The Self-Fueling Marketing Machine

Dec 01, 2008
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Dave Ormesher
With the number of e-marketing campaigns currently being conducted, it's a wonder that pharmaceutical marketers are still scratching their heads about how to acquire viable data. The power is literally in their hands. Invaluable marketing data can be had simply by knowing what you're looking for, how to ask for it, and working with the right provider. Creating a self-fueling machine that produces data—which steers the marketing channel and in turn produces more data—represents the necessary evolution for the survival of pharmaceutical e-marketing.

Choking to Death

There are two types of e-marketing: transactional and relational. Transactional e-marketing is focused on short-term results, and looks for low-hanging fruit. It works well as a promotional tool for retail commodities (think Amazon pre-orders) or general broadcast announcements. Tagged as "batch and blast" campaigns, recipients are faceless database records used to meet volume and frequency goals. Targeting and messaging are based on generalized assumptions distilled from aggregated focus group results and market research. Transactional marketing uses a lowest-common-denominator approach, rather than a targeted message strategy, to reach as many customers as possible. Data gleaned from this is rudimentary, at best. But, unfortunately, that's all that many marketers expect from their campaigns.

Frank Leontis is a marketing manager for a large, New Jersey–based pharmaceutical company and a regular speaker at e-marketing conferences. He has a history of recognizing and supporting marketing innovations, and knows the current benchmarks all too well. Just as the pharmaceutical industry is beginning to seriously rethink the traditional field sales force model and look for alternative, non-personal channels, Leontis is reviewing data that shows that the average Web user receives 70 spam messages a day. Additionally, 69 percent of recipients report email as spam-based solely on the subject line, and 30 percent of subscribers change email addresses annually.

Leontis is rightfully concerned that the industry's reliance on transactional campaigns is choking it to death. How can a pharmaceutical product marketing team expect to build a business on such a fickle online channel? There's another way.

Something's Gotta Give

Relationship marketing is based on the rules of reciprocity, in which there is a two-way, balanced value interchange that yields information as well as imparting messages. Relational email marketing allows the marketer to identify, differentiate, interact, and customize, using the channel as a way to listen, learn, and respond in ways that are both relevant and value-driven. It takes traditional market research as a starting point, and then layers email interactions as opportunities to refine the research at the level of the individual customer. Asking insightful questions gets to the heart of a customer's need, allowing marketers to sharpen their interactions and focus their messaging.

To think about email marketing as a market research channel requires rethinking both activities. It means broadening the definition of email marketing, using it more as a social networking tool than as a direct marketing tool. It also means opening the constraints on valid market research by capturing and analyzing response data as a way to improve individual interactions and provide tailored value.

At the heart of a relational email marketing campaign is the database. Campaigns can be run using an in-house database, or more often, a third party service provider. The key to success, however, is building a marketing model to capture everything and consider every piece of data as an asset: it's not enough to get typical reach and frequency reports (deliverability, opens, and click-throughs). Relationship marketing collects data from the email campaign at the individual level and allows for analysis at the individual level. Here's an example of how it works.

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