Have you noticed that whenever the subject of professional relationship marketing (PRM) comes up we immediately think about every channel other than the sales rep? Why is that? Aren’t they the center of your company’s relationship with your target healthcare provider (HCP)? Aren’t they responsible for the most personalized real-time marketing available? Most of us refer to sales rep activities as “personal” promotion, but not everyone has acknowledged their critical role in “relationship” marketing. This is a key disconnect that many marketers experience when developing a PRM program.

When building a marketing plan, it is not uncommon for a client to have multiple agencies responsible for the development of specific components of the plan (i.e., a traditional campaign development agency, a digital agency, a direct-response agency, etc.). Creating a diverse portfolio of agencies can leverage the expertise of each agency to drive depth in different channels, but it often lacks the orchestration of plan development, rollout, and measurement that is so critical to success.

As you work on your tactical plan for next year, be sure that your programs help sync up your brand’s offerings to your customers’ needs. This is not just attitudinal, but behavioral in terms of how our customers engage the brand. The following are three considerations that should influence how you architect a winning PRM program.

The Sales Rep’s Central and Evolving Role

Two correlate forces affect today’s sales representative engagement with customers: HCPs continue to increase limitations in access (the “no-see” rate is higher than ever before and shows little sign of slowing). While reps have immediate access to more information than ever before (over 80% of physicians own a smartphone and over 50% access the internet during a consult). So does that mean the days of the sales rep are numbered?

I suspect some would think so, but the companies that continue to thrive in this new environment are the ones that have adjusted their approach. The role, the responsibility and the value of the sales rep are now to help HCPs decipher the endless information about a brand. The world is more connected than ever and opinions and experiences (positive and negative) across the HCP community are more widely accessed and understood. An effective rep needs to be armed with more than just an understanding of customer’s attitudes and behaviors and how to connect them to the benefits of their brand. They also need to understand how their customer accesses information and engages the brand through other channels, and change their approach accordingly.


So what is the purpose of multichannel marketing efforts? Shouldn’t they be to support HCP access and learning in a way that is preferred by our customers? Some prefer the personal touch in the office or at conferences, others prefer selfstudy, and still others may want to engage through webinars, e-details, etc., preferences that are important to ensure a solid breadth of program tactics to support these connections.

Successful PRM programs are architected to be a reciprocal, contextual, and successive experience for our targets (See Figure 1). We need to clearly establish:

The value of these interactions for our audience.

Offerings for who the audience is and what they are interested in.

An acknowledgement of past interactions and selections by our audience.

With the advent of tablet detail aids, the sales rep can be brought solidly into the fold. Tablet devices (such as iPads) can provide marketers with rich insight into rep/HCP engagements like never before, and at the same time provide the representative with insight into customer/brand engagements. In the past, these engagements existed independently from each other with the sales department directing rep engagement and marketers directing non-personal engagement, with one element always being outside the purview of the other. These days, sales and marketing can work even more closely to ensure customer’s needs are addressed in a seamless manner.


Today’s HCPs are still willing to provide brands and sales reps with access and time. But pharma marketers have to recognize such access is conditional on value. HCPs expect reps to present disease, science and treatment expertise that exceed their own. They desire a consultative partnership approach focused on patient education and outcomes. They want reps to understand them and their practice/ institution, and what they need. They are no more willing to invite a rep into their practice who is going to hard sell them on a brand than they are to sign up for a program in which they’ll receive endless brand communications that are only going to push brand benefits.

Pharma reps and marketers need to use these deep customer insights not only when developing campaigns and messages, but when they build tactical plans (See Figure 2). Engagement that connects customers to a brand when, where, and how they desire it, with an understanding of who they are, what they want, and why they’ve engaged with us previously, can truly connect customers to what matters and enhance both business and health outcomes.





  • Karl Tiedeman

    Karl Tiedemann, a Partner at Rosetta, has more than 15 years experience providing strategic account leadership for top pharmaceutical and healthcare clients. He has partnered with clients to deliver insightful brand plans, award-winning creative and high-impact programs. Rosetta is a consulting-centric interactive agency that is focused on helping clients make their brands more personally relevant across the connected world.


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