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Doctors like direct mail as long as the message is concise and to the point. The minute you ask the doctor to actually do something with the direct mail, that's when your effectiveness starts to go downhill.
In today's world of mass communication, marketers are using any means necessary to get their brand messaging to prescribers. However, all marketing media aren't created equal, and in some cases the old standby is just as good as new innovation.
Michael White, president , PharmaKinnex
PharmaKinnex interviewed 100 prescribers to gauge their marketing communications preferences. Although in-person visits are still preferred by prescribers for product information, some statistics, including low interest in e-detailing and sample coupons, were telling.
Camille Macchio, director of business development, PharmaKinnex
Pharm Exec spoke with PharmaKinnex president Michael White, and Camille Macchio, director of business development, to learn more about the survey.
PHARM EXEC: What is the most effective way for marketers to communicate with physicians?
MACCHIO: There's no question that face-to-face conversations remain the number-one most effective way to communicate with prescribers. But when you look at the other channels, fax and direct mail really stand out.
Did that surprise you?
MACCHIO: The preference of fax really shocked us. A lot of the doctors said that faxes usually have a very concise message, and that using the machine is part of their daily lives. Before the survey, I would have said the fax would have been one of the least-used communication channels, but we have testimonials from doctors around the country that state that they weren't surprised to hear that the fax was the preferred method.
" In the pharma industry, communication is key. A recent survey looked at the communication and sampling preferences of physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.
Does this finding mean that doctors aren't frequent e-mail users?
MACCHIO: People are struggling with information overload with e-mail. And it has become a challenge for marketers to communicate via e-mail, because physicians have to subscribe and opt-in to receive the message. Also, people have become so inundated with e-mail that they just delete mail without reading it. At least with fax, even if they're not going to read the entire message, they might view the first few lines and it just might spark some interest.
Are there any methods of direct mail that work better than others?
MACCHIO: Doctors like direct mail as long as the message is concise and to the point. The minute you ask the doctor to do something with the direct mail, that's when your effectiveness starts to go downhill.
Are mailers getting to the appropriate people?
WHITE: Yes. In today's industry, where everybody is looking at return on investment, mailing lists are really fine-tuned for their targeted audience. So when marketers are provided a list, it's very targeted to who they are calling, e-mailing, or sending direct mail to.
What is an example of a new interactive direct-mail campaign that works well?
MACCHIO: A check study is a direct- mail piece with a monetary check attached to it. The survey only has three or four questions and it is printed on a check for maybe five dollars. Statistics show that those surveys are taken and the checks get cashed. Unlike the old dollar bill attached to a letter-marketing technique, physicians can't throw the surveys away and cash the check. This is a way for companies to gather some market research information about how their messages resonate. After those check studies are returned, the doctor then receives a compiled report indicating what the outcome of that particular check study revealed.
Why is there such a low portion of doctors who prefer sample coupons?
MACCHIO: Sample coupons require some action on the part of the physician to activate the coupons, and physicians hate to do anything other than treat patients. Free samples are so much easier to obtain and use. Doctors go to a show, pick up a sample, and say to the patient, "I'm going to prescribe this, but here's a couple for you to try." It's so much easier for them to do that.
With pressure from federal regulations like the Prescription Drug Marketing Act, might there be more of a push for doctors to distribute free sample coupons, whether or not they like them?
MACCHIO: At the end of the day, marketers have to target prescribers and provide them with their preferences. And right now, they want free samples.
WHITE: All brand managers have their own philosophy on how they want to do things. So the brand managers that like coupons will continue to use them, and the people that like samples will continue to do that.
Why are sales visits still the number-one preferred method of physician marketing?
MACCHIO: Regardless of what you're communicating about, nine out of 10 times, if not 10 out of 10 times, the preferred method of communication is face to face, no matter what it is you're communicating about. If you're making a presentation on any subject matter, you're a lot more effective if you get to talk in person.
How do you see physician marketing techniques changing in the future?
MACCHIO: I think marketers today have to be a little bit more creative than in the past. I see an integrated mix of marketing tactics—e-mail, direct mail, dinner meetings, check studies, conferences. There are a lot of specialty pharmaceutical companies today that don't necessarily have the deep pockets of Big Pharma, and don't necessarily have full- fledged sales forces out in the field. They're going to have to rely on integrated marketing campaigns to get their message out to physicians.
Is there anything marketers can do to increase the response to e-detailing?
MACCHIO: One thing a marketer can do is make sure that any hyperlink to additional information is embedded in the e-mail. Don't expect somebody to cut and paste a hyperlink to go to a Web site. Also, a strong, succinct subject line is key to attracting attention to a message.
Only four percent of the prescribers you reached were physicians. Does that suggest that it's difficult to reach doctors directly?
MACCHIO: Yes, but there were also nurse practitioners and physican assistants that we did reach. And as long as you reach a prescriber, that's what the marketer is concerned with. As long as somebody's writing those scripts. Because, at the end of the day, that's what they're tallying.