Marketing to Professionals: No Sales Force, No Problem - Pharmaceutical Executive


Marketing to Professionals: No Sales Force, No Problem
Pharma companies turn to direct-mail marketing tactics to boost sales for older drugs

Pharmaceutical Executive

"We knew we had to start with dimensional and end with dimensional," says Rosenblatt. He likens the strategy to hearing the specials in a restaurant. "More often that not, you remember the first and last items a waiter reads. This is very similar to how agencies send direct mail. Agencies must support the large-size mailers with flat mail in the middle of a direct-mail campaign, because usually there's a limited budget. You can't make all your mailings dimensional."

The poster illustrated all the triggers, such as trees and storms, that can set off an asthma attack and how Intal can help overcome them. The agency incorporated vibrant colors to evoke air and water and clarity. "The poster really stands out in stark contrast to all the competitive advertisements on a doctor's waiting room wall," Rosenblatt says.

After two smaller, follow-up mailings, which included paperwork redeemable for samples, Harte-Hanks polished off the campaign with an unusual twist. The agency delivered to targeted physicians a brochure attached to a large pillow pack—a puffed envelope for fragile materials. The package included a live bamboo plant that the physician could hang in his or her office. It was labeled—of course—with the Intal inhaler logo. "We don't want physicians to just raise their hand and get samples—we're out for share of mind," Rosenblatt says. "We wanted the Intal Inhaler to be everywhere, even after the package is discarded." The bamboo plant did the trick.

According to Harte-Hanks, as of May 2005, the campaign achieved a 24.4 percent response rate for sample requests from its primary targets: allergists and pulmonologists. Overall, the campaign generated a total response to mailings of 11 percent. The response rate for sample reorders is approximately 34 percent, and it continues to build.

Tactics that Work

Harte-Hanks isn't the only agency considering alternative tactics to market drugs to physicians. Other brand teams are using dimensional packaging and online resources to bolster sales for older drugs and to support sales calls.

"In scenarios where there isn't the budget for a sales force or for high-level bells and whistles marketing, you have to use very aggressive business-to-business direct marketing," explains Chrysanthe Georges, president of Georges Marketing. "Your lead medium can be direct mail, but it has to be high-impact direct mail. The pharmaceutical company must be willing to spend some money to break through the clutter."

Risa Bernstein, co-president of FlashPoint Medica, recommends that agencies bring thought leaders to doctors and prescribers through face-to-face Web casts. New computers from Apple and Sony come standard with pinhole-size cameras that allow doctors and reps to communicate visually while using instant messanging. "These are augmented sales opportunities, where it's not a live salesperson, but you are getting all the benefits of an interactive conversation for way less money than a sales visit," Bernstein says.

Kathy Magnuson, managing director of Brand Pharm, believes that there will soon be fewer sales reps calling on physicians, so finding media that are as effective at conveying the message as the sales force will be important. "But that means that we, as agencies and marketing teams for the brands, must make sure that we are capitalizing on the media and not just sending a bunch of stuff."

The holy grail is getting doctors to tell the drug companies what media they best respond to. Though it may be cheaper than using a sales force, sending direct-mail pieces won't be effective if the physicians don't care. "Targeting the right doctors requires market research, CRM programs, and understanding who your existing customers are to begin with," Magnuson says.

"When you really think about the cost of a sales call being between $150 and $600 a visit—even if you use a conservative figure of $175—it does stimulate companies to think about using other kinds of tactics to market to doctors," Bernstein says. Companies are now looking to cut cost structure out of their sales forces, and there is pressure on the sales reps. Companies are asking their agencies to think about new models for non–sales force marketing.


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