Marketing to Professionals: Detailing

Attention to Details: The detail piece is a powerful sales tool when utilized and tested properly.
Nov 01, 2005

Mike Luby
The detail piece could be pharma's most powerful sales tool. Used to assist in communicating a product's features and benefits to physicians, the detail piece is a sales aid that reps carry along on their sales calls—and an opportunity for marketers to influence physicians' prescribing behavior. Yet, the development of this critical sales tool often is handled with less rigor than one might expect. Only one out of every three sales reps actually uses the detail piece during a physician meeting. Often, sales teams don't use the piece because they don't have confidence in the work done by marketing in developing it. Marketing counters that reps simply don't know how to use it. This disconnect causes a considerable loss of energy, creates a vicious cycle of blame, and places the performance of the brand—and therefore the company—at great risk.

For sales reps to believe in the value of the detail piece, they need to see evidence that it's working. Currently, neither marketing nor sales tests the detail piece rigorously enough prior to introduction. While the typical brand invests more than $100 million in annual sales-force support, it spends less than $2 million on average to determine whether the detail piece is driving prescriptions. Some companies altogether fail to test the effectiveness of the detail piece during development because of limited budgets or time constraints. (Most pharma companies operate on a pre-determined promotion cycle that only allows for new detail pieces anywhere from two to four times per year.) Instead, companies often will settle for qualitative feedback among the same, small physician panel. This approach not only lacks statistical rigor, but also could lead to biased results that are not representative of the marketplace.

A New Way of Testing

To get an idea of how well the detail piece will perform, companies can do predictive modeling. In order to assess the effectiveness of a detail piece before it gets handed to sales reps, companies can build predictive models that utilize data collected from physician reactions to the tested detail piece. This data can then be analyzed against actual changes in prescribing once the detail piece is submitted to physicians. Historic data is used to create models that benchmark the underlying aspects of a detail piece to give marketers a sense of whether a detail piece will affect prescribing trends.

Before new detail pieces were introduced, predictive modeling indicated that the performance of Brand X would flourish while the performance of Brand Y would diminish as the detail pieces entered their respective markets. As predicted, market share performance (NRx) of two otherwise evenly matched, non-competitive brands moved in opposite directions, causing a near-term sales impact of +/-$10 to $30 million. source: TargetRx
First, it's important to evaluate the physician-sales rep interaction. This can be accomplished by surveying thousands of physicians about their interactions with sales reps, and inputting their feedback into a database. These answers then can be correlated to actual changes in prescribing. By benchmarking and analyzing all of the underlying aspects of a detail piece (e.g., appealing colors, appropriate images, compelling graphs and charts, useful text), as well as physician reactions to the detail piece (e.g., reps' persuasiveness, believability, and whether the messages easily communicate the advantages of the product), companies can predict the performance of a new detail piece with confidence.

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