How Performance-Based Marketing Lets You Manage Success Prospectively (Rather Than After the Fact)

Much has been written about the financial challenges across the pharmaceutical industry creating a need to be more accountable with every marketing dollar spent. Much has been written, too, about technology changing our access to information and giving us the ability to link ROI directly to marketing tactics.

Not much has been written connecting the two. Pharma marketers, I offer you here my thesis: You can now buy based on ROI!

Performance-based marketing, well entrenched in many other industries, is now creating a buzz in pharma. It’s marketing where the marketer only pays for results. It gives you a way to hold marketing dollars accountable for real brand performance at a time when financial pressures are high and we are all expected to produce more with less.

Generally marketing decisions work as follows: We evaluate a program based on historical performance, generally with another brand or category. We make a decision for our brand, pull the trigger and hope for the best. We measure performance after the fact; it may or may not meet our goal.

Performance-based marketing is different: You aren’t buying a program; you are buying the result. The marketer is taking a risk, getting paid only if the program works. How do they do this?

First, a successful performance-based approach is much more narrowly targeted, aimed only at those people who are most likely to take an action to produce the desired result; e.g., pre-qualified condition sufferers who meet the brand’s “ideal patient profile” and who are engaged enough to agree to receive brand communications. To succeed, the program needs access to enough of these people to make the effort worthwhile.

Second, these solutions need to work hard at converting participants to action. This is usually a function of the right combination of consumer segment targeting, message/creative execution, and the selection of delivery channel. The communications system needs to be flexible, so that the marketer can adapt the outreach quickly to attract more of the consumer type who is likely to drive results to more of the offers that work to drive results.

Last, the effort demands explicit data along the way (good key performance indications are vital, in addition to recontact and match-back studies) to proactively optimize performance by rebalancing targeting and campaign elements, and of course to validate ROI.

I’m told Mae West once said, “An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.” I couldn’t have put it better.

  • Chris Neuner

    Chris Neuner is executive vice president, Sales and Marketing, at QualityHealth. He is a founder of media agency Greater than One, has served on the executive team of Interactive8 and also started an interactive marketing division at BBDO. Neuner graduated from the University of South Carolina.

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