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Contributed by Terry Nugent
No doubt change is in the air. A new administration brings many new challenges to the pharmaceutical industry, with marketing on the front lines. The question is how to respond? Regulatory and financial pressures are constraining the promotional choices and budgets available. Tried-and-true techniques, such as massive salesforces and even pens and other promotional items, are falling by the wayside. And other tools of the trade, such as industry-sponsored CME, prescriber profiling, and DTC advertising, are in jeopardy. Yet, pharmaceutical marketers must still find a way to promote their products. What changes must the industry make to survive and even thrive in this new environment? Direct Marketing: Back to the Future I believe that direct marketing is the solution to the current challenges facing the industry. It’s a safe and effective way to do more with less with an unparalleled efficiency and return on investment (ROI). Direct marketing allows pharma marketers to get their messages to physicians who will not see sales representatives, while ensuring that all messaging meets with ever more demanding legislation, regulation, and industry guidelines. In a sense this is a brave new world that meets back to the future. As our company celebrates its 80th anniversary, we are in an unique position to be able to look back in the archives from those decades long ago, before Medicare and scientific breakthroughs transformed the industry, to note that pharmaceutical marketers didn’t have the massive resources they have enjoyed in the more recent past. Instead, they marketed much like other business-to-business concerns. This involved heavy use of direct mail — the “penny postcard” back in those days. Companies would mail to physicians on a weekly basis, reminding them of the benefits of their products. It was simple, unobtrusive, inexpensive, and effective. New and Old Media Today’s pharmaceutical marketer has far more direct media to deploy. A fairly recent innovation is e-mail. This is truly the perfect media for the times because of its unsurpassed ROI — as high as 57 to 1, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). E-mail is efficient, easy, fast, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. It is the perfect method to drive adoption of e-detailing to keep product messaging flowing to prescribers as sales call frequency tapers down. Then there are the old standbys — direct mail, fax (to be used with discretion only to “existing customers”), and telemarketing. All of these techniques can be used to simulate the detail experience far more cost-effectively and support a leaner, meaner salesforce. And don’t forget journal advertising — online and offline. Repeated studies by the Association of Medical Media have proven the ROI of this now too-often forsaken medium. Direct media can also reach a group of prescribers who are on the ascendant — physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs). As healthcare reform expands access and puts pressure on provider reimbursement, NPs and PAs may supplant physicians as frontline, primary-care practitioners. Direct marketing enables marketers to fill the ravenous information demand of these new prescribers and cultivate positive relationships with them, sort of a fresh start in professional relations. Several Keys to Success As the industry relies more and more on direct marketing, it will need to master the keys to successful direct marketing, including list selection, media usage (with a focus on online), relevance, and testing, leading to increased industry demand for e-mail broadcasts and targeting data. Fortunately, a network of vendors and associations, including the Healthcare Communications and Marketing Association (HCMA) is at the service of the industry to educate it how to use these tried-and-true direct-marketing methods to manage the changes that are sweeping our industry. As the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Pharma companies will prevail if they relearn traditional direct-marketing skills updated to include the latest e-technology. Terry Nugent is VP of Marketing of Medical Marketing Service Inc. (MMS). Since 1929, MMS has been defining the standard for medical industry lists and was the first company franchised to manage the AMA Physician list. Mr. Nugent earned an MBA in Marketing at Loyola University. He is a Past President of the Midwest Healthcare Marketing Association (MHMA) and Co-Chair of the Healthcare Communication and Marketing Association (HCMA) Midwest Forum. For more information, visit mmslists.com. F PharmaVOICE welcomes comments about this article. E-mail us at email@example.com.