Over the past 10 years, there has been a shift in how pharmaceutical marketers reach their targets. With webinars, social networking platforms, and a host of other channels, marketers have more tools than ever before to connect with health care professionals, combined with an ever-expanding arsenal of digital devices. But at the end of the day, the traditional face-to-face detail continues to be the most effective way to influence behavior and promote change. According to recent SK&A research, face-to-face detailing maintains the highest influence on the intent to prescribe, with nearly 40 percent of respondents having an increased intent after an in-person visit from a sales rep.

While these numbers are hard to ignore, pharmaceutical companies are decreasing their sales forces and cutting back on detailing programs because of increasing challenges in securing those secure face-to-face meetings.


Faced with regulatory hurdles, tight compliance standards, and limits on direct access to practicing HCPs, the pharma industry is losing its most effective way to educate, influence behavior, and drive revenue.

Gone are the days when a rep could easily walk into a physician’s office and engage in a clinical discussion about the latest advancements in medicine and drug treatments. According to SK&A, almost half of 2010’s face-to-face details to general practitioners were under five minutes, whereas 72 percent of details at the general practitioner’s level in 2006 were over five minutes long.

Replacing the face-to-face interaction are social media, tele-detailing, e-detailing, webinars and virtual trade shows. While the internet and wireless technology do make communication more efficient, they simply lack the same effectiveness. So where does that leave pharma?


Whatever method of face-time works best for you, the benefits are undeniable. According to a 2010 Cornell University report, “The intangibles of face-to-face meetings can be more potent than virtual and online technology when it comes to capturing the imaginations and enthusiasm of attendees.”1
Unlike other virtual models, face-to-face:

  • Captures attention: The discussion can deepen and be taken to new educational heights when there is a one-on-one focus. There is less distraction (e.g., checking emails).
  • Creates the perfect networking and relationship building environment: Face-to-face meetings improve the quality and length of interaction between industry and HCPs, building trust and making the process more personal.
  • Inspires a positive emotional reaction: A face-to-face meeting creates a positive, emotional experience. Being able to study body language and emotions and being physically present is invaluable when making a connection.


According to focus group research conducted by the Healthcare Convention Exhibitors Association (HCEA), practicing physicians today are busier than ever but still consider a live meeting event their number one learning environment. Physicians rely on the structure and approach offered at conferences and live events to maximize networking and learning opportunities.

Live meetings feed our hunger for true communication and relationship-building. Face-to-face meetings bring individuals together to share ideas and make personal connections, something that happens during office visits and is possible at medical events and conferences that are committed to creating a collaborative environment for key health care stakeholders.

Although the pharma industry continues to explore and experiment with alternative ways of engaging HCPs, traditional face-to-face details continue to be the most effective approach to building relationships, strengthening brands and selling product. While there will always be the need to explore alternative ways to reach prospects and target audiences, perhaps the focus needs to shift back to finding alternative ways to get pharmaceutical sales forces back in front of HCPs.

REFERENCE: 1. Duffy C, McEuen MB. The Future of Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face. http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/ chr/pubs/perspective/perspective-15297.html.

DISCLAIMER: The Guest Commentary page allows contributors to voice their opinions on important issues that affect the industry. The views of the authors are their own and are not necessarily those of PM360 and its staff.


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