David Zaritsky and Julian Parreño
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Patients’ Channel Preferences Vary by Personal Situation
In the past few years, patients have become increasingly more informed and sophisticated. They continue to experience increased time pressures and have more access to information about prescription brands than ever thanks to the Internet. They have heightened concerns about privacy, identity theft, and misuse — unintended or otherwise — of sensitive information. It’s also important to consider the short attention span factor that creates an impact on how a message is developed, how it is received, and whether it elicits a response. While simpler may be better as far as communications go, too little information can cause confusion for the patient. Today, marketers must work hard to strike a balance between offering too little and too much information. For many patients, choosing which channel to use when communicating with a marketer is entirely situational. An urgent request or need is likely to prompt a phone call. When in research mode, many look to the Web as their preferred source. When they are ready to make a decision, they typically need some sort of physical interaction in the form of literature (such as a direct-mail brochure) or actual contact with the product or service. In the healthcare and pharmaceutical arenas, this contact usually requires visiting a healthcare provider to obtain information about a product or disease, or to request a prescription, or visiting a pharmacy to fill a prescription or purchase an over-the-counter product. Even though a healthcare provider is the ultimate gatekeeper to the pharmaceutical purchase, channel integration is critical to effectively reach and influence any patient who has a specific need. How well a brand marketer integrates the mix of communications channels for consumers, and prospective consumers, will determine how well the incremental benefit is delivered to all parties. To that point, the following reflect updated data that serve to debunk common channel-preference myths. Myth No. 1: Most patients interact via one channel Though it may come as a surprise to some, a marketer’s most loyal patient uses at least two channels. Think of yourself as a consumer. How many times have you shopped via one channel and then purchased or inquired about a product or service via another? A patient may use a variety of channels — print, Internet, or referral — to gain information about a particular brand before seeking a prescription. It is a brand marketer’s mission then to use known information about individual patients (with proper opt-in methods) to meet individual channel-preference needs. Myth No. 2: Most people do not like direct mail While each medium has its own strengths, surveys continue to show that consumers prefer direct mail over other forms of communication, including e-mail, telephone, and personal contact. Mail is considered to be less intrusive than other media. In a world where consumers are exposed to thousands of marketing messages daily, often it’s the message in the mailbox that has the power to rise above the chatter. The lesson here is not to be afraid to test direct mail to patients, prospects, and healthcare professionals alike. Myth No. 3: Online marketing cannibalizes offline efforts An individual’s media preference influences receptivity to any given channel. The reality is that multichannel contact can yield better overall results. People now regularly use a combination of media when considering and responding to an offer. Adding a response channel, such as the Web, can improve results by 20% to 30% or more. The Internet has changed the face of marketing, even in the pharmaceuticals arena, by supplementing channels, not by displacing channels or making them obsolete. Myth No. 4: The 55+ audience is not Web savvy The Web can be a viable tactic for reaching audiences up to 69 years of age. Young seniors — those 55 to 59 — have a huge online presence. Retiring seniors — 60 to 64 — experienced the birth of the Internet at their places of employment. Over the next decade, 9.5 million members of this audience will be online in the United States. Retired seniors, those between 65 and 69, have good discretionary income, and most own computers. Some 3 million of these seniors use the Internet now. By 2010, this number will increase to 5.5 million. Myth No. 5: Each channel is a separate user experience The opposite is in fact true: multiple channels converge into a unified user experience. That said, if channels fail to offer a unified voice, look, and feel, a marketer is not creating a multichannel opportunity and may disappoint or frustrate customers. A multichannel user expects an integrated experience across all touch points with a brand or information source, and delivering on this expectation is the challenge for marketers. The Power of the Brand A marketer needs to consider where his or her product sits along the multichannel, patient-experience spectrum. Does the consumer interact with the brand through broadcast advertising, word of mouth, a newspaper article, direct mail, or the brand’s Website? And in what circumstances? Because a patient, or potential patient, can come in direct contact with a brand through multiple touch points, creative integration can make a big difference as to whether the brand message is received or rejected. Because a branding program is designed to create the perception that there is no brand on the market quite like this one, the messages — regardless of channel — must be consistent. Brand experience and message consistency must happen at every stage, at every touch point, and during every customer interaction across response channels, including face-to-face, on the telephone, through the mail, via a Website, and through e-mail and fax. Creating Consistency and Repetition To ensure consistency of message, a pharmaceutical marketer must pull together the brand team, comprising brand stakeholders. This involves tapping lines of communication and developing cooperation among a diverse group of team members — vendors, senior management, information technology staff, project managers, front-line personnel, and the entire creative team. On the Web, for instance, channel consistency requires designing landing pages to match the offline marketing campaign (direct-mail piece or broadcast advertising). By the same token, direct-mail pieces should be designed to support — not copy — currently running brand advertising. It is key to remember that repetition works. If a marketer sends an e-mail to pre-announce a direct-mail piece, he or she should keep the message and call-to-action the same in both communications. If the marketer supports a broadcast campaign with banner advertising, traditional print, or direct mail, the brand manager should establish consistency between offline, online, and broadcast efforts. Each effort should embody a similar design, use similar colors and fonts, and maintain a consistent tone and message. There are a few questions a marketer can ask to determine whether the team is staying the course across channels: • Are the creative teams sharing information? • Is the brand concept consistent across all media? • Do all media look as if they are part of the same campaign? • Are the brand logo and company identity immediately apparent? • Are the messages and offers cohesive? • Is there a call to action? • Is the toll-free number visible? While the look and feel need to be consistent, content should reflect the nature of the channel, too. For instance, when using: Web: Provide more detailed brand information; include more bullets and paragraph breaks to soften the light-emitting exertion on the eye; consider a Frequently Asked Questions section and a venue where patients and caregivers can communicate. Phone: Consumers want answers on the spot. They expect representatives to be respectful, knowledgeable, and to solve their problems. Train customer-service representatives so that they are knowledgeable about the product and can translate features into benefits. Print: This is the channel of brand awareness. Patients spend more time with print and will use the channel to request additional information. E-mail/Website landing page: Because this is a fast-moving experience, the communication must be benefit-laden and include a powerful call-to-action. Today’s patients expect and demand multichannel access, regardless of the first point of contact. The sophisticated pharmaceutical marketer uses individual patient data to gauge channel preferences and leverages direct-marketing best practices when planning a multichannel marketing strategy. David Zaritsky is Managing Director of Pharmaceutical Markets and Julian Parreño is Senior VP of Pharmaceutical Markets for Harte-Hanks Inc., San Antonio, a direct and targeted marketing company that provides services to a wide range of national and international consumer and business-to-business marketers, including a variety of pharmaceutical companies. For more information, visit harte-hanks.com. PharmaVoice welcomes comments about this article. E-mail us at email@example.com. David Zaritsky Julian Parreño September 2005 PharmaVOICE