Rick Mann, MarketBridge

Nov 03, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Rick Mann
DUE TO THE past successes of the feet-on-the-street model, the pharmaceutical industry has been slow to transform its go-to-market model and adopt a more multichannel approach. Engineering such a transformation not only requires deep pharma industry expertise, but also extensive knowledge of the relationship between sales and marketing organizations. The full integration of marketing and sales—plus the ability to design, build, and manage cost-effective multichannel go-to-market programs—is the key to achieving growth in this industry.

One of the trends currently sweeping the industry is the reduction of direct sales representatives, the number one selling channel for pharmaceutical companies. Reducing the size of the field sales force reduces cost, but creates coverage gaps, which are a big threat to achieving target-reach, frequency, and revenue goals. To close these gaps, pharma must implement coverage via alternative channels, such as the Web, telesales, e-mail, online events, and others. However, using these alternative channels to fill the coverage gaps yields a new set of challenges. Such as:

  • The inability to manage coverage at the granular level in the sales rep activity, and messaging at the zip code, drug, and individual-physician level. Given the above shift to alternative channels, and lack of data from outsourced providers (as well as undisciplined in-sourced approaches), management has no basis to evaluate how well alternative channels provide coverage of targeted physicians, deciles, and geographic regions. The current shotgun approach puts management in a position with limited control and accountability, and no ability to rationally "turn up" or "turn down" the dial.
  • No basis for marginal ROI or trade-offs across channels. In the rep model, there was one channel, and any effects on trended script volume in a region were (correctly or incorrectly) attributed to rep activity. That was the model. Today, with so many alternative channels, it's very unclear which channel is having what effects on regional script volume. Not only are there numerous alternative channels available to pharma companies, but there is a lack of clarity as to where to focus alternative channel activity (influencing patients versus influencing physicians) for particular drugs.
  • Oversimplified business objectives around script volume limit multichannel effectiveness The reality of the prescribing process is that it consists of multiple stages: from awareness, to consideration, to product testing, to brand loyalty. Campaigns and programs must be targeted to different audiences, with specific objectives carrying differing yield expectations. The aggregate metric of script volume must be disaggregated into separate components, each of which must be targeted with a mix of tactics to best address the individual objectives. Ultimately, this will help management better understand where to spend its next (or last) dollar on sales and marketing.
  • New model risks losing the relationship management process. The sales rep model has the benefit of an inherent relationship-management discipline with physicians. Alternative channels, especially those that are completely outsourced, risk eliminating the concept of relationship management. No connection between channels and tactics exists, and there's no view into the total touches or customer preference for interactions. Enabling alternative channels via a true CRM approach will be critical to taking advantage of the power a multichannel model has to offer.


We believe that much of the pharmaceutical industry has yet to come to grips with the market changes and economic realities it now faces. The traditional "Everything to Everyone, Everywhere" selling model is simply not sufficient in today's environment. In response, companies need to innovate their marketing and sales disciplines.

Companies that reduce their sales forces without proper forecasting and analytics, or any real understanding of how to recoup lost sales coverage, risk losing out to competiton with alternative-channel coverage strategies. to


MarketBridge is a global professional services firm focused solely on sales and marketing effectiveness. Founded in 1992, MarketBridge has led go-to-market strategies and operational transformations, and managed in-market programs, for Fortune 500 companies.

lorem ipsum