How aligning and strengthening interaction between pharma sales and marketing departments and communication with healthcare providers can create a win-win-win for pharma, physicians and patients.

As America heads into 2013, the U.S. and global economies are still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis, which has led to high unemployment. What’s more, digital technologies—including the Internet, mobile, and social media—are changing the rules of successful marketing almost overnight. And life sciences companies face their own unique set of challenges, including a maturing industry, increasing regulations, payer pressures, healthcare reform, and decreasing return on investment (ROI) on traditional marketing.
It’s clear that the business model of yesterday won’t meet the objectives of tomorrow. But what concrete actions will help marketing and sales teams join forces in ways that can really make a difference? In order to thrive in today’s life sciences landscape, executives should (1) establish a new value proposition, (2) embrace an emerging business and communications model, and (3) take specific steps that can help to optimize the marketing mix, minimize costs, and maximize efficiencies and ROI.

ESTABLISHING A NEW VALUE PROPOSITION

Compared with the halcyon days of the 1980s and 90s, today’s healthcare providers (HCPs) face more stress and less downtime. Fee-for-service insurance has given way to managed care, with its attendant demands for more (and shorter) patient visits and mountains of paperwork, an aging patient population requires care that is increasingly complex and time consuming, and medical knowledge is expanding more rapidly than ever before, mandating that doctors find new ways to keep on top of new products, guidelines and trends.

As a result, HCPs are turning increasingly to online resources for medical information, while at the same time some HCPs are restricting representative access. Together these challenges are pressing pharma executives to identify and deploy novel communication strategies that HCPs increasingly prefer and respond to. In other words, today’s marketers must establish a new value proposition: Deliver to each HCP what they want, when they want it, where they want it, and how they want it. The 2012 What Physicians Want! Survey, a biennial survey of over 250 physicians (conducted by Publicis Touchpoint Solutions and Sermo), provides a snapshot of HCPs’ current wants:
• Crucial industry focus on patient education, support and adherence. HCPs need help providing better patient care in an environment that doesn’t make it easy for them to do their jobs (e.g., time crunches, lack of payment for counseling/ educating patients, etc.).
• More high-quality sales representatives. HCPs are saying “you are still not providing me with the ‘quality’ of representative I need for my practice.” They want field sales representatives who are highly trained, experienced, and adept at having clinical discussions that add value to their practices.
• More interaction with nontraditional representatives that provide value.
HCPs are looking for customer service representatives, clinical health educators, and hybrid representatives to provide services like education and adherence/ retention support. For example, customer service representatives do not “sell,” but instead work with physicians’ practices to provide patient literature, samples, etc. Clinical health educators are credentialed healthcare professionals, often nurses, who work with HCPs and/or patients to improve health outcomes. Hybrid representatives have defined geographic territories and specific sets of target HCPs who they reach through a variety of channels (e.g., face-to-face, phone and video) and at times that are most convenient for each HCP (e.g., work day, after hours and weekends).

EMBRACE AN EMERGING BUSINESS AND COMMUNICATIONS MODEL

There is no doubt that industry marketing strategies are being profoundly affected by the triple threat of digital technologies, upheaval in the life sciences marketplace, and wholesale changes in the ways we interact with HCPs. Approaches that worked so well for decades are no longer tenable.
For example, in the old business model, all key departments were “owned” by the manufacturer, with only minimal outsourcing. Now, however, biopharma executives realize that they don’t have to (or want to) own everything internally. Ownership is concentrated in core competencies, while outsourcing is embraced for non-core functions.
Yesterday, the profits from blockbuster brands allowed for less focus on rigorous ROI analysis. Today, lower margins mean that ROI is a requirement that is continually evaluated. Before, HCPs served as the “learned intermediary” for all aspects of patient therapy. Now, informed and empowered patients want a say in the treatment plan, payers tighten the purse strings a little more every year, and the long arm of government reaches further than ever into the HCP-patient relationship.
In the “good old days,” the marketing team could depend on a basic package of simple, accepted, HCP-focused tactics such as samples, journal ads, and in-person details by a single field sales team. Today, marketers must deploy both a comprehensive non-personal marketing mix—led by digital—along with a blended, cross-channel message delivery team.

