Physician Marketing, meet CRM

File under: Relationship Marketing

A lot of ink has been spilled on the decline of the blockbuster and the search for a new specialty-product commercial model. But less attention has been paid to how that changes physician marketing strategy.

In the traditional PCP blockbuster model, promotional saturation was effective. The medical claim could be simple and the sales message clever. It didn’t matter if marketing tactics existed in their own silos with little or no coordination. Whether it was a leading statin or ED product, there was strong consumer demand and the marketing strategy could be share of voice.

In today’s specialty market, these old assumptions are just plain wrong. Not only is the target audience smaller, the buying criteria are more sophisticated. Writing a $15,000 oncology regimen is different from writing a monthly $150 PPI script.

To address this paradigm shift from a marketing perspective, the first necessary change is to move from a product focus to a user focus, with key messages evolving from product features to user needs. Done right, this will mean a profound transformation from a single detail verbatim and media plan to a more complex set of messages and coordinated channels that are tuned to the needs of individual specialists. Done well, the brand will create an ecosystem of communication that surrounds the physician with targeted, responsive and relevant information.  This is true physician CRM.

In the blockbuster age, it was acceptable to allow agencies and list vendors to own and manage physician databases on behalf of pharma. It was easy to order up a mail drop or e-mail campaign. But in today’s increasingly competitive environment, having one’s own physician database is a key strategic brand asset.

Even as senior executives consider long-term product portfolio decisions, brand teams can create tremendous corporate value by investing in building their own physician insight databases. As a practical matter, this doesn’t require a major IT investment. An experienced agency partner can support physician CRM and all the technical requirements. What is important is that the brand team becomes very clear about who owns the data and how they will be used exclusively to benefit the brand.

So what does a physician CRM road map look like?

A pragmatic way to start investing in physician CRM begins with three steps.

1. The first step is to begin collecting data on physician interactions from a brand’s various agencies, ensuring that the data are identifiable and attributable at the specific physician level, and then to pull these data into a single physician database to provide a full and comprehensive view of all physician touchpoints. This process ultimately will be automated, but in the beginning it can be done with simple data transfers.

2. The second step is to analyze this new data set and segment physicians by message and tactic response to reveal their individual engagement levels. This will show us where we are “overinvesting” and “underinvesting.”

3. The third and ultimate step is to actually use this intelligence to make better marketing decisions about how to deploy resources in a more effective and respectful way.

In a world of resource constraints and changing market dynamics, physician CRM gives us the tools to design a physician marketing strategy based on user needs and preferences and then to create the most compelling and relevant promotional messages for the greatest business impact.

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