Promotional content has reached critical mass for HCPs, the time has come for Pharma to be more intentional

• “70% of HCPs feel Sales Reps do not completely understand their needs”

• “62% of HCPs are overwhelmed by product-related promotional content they receive from drugmakers”

These two stats, found in a report by Digitally Savvy HCP,  are framed as a marketing problem by FiercePharma contributor Ben Adams – “Pharma marketers don’t understand what healthcare professionals need – and, worse, they’re overwhelming doctors with drug promos at the expense of more tailored content.”

This take is partially misleading. As someone who works closely with marketers, I have seen firsthand that a metric ton of well-intended research goes into understanding what HCPs need. Huge investments are made in pursuit of developing high-impact messages that articulate how products satisfy unmet clinical needs, drive awareness for small and overlooked patient populations dealing with rare diseases and provide clinical education for less-understood disease states.

Understanding content overload

So, what is the problem? I would submit the issue is not WHAT drug companies choose to share, it is HOW they choose to share it, creating a two-fold challenge for HCPs. First, is the sheer volume of content from any one manufacturer – beginning with market preparation content and interactions with reps, then after approval, full-blown commercial promotion. Second – and zooming out – is that all pharma companies are doing the exact same thing, increasing the amount of information pushed to HCPs by an order of magnitude.

The digital dilemma  

An easy way to picture this problem is to consider the smartphone in your pocket. There are more than 80 apps on an average phone, but only 9 are used daily and about 30 apps are used in a month. How many apps are on your phone? How many do you actually use? How many messages do you get from third parties while on the apps you use the most? Now imagine if you did not get to choose the apps you use, or the type and number of notifications you received from them, everything you did required a separate app, and the ringer is always on.

This is exactly the type of noise HCPs experience as countless pharma brands vie for their attention, not only digitally, but also in person—a recent survey revealed that the average HCP is contacted by 7.5 pharma brands a day across live and digital mediums, including weekends, and for a specialist these numbers can more than double.  

Let’s reconsider the stats presented earlier in this new context:

“70% of HCPs feel Sales Reps do not completely understand their needs”

This is not necessarily a marketing problem, but rather Sales Reps may not have the guidance, skills, or autonomy to first, take the time to understand where HCPs are in the sales cycle and second, deploy the right marketing piece at the right time. While Sales & Marketing work diligently to push out exciting new data - and we are all guilty of focusing on the "shiny new toy," timing and delivery of that information is essential -- if the HCP is not primed for it, that is an interaction wasted.

“62% of HCPs are overwhelmed by product-related promotional content they receive from drugmakers”

Promotional content is valuable, but it is no longer the currency it once was. As the opportunities for connecting with customers increase so does the volume of digital noise, driving down the likelihood of making meaningful connections. Decluttering communications by only delivering high value information at the right time, in the right way is the key to reaching customers in and outside of healthcare. Because of this exponential content proliferation, simplifying and tailoring messages to an individual HCP becomes an invaluable skill for a field rep. We’ve all heard tech is a “double-edged sword” and the adage “less is more” – both are undeniably true in this case.

A targeted and unified approach

Taken together, these two stats reveal a strong opportunity for pharma marketers (and Sales, Market Access, and Training) to unify their approach to engagement, streamline messaging, and take targeting to the next level. Sales Specialists not only need unprecedented levels of highly localized prescriber information, but the data-science skills to use this information to customize each customer experience across live, virtual, and digital channels. This is a tall order, but will no doubt set apart a Rep, a Brand, and an Enterprise from the rest in the mind of an HCP.

Questions to Consider

• How integrated are Marketing, Sales, and Training strategies for your pharma brand?

• To what degree are you considering your customers' needs in developing your engagement tactics - outside of content?

• Are you re-thinking the roles, responsibilities, and skills of Sales Reps to match customer expectations?

It is estimated that there are over 170 thousand pharmaceutical sales representatives engaging over a million professionally active physicians in the US. Right-skilling and developing capabilities are one component of an existential challenge in the world of Talent today, and the need for pharma companies to break through the digital noise will only grow.

Stephen Moulton, Partner

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