Medical Education: Surround Sound Marketing

Look to product promotion tactics to increase share of voice.
Nov 01, 2004

The main thing that clients ask us these days is how to increase share of voice for their medical education activities among healthcare professionals. After all, a host of companies are out there with competing programs, vying for physicians' attention and trying to increase the participation in and influence of their own activities.

Sharon Callahan
Most med ed companies can recite the ingredients of a successful program. Of course you need great speakers. Of course you need an innovative, engaging, and interactive program format. But we've all been in a room that was less than half full even though the program had cutting-edge presenters, an interesting agenda, and delicious food.

But what many people don't realize is that pharma executives should market their educational programs like they market their product brands. This article discusses the med ed marketing mix and identifies some new tactics for getting your program noticed.

Marketing Mix Companies used to promote their med ed programs by sending invitations to doctors through reps or in the mail. But times have changed. There is now an entire universe of ways to reach healthcare professionals with announcements about educational activities.

If marketers look to the product promotion happening at their companies, they'll see that most of the successful campaigns are fueled by an elegantly designed marketing mix. Pharmaceutical product teams divide spending across a range of media channels that make sense for their audience, and brand managers spend ample amounts of time and resources ensuring that the mix maximizes their messages, reach, and branding, and also minimizes costs.

Kathleen Ingalls
In the same way, companies also need a carefully designed marketing mix for their med ed promotion. They should approach it using "surround sound" marketing strategy.

The premise of such a strategy is simple: Companies must give their events presence in the target audience's mind by surrounding them with segmented messages that drive awareness. Those initiatives are best established through an integrated multimedia program that pushes physicians toward the web to learn more about the event and have a chance to interact with the information.

Here are some tips for companies interested in creating that level of awareness.

Be collaborative. Buy or barter banner ads on websites of shared interest. For instance, as a value add for physicians, Summit Grey drove traffic from the registration site of a med ed program to a page on a specialty society's website that hosted online clinical tools. In exchange for the site traffic generated, the society was happy to post a continuing medical education symposium announcement on its website and send an e-mail invitation to their members.

Gisela Paulsen
Leverage each vehicle's attributes. Use the communications channels that work best, but consider delivering the same message in different ways to increase impact. Try e-mail blasts to potential attendees using multiple vendors and e-mail lists (and a different interactive and engaging e-mail every time you send them).

Get customer feedback. Make sure each marketing piece promoting the educational event has a feedback mechanism. That allows healthcare professionals to ask questions and express insights on what they want or don't want in upcoming medical education programs.

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