Sales and Marketing: Where the Buck Stops - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Sales and Marketing: Where the Buck Stops
Pharma's ultimate customer is the employer—the guy who pays the health plan's bill. Here's what he wants to know about drugs. (It's not what you tell doctors.)


Pharmaceutical Executive


+ Meetings lack concrete objectives and clear messaging. While companies frequently call on employers, meetings often miss employer expectations by having no clear agenda. Employer executives block out their schedules to accommodate these meetings, but then discover there was no clear reason for the meeting. Several ERN participants said they receive conflicting or inconsistent messages from representatives of the same manufacturer when it comes to program support: "One representative assured me they'd support this program and then a different representative told me that was not possible," an ERN participant complained. "So, which is it?"

Despite these issues, employers see opportunities to build better relationships with pharma.

+ Educate employer staff. Supporting the employers' efforts to educate their staff regarding medical issues is the biggest opportunity for manufacturers when they seek to establish a relationship and serve unmet needs. Most staff people who make benefits decisions do not have medical backgrounds. They usually are human resource (HR) generalists who need help to understand the value of the purchase. A pharmaceutical manufacturer's expertise can help, if offered in an unbiased manner.

+ Provide more unbranded programs with easy access. Employers are confident that a pharma focus on a specific disease will benefit the pharmaceutical manufacturer while winning employer trust. Welcome contributions include material in electronic formats (Web sites, webcasts, CD-ROMs) or concise, ready-to-print articles that can be incorporated into a company's newsletter.

+ Consider cross-brand initiatives. To increase trust, manufacturers could work on initiatives that cross multiple brands and multiple manufacturers. This way, employers will feel less pressured by specific brand initiatives. Focusing on the disease state in general will still positively affect drug sales while not damaging relationships with employers. Examples of these initiatives include funding speakers or providing educational materials distributed to employees on specific diseases. If specific products are mentioned, all treatment options should be discussed.

+ Support national not-for-profits. Manufacturers could partner with national non-profit associations as well as non-profit business and health coalitions to focus on advocacy or treatment for a particular disease state. For example, several pharmaceutical companies partner with the American Diabetes Association to raise funds for diabetes research and awareness.

+ Work with employers on their data in your disease state. In reporting outcomes data, pharmaceutical manufacturers should focus on real-world data that reflect the employer's demographics instead of FDA approval data. Instead of trying to get data from employers, manufacturers should try to help employers use their own data effectively. One example of this would be a model in which employers could populate their own data to get results right away. Alternatively, manufacturers could provide employers with real-life scenarios and case studies so that employers can benchmark initiatives.

+ Work with employer coalitions. Pharmaceutical manufacturers can work through coalitions to ease into partnerships with employers. Many employers are unable to work directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers. Supporting coalitions will amortize the relationships over many employers.

At The Zitter Group, Melinda C. Haren is director of business content, Andy Pecora is vice president of operations, Eryn Feinsod is manager of leveraged tactics, and Mark Zitter is CEO. They can be reached at


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