Communicating Effectively Through Intermediaries
In an industry that relies on intermediaries to convey finely tuned product messages, the distance between the brand team
and the actual patient conversation can seem like a million miles. Such is the case with a physician and patient, where the
conversation about symptoms and treatment options is critical to what brand—if any—is prescribed for treatment.
The ideal way to learn how a physician communicates with his or her patients about a specific therapy or condition would be
to observe the actual conversation as it happens organically in the doctor's office. Of course, the private and confidential
nature of those conversations typically prohibits such an observational approach, so brand teams often conduct separate research
with patients and physicians, relying on perceptions and recollections of how those conversations went.
When the research goal is to understand the complexities, challenges, and opportunities that occur during these important
conversations, a simulated conversation—known as a "dyad"—is an incredibly effective substitute. A carefully researched and
strategically designed dyad between a physician and a patient (though not actually that physician's patient) can reveal startlingly
real representations of actual conversations to reveal a genuine dialogue. Those representations deliver actionable insights
to empower and educate marketing and sales teams to better target and communicate both directly with physicians and, ultimately,
to patients through better communications and materials.
Through this observation, researchers can identify language that is effective—both from the physician's and patient's perspectives.
And by having a bird's eye view of these conversations, companies can gain valuable strategic insights around major messages
Diving Deeply Into Physicians' Behaviors
Sometimes a marketing research study uncovers issues that beg new questions. For example, as part of a physician survey last
year, one pharmaceutical company identified a cohort of physicians who had been detailed on a particular drug, but who had
not yet prescribed the drug to any of their patients. This revelation begged the question, "Why?"
The brand team needed quick insights into this challenging group of physicians. To that end researchers deployed a quick and
cost-effective series of deep-dive interviews to learn how to increase prescribing rates among this niche group of detailed
non-prescribers. Our client needed to understand what key issues were preventing three particular groups of physicians from
prescribing the new brand:
» Those who had been detailed but would not consider prescribing;
» Those who had been detailed, who would consider prescribing and, in fact, planned to prescribe; and
» Those who had been detailed, aren't completely opposed to prescribing the medicine, but have no plans to prescribe it.
Our client wanted to learn more about physician reactions to the detailing experience, and whether it was the detail or another
factor that was getting in the way of prescribing. Researchers had conversations with physicians from each of the three groups
to determine what additional information and/or messaging a sales representative could use to reach physicians more effectively,
or whether the problem was something other than the detail itself.
Researchers created a fast turnaround strategy for reconnecting with those physicians through highly specific, in-depth phone
interviews (IDIs) with trained moderators. Because the IDIs were limited to 15 minutes, physicians easily fit the interview
into their busy schedules, and researchers got them to quickly address the compelling issues with the brand.
In very little time and with modest cost—a fraction of traditional, full-scale qualitative research projects—researchers dug
deeper to reveal detailed information about the decision-making behavior of these key physicians. The physicians provided
an abundance of important and specific insights that are being used to revamp the tools and approach that detailers will use
with similar physicians in the future.
Using these approaches, you can help answer key strategic marketing questions, and by doing so shed light on areas that traditional
methods simply cannot reach. By understanding the real story, the reasoning, and emotions buried within decision-making processes, marketers can more effectively influence outcomes
and find new messages that resonate with, and address the needs, of target audiences.
Ellen Cabacungan and Bronwen Clark are Qualitative Research Managers at CMI. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org