Many survey respondents mentioned that changes in the compliance regulations resulted in a more "balanced playing field" and
eliminated unfair competition. The best products rise to the top and get prescribed, regardless of a company's ability to
spend dollars to entertain/inform physicians. The new regulatory environment keeps the focus on the product and the disease,
not on the venue. It puts the emphasis of lunch programs on the clinical and scientific content, not the entertainment value.
Promotional budgets vary widely—from $10,000 to $50 million per year among this group of respondents. Fully a third of those
surveyed said their company spent less than $500,000 per year on promotional meetings. But regardless of the amount of money
in the promotional budget, respondents seemed to have a strong preference for smaller, in-person meetings. Two thirds preferred
in-person gatherings, and nearly as many opted for in-person meetings. Nine of ten respondents said the money was well-accounted-for
by mandatory compliance procedures: Their companies tracked the incentives and honoraria paid to attendees.
In addition, many respondents hoped compliance regulations could improve outsiders' perceptions of the industry by removing
the "kickback stigma" associated with luxury entertainment. By improving the perception of the industry, pharma would develop
more appropriate customer interactions. Regulations are good for the industry, if all companies follow them. But some respondents
complained that new regulations have decreased the educational value of some programs. Physicians are looking for cutting-edge
information and clinical updates. But the new regulations create too many new hoops to jump through. The end result: Information
is out of date by the time it is approved for use. The regulations also force companies to dedicate additional manpower to
compliance and to rein in sales people, who become timid when interacting with targets. For this reason, some product information
does not get conveyed for fear of breaking promotional guidelines. It is harder for representatives to build rapport or even
get access to key physicians.
Most companies appear to be taking compliance seriously. Two out of three say that pharma strictly follows the new guidelines.
Many report that dedicated compliance departments, officers, or legal staff handle compliance requests at their company. Companies
report an average of 24 compliance requests in the past year. Six of 10 were from states; the others were issued by federal
agencies. A few companies received most of these requests. Half of the respondents said their companies received fewer than
nine compliance requests; just over a quarter received 10 to 20 requests; the remaining companies received more than 20 apiece.
Attracting a Better Audience
Compare your ideal audience with your "typical" audience—are they the same? Conduct research among members of your ideal audience;
learn what they want/expect from professional meetings; find out what meeting forums/topics they prefer; ask questions, such
as preferences for format/frequency/timing of meetings, etc. Don't rely on guesswork, untested assumptions, or the individual
opinions of your sales reps or other team members. Do the research.