Checking in on Non-Personal Promotion: A Q&A with Bridget Seay, epocrates' Executive Director of Customer Experience & Commercial Consulting

Pharmaceutical Executive reached out to Bridget Seay, epocrates' Executive Director of Customer Experience & Commercial Consulting to discuss the state of non-personal promotion (NPP). NPP has become increasingly important due to the minimization of person-to-person/sales rep-centric approaches to HCPs, but it's certainly not "non-personal".

Pharm Exec: How has the NPP landscape changed since the start of the pandemic and how will it continue to evolve?

Seay: Non-personal promotion (NPP) rapidly took on a greater importance within pharma marketing because the pandemic drastically reduced a pharma sales rep’s in-person access to healthcare providers. However, as we emerge into a post-pandemic world, the importance of NPP isn’t diminishing. Recent data from Accenture found that 43% of healthcare providers reported they’re currently restricting who can enter the office for professional reasons. Further, 28% of those with restrictions said they believe it is something they may implement permanently and another 44% said they would keep it “for the foreseeable future.”

While NPP will no doubt remain an important way to reach healthcare providers, it’s becoming an increasingly crowded space making it difficult for pharma companies to stand out. As this trend continues, we’ll see pharma marketers sharpen their focus on personalization within NPP efforts to drive success.

Why is incorporating thoughtful personalization into NPP pivotal in a crowded industry like pharma?

Thoughtful personalization in NPP efforts is pivotal because the goal isn’t just reaching the healthcare provider – it’s about making a memorable impact and driving sales. The message has to resonate with the healthcare provider, and to do this, pharma marketers must narrow personalization efforts down to the individual. This includes leveraging data on everything from specialty and occupation to the healthcare provider’s individual concerns. In fact, taking consumers’ behavioral insights into consideration can allow pharma companies to outperform competitors’ sales growth by as much as 85%.

The necessity for personalization in NPP efforts is even further underscored by the fact that a pharma rep’s reduced access directly impacts the ability to gauge a healthcare provider’s appetite for prescribing a particular drug. Marketing teams need to consider additional sources of data, even beyond carefully curated segmentation, to determine which content should be surfaced—and how it should be written—in a particular HCP’s journey.

How can pharma marketers best marry data, creative, and brand objectives to improve personalization in NPP?

As pharma marketers develop their content for NPP projects, they need to inform the creative process with relevant data. However, it’s a fine line to manage because they also can’t sacrifice their brand’s objectives for the sake of personalization. Take a patient savings message as an example. If a particular specialty audience segment doesn’t have a historically high engagement rate with content marketing campaigns that tout the value of patient savings, that doesn’t mean you should entirely disregard that selling point.

Instead, pharma marketers need to consider additional data sources to inform how to convey the key message while overcoming the obstacle of an audience that’s less than receptive to your message. Building upon the patient savings message example, maybe it’s the headline message that isn’t resonating with your target audience and crafting a successful headline could overcome that obstacle. Not every occupation or specialty responds the same way to marketing messaging. For example, according to the insights we’ve gathered at epocrates, the inclusion of first-person language such as “you” and “your” corresponds with higher message open rates with patient-centric primary care providers, while oncologists are more likely to engage with a message if the headline indicates clinical data will be presented. The key to successful personalized NPP marketing is supplementing a low-performing metric (a patient savings message in the example above) with a high-performing metric (a personalized headline) to help brands convey their key messages to all necessary audiences.

What are other ways to personalize content beyond things like provider specialty, occupation, and prescription-writing behavior?

The marketing considerations I’ve shared above can be considered evergreen tactics, but pharma marketers can take this a step further by considering a healthcare provider’s brand interest as it relates to current events, such as telemedicine offerings or how a drug may interact with COVID-19 treatments or vaccines.

This also means that pharma marketers should reconsider implementing messages that may have previously been dismissed as uninteresting or unvalued. Accenture recently evaluated what the key topics of interest were to healthcare providers in regard to pharma support since the start of the pandemic. More than half of healthcare providers expressed interest in digital patient education, information on how treatment options may change post-COVID-19, education on how to better treat patients remotely, and more.To construct a NPP content journey that truly resonates with individual healthcare providers, pharma marketers need to continually evolve their campaigns and integrate several data sources, a conventional storytelling structure, and outside factors, such as a pandemic.

How do you ensure NPP messaging is reaching the intended audience and giving companies a return on their investment?

In addition to professional PLD, we rigorously track all interactions that occur within the epocrates app, allowing us to craft a deep understanding of our individual users’ personas. We leverage these insights work hand in hand with our pharma partners to ensure messaging is tailored to the recipient. Our proprietary list management technology, built and maintained in-house, allows us to target down to the physician level and match against any pharmaceutical partner’s list. Clients receive, at a regular, consistent cadence, PLD data on campaign performance, allowing them to easily see the ROI for each campaign they deploy with us here at epocrates.

Non-Personal Promotion is an awful name for something that’s very effective. If you were to rename this type of advertising, what would you call it?

I could not agree more. I would actually take that statement one step further and say it contradicts what NPP truly means, which is of course, not in-person, not, non-personal. NPP is in fact incredibly personal. "Targeted Personal Promotion" feels far more accurate to me. The word "targeted" has an inherently digital affiliation in the advertising space, therefore the “not in-person” implication is easily inferred. The word "targeted" paired with the word "personal" makes the meaning of this tactic extremely straightforward.