to one of physician “service.” Making that shift will strengthen your relationships with all your key targets—a critical requirement in moving HCPs closer toward ultimate brand loyalty.
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1 1 The Innovation Lab series is an informative and collaborative workshop that provides insight and guidance about emerging
marketing trends and how to successfully apply them. More than passive “sit and listen” sessions, these are engaging and interactive
events from which attendees emerge smarter and armed with real marketing solutions for their company or brand(s). Previous sessions
have focused on Social Media and Mobile Media.
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