Direct to Consumer: One Size Fits You

February 1, 2007

Pharmaceutical Executive

Volume 0, Issue 0

Pharma companies have been blasting out electronic newsletters to consumers since the advent of new media. But far too often, the content is vague and redundant, and instead of striking a responsive chord with potential readers, e-mail campaigns are more likely to prompt a strike of the delete key.

Pharma companies have been blasting out electronic newsletters to consumers since the advent of new media. But far too often, the content is vague and redundant, and instead of striking a responsive chord with potential readers, e-mail campaigns are more likely to prompt a strike of the delete key.

Daniella Koren

Healthcare content cannot be delivered via "batch and blast" e-mail, sent out as a one-off to everyone in the database—no matter what their demographic, or however old their e-mail address. Effective marketing should be far more personal and tied to individual factors and needs—the specific disease state, what's going on with the patient's treatment, and what his or her attitude is toward healthcare. To accomplish this goal, marketers must progress toward a permission-based one-to-one communication strategy that is segmented on the basis of consumer need.

Segmentation Is Key

One of the best ways to do this is to move from a one-size-fits-all newsletter/e-mail approach to a more modular method of constructing campaigns. This technique helps tailor information to an individual reader's needs or level of product/disease-state knowledge.

To do this, marketers must first decide on the anchor messages for the campaign—whether they will focus on product efficacy, safety, or disease state. Foundation messages are important regardless of the reader's knowledge or stage of disease progression.

Can the spam

Once the overarching strategy and anchor messages are established, marketers can create modules, or custom content, that can be swapped in and out of an e-mail, depending on a reader's demographic, status, or attitude. Modules can range from sidebars with specific tips, to graphics that match the age, sex, or race of a particular demographic.

To create distinct segments, marketers must ask precise questions when consumers opt into the program. The answers are then fed into software that employs segmentation logic. "If–then" scenarios are built into these systems, so that consumers don't have to answer too many questions during the opt-in process. Pharmaceutical marketers should ask no more than 12 questions, and should expect a minimum of 75 percent accuracy when bucketing consumer types, allowing the brand to target readers with more compelling healthcare information.

Tips for Creating

Behavioral data could include confirmation from users as to whether they are undiagnosed, diagnosed, on treatment, not on treatment, or on a competitive therapy. Marketers also can ask attitude-based questions that return answers such as, "I trust what my doctor says every time he recommends something" or "I like to read 10 different reference articles before I decide to go on a treatment." These varying healthcare management attitudes should direct the content that is delivered, and will ultimately motivate a consumer to take the action desired.

Not All Women Are the Same

One pharmaceutical company has already taken advantage of some of these elements in a sponsored health education e-mail campaign. This informational program supports patients who have been diagnosed with certain women's health issues, such as a gynecological disorder with symptoms including chronic pelvic pain.

The goal of this program is to help women talk more frankly with their physicians about the pain they're experiencing. Normally, when a woman sees her doctor, she often just says, "Oh, I'm crampy." She doesn't know how to articulate the pain and how it affects her life, her work, and her relationships.

To opt into the e-mail program, the consumer answers a series of questions. These queries help to uncover the reader's approach to managing her symptoms. The program is able to differentiate women with varying attitudes toward managing their health. Based on how she answers the questions, a series of informational e-mail messages are sent to the respondent and are customized to address the readers' diverse views.

The company has received a plethora of positive feedback, such as, "Without this program, I never would have understood this condition, [and never] would have had a productive dialogue with my doctor without the e-mails that you sent to me."

E-mail marketing is an opportunity to build stronger relationships between pharma companies and consumers. If done correctly, a blend of relevant content delivered over time and segmented to the appropriate consumers does more good than hitting everyone over the head with a two-second product ad.

Daniella Koren is president of DKI Direct. She can be reached at dkoren@dkidirect.com