We all recognize the leap of faith a brand manager must take to accept academic data and use it to make actionable changes.
Intellectual conjecture is not always as compelling as actual ROI data. In this case, however, two major studies exist that
evaluate actual physician adoption rates, changes in incremental revenue, and reductions in marketing spend.
The first, conducted by Puneet Manchanda (Associate Professor of Marketing, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan),
assessed the role of targeted communication and contagion (i.e., peer influence) in product adoption. Looking at changes in
NRx for 466 physicians, Manchanda notes "an 11 percent increase in the probability of adoption due to contagion over and above
the direct and immediate impact of the marketing effort." Further, calculating the correlated reduction in necessary detail
spend, the study concluded that with a "5 percent increase in adopters in month one, the firm can obtain a mean saving of
3 percent on detailing."
In assessing peer effects in physician prescription behavior, a second study, conducted by Harikesh Nair (Assistant Professor
of Marketing, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University), examined market survey data for 1,500 physicians and concluded
that "the average incremental revenue (dollar value) arising from the peer effect is 18.56 percent."
Promotional programs that offer the potential for an 11 percent increase in product adoption and a 19 percent increase in
incremental revenue make for an enticing value proposition. How then can brand managers increase their chances of success
when utilizing promotional peer-influence programs?
Ideal Peer-Influence Programs
Whether conducting dinner meetings, lunch-and-learns, or teleconferences, it is critical to design a format that enables maximal
peer interaction among professional equals. Some KOLs are exceptional speakers, and can juggle the dual roles of expert clinician
and moderator of discussion. However, most prefer and are better suited to the former role. The inclusion of a skilled moderator
can be invaluable in creating more active, engaging discussions. Some medical communications companies have developed a core
competency in moderator-led programs, and have developed seamless ways to combine KOL presentations with guided, active dialogue.
Additionally, the formats should be designed to enable discussions between HCPs who are professionally similar. Mixing specialties
or other healthcare providers (e.g., pharmacists, nurses, etc.) may sometimes offer value, but discussions will be more relevant
and persuasive if all attendees can relate to similar patient populations and diagnostic or treatment practices. To achieve
this homogeneity, brand managers can look to medical communications firms that demonstrate expertise in recruiting beyond
simple prioritization by decile.
Finally, peer-influence medical communications are just one major component of the promotional mix. Brand managers who can
leverage the synergies between tactics with pull-through programs, consistent messaging, and clear differentiation along with
peer-influence will inevitably improve the overall outcomes for their brand. After all, who can argue with what Aritotle knew
Scott Stoogenke is vice president of marketing for Informed Medical Communications and its subsidiaries, The Peer Group and
RxDialogue. He can be reached at email@example.com
How to implement a high-impact peer-influence program
The following suggestions provide a basic roadmap for helping you maximize the ROI of your medical communications programs.
Plan your program Understand your objectives. Define your goals based on the challenges facing your product, the key product messages you want
communicated, and the specific ways a peer-influence initiative will support your promotional mix.
Choose your medical communications partner wisely Select a supplier whose experience, infrastructure, and track record enable them to proactively customize solutions that
best meet the needs of your brand. Partners that already have established recruitment centers, robust HCP databases with behavioral/psychographic
information, large and dedicated moderator teams, comprehensive reporting/business analytics capabilities, breadth of offerings,
compliance-trained logistics staff, and experience managing the interactive dialogue of a peer-influence model will minimize
the learning curve and mitigate risk. It will also provide more immediate ROI for your brand.
Optimize a mix of medical communications programs An experienced supplier will be able to help you decide on the most appropriate mix of dinner programs, lunch-and-learns,
teleconferences, Web conferences, etc., based on the geographic diversity, recruitability, and specialties represented on
your target list, as well as the planned incorporation of specific KOLs. Specifically, look for MAPs (Moderator Advantage
Programs) that include a skilled moderator with or without a KOL speaker.
Recruit the right HCPs Allow enough time. Assuming your supplier has a large HCP database and established relationships, four to six weeks is typically
Ensure recruitment focuses on targeted HCPs Your target list is sacred, and should not be diluted by the full population of prescribers in the category. The success
of your program will be significantly improved if the attendees of your events are your targeted prescribers only, complemented
by office associates and non-prescribing influencers of your primary targets.
Choose a supplier proficient in multichannel recruitment Recognizing that HCPs respond differently to different formats (i.e., phone, e-mail, direct mail, fax), the supplier should
automatically offer a comprehensive recruitment campaign that includes all formats based on prior knowledge of specific HCP
Craft an enticing recruitment script The topic of the peer-influence events needs to be germane, credible, and applicable to an HCP's practice. Additionally,
establishing a conversational template that enables a relationship with the office gatekeeper will significantly improve recruitment.
Send confirmation notices to recruited HCPs Continued communication with recruited HCPs not only ensures they will attend the event, but also has been shown to increase
prescribing of the product before the event takes place.
Incorporate skilled moderators Moderators are not just facilitators. They are experts in both your therapeutic area and also in the group dynamics of peer-influence
meetings. They must work well with a KOL speaker, and they must be suited to engaging attendees in dialogue. Experienced moderators
are able to stimulate much greater peer influence during your event than that seen in a didactic presentation.
Engage attendees in lively, interactive dialogue Peer influence is maximized by engaging professionally similar HCPs in active discussion. Models have been developed that
successfully leverage the complement of a KOL and moderator, including a recently launched program that involves a moderator
and two KOLs (e.g., a PCP and specialist) addressing various perspectives of a clinical topic.
Ensure accurate, timely, informative reporting Experienced moderators are best equipped to provide proactive recommendations based on qualitative, quantitative data captured
at peer-influence events. Post-meeting reports often include specific attendance metrics, discussion topics, controversies
raised, resolutions, pre-and post-meeting survey comparisons.
Customize data reporting/business analytics to help your decisionmaking Certain suppliers are able to provide comprehensive reporting capabilities that include program metrics, recruitment updates,
attendance reports (categorized by specialty, geography, type of event), target list analyses, program investment summaries,
compliance reports, and much more. Work with your supplier to customize a dashboard and other reports that ensure accurate
decisions and faster course corrections.
Drive sustained impact through ongoing HCP communications To improve the likelihood of product adoption by attendees of a peer-influence event, reinforce your product's key messages
through ongoing communications with the attendees after the event. Enduring pull-through also serves to enhance your relationship
with your targets and stimulates further influential diffusion of information.