Everybody's talking about the importance of product lifecycle management to maximize peak sales. But doctors and patients have lifecycles of their own—they each move from awareness to adoption at different speeds. So how can pharma communicate to customers who are at different points in their relationship with a product? Three experts explain how it might work.
When product costs are in the tens of thousands of dollars per patient per year, there had better be a patient program attached to it. Significant revenue is lost when companies lose patients because they do not know how to properly administer their injections, or because of side effects that may, in fact, be manageable. Even expensive, comprehensive patient programs have been able to demonstrate positive return on investment.
Patient programs are implemented for three basic reasons:
1. We want patients to "start right" and "stay on" therapy.
2. A new competitor has entered the market, and we want to keep our patients loyal to our product.
3. For surgical implants, the patient program serves as a queue where patients transition from awareness/ interest of a product, to qualification for implant, and eventual conversion to a scheduled surgery/implant.
More recently developed patient programs engage the customer in two-way dialogue. Many programs employ nurse call centers. But some programs now go beyond one-way calls to include proactive nurse calls to patients. Again, although that's much more expensive, positive ROI can be demonstrated.
Tactics. These patients create a much higher need for companies to not only understand the patient lifecycle, but to develop innovative ways to cultivate its potential. To do that, companies should develop targeted marketing programs that demonstrate an understanding of the specific patient population and create outreach designed to meet their needs and increase compliance and persistency. Programs such as patient starter kits, patient retention programs, and patient-specific internet sites designed to relay easy-to-digest information are just some examples. These programs then need to be expanded so that they include feedback mechanisms—business reply cards, patient chat rooms, and newsletters—which foster relationships with patients and make them feel like they are active participants in their own healthcare.
Another way to maximize the patient lifecycle process is to assist in establishing or work with existing patient advocacy groups. Those organizations, particularly in specialty disease state areas, are instrumental in driving patient perceptions, physicians' opinions, and marketing programs based on well-documented needs. And advocacy groups are frequently in need of help—they are looking for additional resources from brochures, education materials, and physician guest speakers to financial support—that enables them to reach out to their members and your target audience.
Understanding the environment surrounding a specific drug and disease category will help pharma marketers in working with the consumer/patient lifecycle. Also, proper identification and segmentation of the patient population will assist in delivering the right program to the right patient, as well as programs that can move a consumer step-by-step along the lifecycle. Keeping all of this in mind will increase the opportunities for and expand the reach of any well-crafted campaign.
The long-term payoff of such an approach is having patients who understand the product and the disease, who talk positively about the product to others, and more important, stay on therapy. Including these initiatives to supplement other marketing efforts and ensure they are part of the overall strategic direction will further assure success with the programs.
Awareness. For medical professionals, acquiring awareness means establishing brand recognition using an appropriate mix of educational, personal, and non-personal marketing tactics—always with a call to action to help measure success. If the focus is on the consumer, providing disease awareness in tandem with brand awareness is a good first step. Establishing reach mechanisms in physician offices, pharmacies, and personal settings with a strong call to action will yield best results and help build a patient database. With such information, marketers can send potential patients product offers or content-rich newsletters about their disease.
Trial. Samples, patient kits, and vouchers assure awareness and help doctors institute trial with patients. They help them monitor and ensure a patient's success on the medication before writing a prescription and without a financial investment from the patient. Knowing that samples are available allows patients to tell their doctor, "I would like to try this medication." You can look at sampling as the start of a joint compliance program between the doctor and patient—where both work together to monitor results.
Usage and compliance. Now it's important for marketers to help physicians and patients turn trial into adoption and compliance. Marketers must focus on tactics that will facilitate the transition to usage (new Rx's) and help encourage and strengthen patient compliance (total Rx's).
Advocacy and loyalty. Now that target physicians and patients are using your brand, it is a great time to roll out marketing tactics that help turn a percentage of these users into advocates and loyalists. You want patients to tell others, "Hey, I'm using this drug. It's great. You should go to your doctor and see if it would work for you." And you want doctors to tell their peers, "My patients have been very successful on this medication."
Say it again. Marketers must continue to reinforce awareness by providing new, interesting, and timely information as a constant reminder of your brand.
Communication is key. Although we always hear about reach and frequency, it is important to take your audience lifecycle into consideration as it relates to the messages you are sending out. Because communication tactics should be different at each of the aforementioned stages, keep this is mind as you try to move your targets from one cycle to another. Your goal is to build advocates and loyalists and to do this you must ensure that your messaging is targeted, clear, and disseminated on a regular basis.
Supply Chain Strategy: Managing risk and opportunity in a changing global landscape