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Non-Personal Promotion & Synchronized Storytelling: A Q&A with Matt Titus, CCO of Epocrates


Non-personal promotion (NPP) is increasingly becoming a key component of any pharmaceutical marketing strategy regardless of where a brand may be in its lifecycle – from pre-launch or disease state awareness to maturity (just before loss of exclusivity). When done correctly, NPP messaging can allow brands to reach the right audience at the right time.

As opportunities for personal relationships with physicians decrease, synchronized tactics creating an ongoing story provide opportunity to disseminate the story in the way brands want targets to consume it. The overall shift to digital-centric marketing is here to stay - and utilizing NPP as part of an omnichannel storytelling approach will be key to the future success of pharma outreach.

Pharmaceutical Executive talked with Matt Titus, CCO of Epocrates

Pharm Exec: What does digital channel growth look like in a post-pandemic environment?

Titus: Over the past few years, in-person access to healthcare providers (HCPs) has decreased dramatically – a trend that was rapidly accelerated by the pandemic. As a result, there’s been a massive uptick in demand for digital approaches, including non-personal promotion (NPP), as a key component of any pharmaceutical marketing strategy.

At the same time, HCPs are also looking for more efficient ways to access information, with the emerging “new normal” creating a space where virtual presence is even more relevant than it was in the past. While brand marketers are seeing an increased reliance on NPP through easy-to-access online sources, nearly 50 percent of HCPs1 have indicated dissatisfaction with the current state of pharma marketing – an alarming figure that shows the industry has significant work to do.

Matt Titus, CCO, Epocrates

Matt Titus, CCO, Epocrates

How can brands chart a strategy across digital platforms?

Brands who are considering harnessing an NPP approach to reach HCPs should first ask the question: “where are they spending their time?”

While computers are certainly present in every modern-day practice, smartphones are being used nearly just as often for professional purposes, followed closely by tablets and a rising number of smartwatches. By diversifying the approach to digital marketing and utilizing different sources to emphasize the message, pharma can minimize the risk of brand-direct promotional fatigue – instead presenting a comprehensive story across platforms.

Engaging HCPs through multiple channels is key for any successful campaign. But rather than deploying siloed or copy-paste messages to every outlet, brands should deploy a content journey to tell a story. Measuring HCP engagement with different channels will allow for a more personalized series of materials to reach physicians on an individual level.

What questions should be asked when considering which digital platform to use?

These are key questions that all marketing teams should be asking as they look to leverage NPP across campaigns:

  • What is the user experience your platform provides?
  • When during the HCP’s workflow do they engage with your content?
  • Can you provide insights to my targets’ behavior on your channel?
  • How engaged is your audience?
  • Do you have data demonstrating user influence?
  • Are there any ROI or case studies showing the benefits to your platform?
  • Is there an opportunity to create a content journey for targets?

What’s the best way to find “true engagement” with a digital audience?

It can be tempting to maximize message reach by hitting as many targets as possible across channels, but that comes at a significant cost of decreased engagement. Maximizing reach without planned engagement results in minimal touches on each individual HCP, and with fewer opportunities to engage each individual, there is an increased chance that the message will not be seen. This is crucial because recollection is linked to repetition, which can be achieved through multiple touches on each target throughout the content journey.

As a next step in reaching an HCP audience, consider: Is it good enough to just get the message out, or is it about getting a deeper engagement? When evaluating total reach across channels, it is important to study the user base for each platform. Some vendors will indicate target reach across the history of their channel, whereas others will provide the reach to their engaged (or active) audience. This discrepancy can lead to ineffective solutions when estimating multi-channel reach. Instead, a balance must be struck between total outreach and how often physicians will interact with each channel during the day, as well as their inherent trust for each resource.

How can brands maximize the non-personal promotion landscape?

When considering maximizing the NPP landscape, part of it is understanding what tactics have the most impact, the most reach, and the most aligned Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but it also includes personal outreach through a next best engagement approach. While only 10 percent2 of physicians indicate they would go back to the pre-pandemic “norm” for in-person meetings, the sales rep can still play a role in a virtual campaign approach – although it may not be as impactful as other digital strategies.

Since sales representatives, medical science liaisons, and emails are not seen as highly impactful resources, promotion through NPP tactics such as non-pharma apps can yield higher engagement from the HCP audience. Mobile app usage in particular has a large gap between the influence of pharma vs. non-pharma. According to epocrates data, only 37% of physicians found pharma apps to be highly influential during 2020, versus 55% for non-pharma apps. As physicians move along a content journey, aligning sales touchpoints with content on a more influential platform such as this emphasizes the overall message.

1 https://www.indegene.com/about-us/news/satisfaction-not-guaranteed-doctors-disappointed-pharmas-digital-pandemic-efforts

2 https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/pdf-130/accenture-hcp-survey-v4.pdf

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