Detailing Gets Personal

Integrated segmentation may be pharma's key to "repersonalizing" the selling process.
Aug 01, 2003

As pharma sales forces grow and their productivity declines, the question on everyone's mind is, "Has the traditional detail lost its punch?" The answer is unequivocally no. The sales force is still the best medium for forging valued and trusted relationships with targeted physicians. But industry's current focus on volumetric measures-the high number of sales reps and frequency of sales calls-rather than the effectiveness of those calls is causing a growing number of doctors to close their doors against detailers.

Reversing that trend requires a "repersonalization" of the selling process. Integrated physician segmentation, a predictive model that allows pharma companies to better target doctors and make each interaction more valuable to them, aims to do that by understanding and satisfying individual doctors' needs.

Instead of categorizing-and targeting-physicians by the volume of prescriptions they write, integrated segmentation analyzes individual prescribing behaviors, demographics, and psychographics (attitudes, beliefs, and values) to fine-tune sales targets. For a particular product, for example, one segment might consist of price-sensitive physicians, another might include doctors loyal to a given manufacturer's brand, and a third may include those unfriendly toward reps.

This article shows how pharma companies can capitalize on integrated segmentation by creating and implementing more personalized brand messages and strategies that resonate more strongly with targeted physicians, leading to more positive doctor rep interactions and increased access.

The Psyche In other industries such as automotive and finance, integrated segmentation has a proven track record. Whether it's BMW seeking prospects who value driving performance, Volvo pursuing the safety-minded, or Mercedes looking for "prestige" buyers, those companies use psychographic knowledge as a marketing mainstay.

Integrated segmentation can drive more effective pharma marketing and sales strategies in the same way. Some pharma companies, like Atlanta-based UCB Pharma, have already bought in.

UCB recently worked on an integrated segmentation project for its anti-epileptic drug Keppra (levetiracetam) and now plans to launch the program throughout the company. (See "UCB's Pilot Project," page 68.)

Steve Banet, UCB Pharma's director of market research, says, "This program enables our reps to customize their approach to physicians, providing greater value and better meeting their needs. I expect continued success as we roll this out throughout UCB."

It's a Process There are four steps to designing and implementing integrated segmentation strategies: discovery, design, analysis, and application. (See "Segmenting, Step by Step.")

Before beginning, pharma companies must explain the project's objectives to all key internal stakeholders from marketing, sales, and sales training. In the initial phase of discovery, those stakeholders help companies, and the consultants they hire, assess the product environment, set goals, identify problem areas, and determine the project's scope. (See "Checklist for Success," page 70.)

The second phase, design, defines the project. At that stage, companies employ diverse data sources and analytic techniques to determine how to accurately allocate market and sales strategies for targeted brands. The necessary data include physicians' prescribing behaviors, demographics, attitudes-such as how they feel about managed care-values, and lifestyle factors that may affect their prescribing activity.

Executives then compile secondary research, such as de-identified longitudinal patient measures that provide insights into physicians' behavior relative to switching, titration, new therapy starts, new patient starts, and concomitant therapies as well as more traditional research, such as physician prescribing and overall promotional data, to create a complete understanding of physicians. The more extensive the knowledge and data that companies factor into the front end of the integrated segmentation process, the more accurate the predictive modeling will be.

Much of the secondary research and demographic information companies use in that phase already exist, and it can be drawn from current databases. However, pharma companies can survey a sample of physicians to collect additional details about their attitudes, values, and lifestyles. The survey might include, but is not limited to, physicians'

  • approach to patient treatment (specific to disease state)
  • clinical concerns such as efficacy, safety, side effects, and drug interactions
  • ease of titration
  • formulation preference
  • cost sensitivity
  • brand sensitivity
  • conservatism versus willingness to try new things
  • degree of technological savvy
  • reliance on sales reps for information
  • social skills
  • association of products with key attributes.

Because the results and the ensuing interpretation are only as good as the quality of the initial survey, prior input from all internal stakeholders and pre-testing the questionnaire with doctors to fine-tune it are critical. It is a good idea to survey several hundred physicians, including some who prescribe the company's product and others who do not.

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