OPTIMIZE THE MARKETING MIX, MINIMIZE COSTS, AND MAXIMIZE EFFICIENCIES/ROI

These sound like simple tasks, but they require extraordinary moxie and a powerful plan. Here are four steps that
can help you accomplish the job:

Span the Silos
According to David Aaker, Professor Emeritus at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and author of the book Spanning Silos, business silos are decidedly inefficient and uncompetitive in today’s marketplace. Silo spanning—or silo busting, if you prefer—can deliver profound benefits for both internal (marketing and sales) and external (agencies and communications providers) teams. With a determined silo-spanning effort, companies can produce stronger offerings and brands, and forge effective synergistic marketing strategies and programs.
Despite the benefits silo spanning offers in optimizing organizational clarity, resource allocation, and operational efficiencies, it is almost always “arduous, expensive, and very disruptive to the organization.” Aaker suggests five steps that can help life sciences marketers make progress against silo-driven problems:
1. Improve allocation of marketing resources through the deployment of analytical methods and frameworks that measure marketing effectiveness.
2. Create more coherent and linked brand strategies by working toward a brand equity model that can guide brand building.
3. Encourage silo-spanning offerings and programs such as sponsorships and website-based programs. Determine which methods can bring about optimum flexibility.
4. Find systematic ways to recognize success in spanning silos and to export those successes into other silo systems.
5. Foster communication and cooperation through frequent personal contact, formal meetings or events, and a sophisticated information system.

With a determined silo-spanning effort, companies can produce stronger offerings and brands, and forge effective synergistic marketing strategies and programs.

• Integrate Everything
While silos relate primarily to strategy and management, integration relates primarily to data. Today’s marketers must cross-pollinate their data sets in new and meaningful ways. For instance, prescribing-trend data for an individual HCP can be aligned with the ways in which that HCP has interacted with a variety of marketing tools, including sampling, co-pay card/voucher use, field-based tablet detailing, website interaction, in-person or remote seminar attendance, etc. In other words, single analytic databases can and should be combined and managed to create an all-inclusive “datamart” that can paint a vibrant picture of each HCP’s preferences and influencers.

• Adjust Smartly
In the end, a collection of well-integrated market-response data becomes truly valuable only when it’s used to adjust the game plan while the team is still on the field. Four basic strategies can help your team adjust smartly:
1. Leverage the datamart. Forrester Research estimates that organizations effectively utilize less than 5% of their available data. We can do better. Never assume a “set it and forget it” mentality. Keep digging into your data for more insight, more knowledge and more wisdom.
2. Incorporate both preference-based and behavior-based information. What HCPs say they want doesn’t always match perfectly with what they actually respond to. To the greatest degree possible, adjust your mix based on preferences corroborated by behavior.
3. Continuously ramp up and/or down on various channels. Don’t be afraid to take new action based on new information; as you learn which tactics are providing greater value adjust your strategy in real time in order to optimize your overall ROI.
4. Pilot innovative approaches. Testing new models allows for a proof of concept approach that can be expanded based on results.

• Expand the Mix
The 2012 What Physicians Want! Survey provides a snapshot of HCPs’ current wants and that snapshot yields two salient ideas regarding potential adjustments to the physician marketing mix. First, to help them accomplish their patient treatment goals, physicians express specific interest in seeing more specialty representatives, customer service representatives, hybrid representatives, medical science liaisons, and clinical health educators. These communication professionals can amplify the work done by traditional field representatives as well as better serve the interests of patients, physicians and manufacturers. Second, marketers should seek better ways to augment field-based activity with high-value remote channels, including interactive HCP-focused disease-state websites and product websites, eSampling, inside live video detailing, phone and chat promotion, inside clinical support teams, etc.

 

CONCLUSION

Traditional biopharma has been undergoing serious pressure since the mid-2000s, but green shoots are beginning to emerge: The wave of major patent expirations has largely passed. Specialty products are exploding in number and profitability. And while many big pharma companies have decreased their sales force in “right-sizing” efforts, a number of others have actually increased their sales forces (Hay Group noted that 43% of companies actually increased their sales force size in 2011).
HCPs want efficient tools and communications that will help them help their patients. They want to strip away time wasters so they can educate patients, support patients who need assistance, and help patients adhere to therapy. They will open their doors to life sciences companies and representatives that help them better serve patients by better serving HCPs.

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