Marketing to Professionals: Detailing

Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-11-01-2005, Volume 0, Issue 0

While the typical brand invests more than $100 million in annual sales force support, it spends on average less than $2 million to determine whether the detail piece is driving prescriptions.

The detail piece could be pharma's most powerful sales tool. Used to assist in communicating a product's features and benefits to physicians, the detail piece is a sales aid that reps carry along on their sales calls—and an opportunity for marketers to influence physicians' prescribing behavior. Yet, the development of this critical sales tool often is handled with less rigor than one might expect. Only one out of every three sales reps actually uses the detail piece during a physician meeting. Often, sales teams don't use the piece because they don't have confidence in the work done by marketing in developing it. Marketing counters that reps simply don't know how to use it. This disconnect causes a considerable loss of energy, creates a vicious cycle of blame, and places the performance of the brand—and therefore the company—at great risk.

Mike Luby

For sales reps to believe in the value of the detail piece, they need to see evidence that it's working. Currently, neither marketing nor sales tests the detail piece rigorously enough prior to introduction. While the typical brand invests more than $100 million in annual sales-force support, it spends less than $2 million on average to determine whether the detail piece is driving prescriptions. Some companies altogether fail to test the effectiveness of the detail piece during development because of limited budgets or time constraints. (Most pharma companies operate on a pre-determined promotion cycle that only allows for new detail pieces anywhere from two to four times per year.) Instead, companies often will settle for qualitative feedback among the same, small physician panel. This approach not only lacks statistical rigor, but also could lead to biased results that are not representative of the marketplace.

A New Way of Testing

To get an idea of how well the detail piece will perform, companies can do predictive modeling. In order to assess the effectiveness of a detail piece before it gets handed to sales reps, companies can build predictive models that utilize data collected from physician reactions to the tested detail piece. This data can then be analyzed against actual changes in prescribing once the detail piece is submitted to physicians. Historic data is used to create models that benchmark the underlying aspects of a detail piece to give marketers a sense of whether a detail piece will affect prescribing trends.

First, it's important to evaluate the physician-sales rep interaction. This can be accomplished by surveying thousands of physicians about their interactions with sales reps, and inputting their feedback into a database. These answers then can be correlated to actual changes in prescribing. By benchmarking and analyzing all of the underlying aspects of a detail piece (e.g., appealing colors, appropriate images, compelling graphs and charts, useful text), as well as physician reactions to the detail piece (e.g., reps' persuasiveness, believability, and whether the messages easily communicate the advantages of the product), companies can predict the performance of a new detail piece with confidence.

Before new detail pieces were introduced, predictive modeling indicated that the performance of Brand X would flourish while the performance of Brand Y would diminish as the detail pieces entered their respective markets. As predicted, market share performance (NRx) of two otherwise evenly matched, non-competitive brands moved in opposite directions, causing a near-term sales impact of +/-$10 to $30 million. source: TargetRx

Tale of Two Pieces

The following case studies highlight the results of two detail pieces for two different brands prior to rollout and the subsequent performance after rollout. These brands (Product X and Product Y) were not direct competitors, though they were in comparably competitive markets with comparable promotion dynamics. Baseline performance trends and market dynamics were judged to be very comparable between the two products, and they targeted the same specialty mix of physicians. Average annual revenue for Product X and Product Y was approximately $1 billion each in the United States. Prior to the launch of the new detail pieces, both products had relatively similar rates of new prescriptions and similar detail quality scores based on tracking of their current sale-force performance in the field.

The following factors were considered:

  • The results from tracking current detailing activity of each brand in the field

  • The predictive effect of the new detail pieces based on the testing that was done in a controlled test prior to rollout (referred to as testing the piece in the "lab")

  • The quality of the detail pieces in the months after launch based on tracking its performance after rollout. The tracking was designed to capture the impact of each brand's promotional efforts, including the effectiveness of the detail piece

  • The actual change in market share of new prescriptions following the introduction of the new detail pieces for Products X and Y.

In separate tests for Product X and Product Y, physicians were exposed to details of the product using the new sales aid. The results of these tests then were analyzed and benchmarked against the other tested pieces. Finally, the results from each test were compared with results captured from tracking ongoing detailing activity for each brand to compare how the new detail might fare against the one currently being used by each sales force. The final analysis of the new detail pieces predicted that Product X's new detail piece would be more effective than its existing detail piece and that it likely would drive an increase in new-prescription market share. Conversely, analysis of Product Y's detail piece predicted that the new detail piece would be less effective than its existing piece and that share would be flat to slightly declining.

Impact of Predictive Modeling

It's no coincidence that the performance of Product X improved consistently in the months following the introduction of the new piece, while Product Y saw market share go flat and decline during the same period of time. Given the size of these brands, it is estimated that the impact in sales as a result of these changes was +/- $10 to $30 million. Certainly, new prescriptions are driven by many factors, but correlation of pre-launch test results in the "lab" with actual results achieved by sales reps in the field is indicative of the power to predict performance.

The detail piece can be a powerful tool in the improvement of sales performance for pharma, as it represents the tangible intersection of marketing and sales execution. However, inconsistent detail-piece development has led to inconsistent use of the detail piece. But if the development of the detail piece is validated against actual prescribing, sales should be more likely to embrace it. Marketing, therefore, should track the effectiveness of a piece and update it when it is needed rather than on a pre-determined cycle. With predictive models now available, this should help to improve sales force effectiveness.

Launches

Reed Business Information launched Pharma Asia Magazine, a bi-monthly publication.

• Doremus, an Omnicom company, launched a communications-focused anthropological think tank called IN:SITE.

DME, a division of Davids Productions, launched a newsletter for pharmacists, Current Concepts in Pharmacy Management. The company also launched a pharmacists Web site, ccpharm.com

Accounts

WeissComm Partners added four new clients to its portfolio: BioMarin, CV Therapeutics, OTN and PDL. • Waggener Edstrom added four new clients to its roster: Angiotech Pharmaceuticals, Biogen Idec, Heidelberg Engineering, and OXiGENE.

Ed W. Szostak

Awards

The American Cancer Society honored Teri P. Cox, senior managing partner of Lawrenceville, New Jersey-based Cox Communications Partners, with its St. George National Award. • John Pfenninger, an Elsevier Health Science author, recieved the 2005 Thomas W. Johnson award from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Jack Lin

People

Health Learning Systems,a division of CommonHealth, hired Aimee Roca as vice president of professional relations. The company also hired Jodi Andrews and Kim Gelnaw as program directors.

Daniel Corey joined PharmaStrat as a recruiting analyst in the strategic services department. Brian Corvino joined the company as senior manager of strategic services. • The Zitter Group hired Ed W. Szostak as vice president of business development and Jack Lin as director of analytics product develpment and management.

Mike Luby is president and CEO of TargetRx, Inc. He can be reached at mluby@targetrx.com