Putting Personal Back Into Non-Personal Promotion

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We’ve seen two trends in pharma marketing merge to become a single narrative. Pharmaceutical Sales Rep access to physicians has declined, leading to the rise of non-personal promotion, especially in the area of digital media, as the fix. Non-personal promotion (NPP) has become a required component of the multi-channel marketing (MCM) campaign. NPP is generally defined as,

"any branded communication or initiative that does not include live interaction between a sales force and its target customers"

This trend toward non-personal promotion will continue to increase for several reasons:

  • pressures on overall spend and ROI
  • reduced access to providers
  • shrinking sales forces increasing white space
  • changing HCP preferences

While Rep access has been declining (80% in ‘08 to 44% in ‘16)1 and non-personal promotion has been used to fill the void, Blitz Health believes NPP is missing the very component that keeps pharmaceutical representatives relevant – live interaction and dialogue.

Our Position

We view the role of the rep (live or teleservice) as directing the narrative of a multi-channel marketing effort. At Blitz, we’ve used our medical call center to provide air cover to traditional field forces as well as own the full MCM effort for white space and vacant territories. We believe our methodologies blending A/B testing and optimization with rep-based decisioning allows us to quickly gain knowledge on a more expansive set of our clients’  target populations. 

Non-Personal promotion should open doors to a rep-driven model, where dialogue can be used to uncover HCP attitudes and concerns, handle objections and provide increased value by presenting information in areas needed by the HCP.

Non-personal promotion is a horribly outdated name for a couple of reasons. First, HCPs have always told us they don’t want to be promoted to and second, if it has to be promotion - who wants it to be impersonal?
— John Decina - Principal, Blitz Health

HCP Access

It makes sense that non-personal promotion has taken off. It’s quantifiable, leverages the growing preferences of HCPs, and can be used to supplement the continued decline in HCP access.

Only 44% of physicians surveyed by ZS Associates said they will meet with sales reps. This is down slightly from 46% in 2015 — and significantly from the 80% who said they would in 2008.

Our Experience

Through first-hand experience learned by our Medical Rep Call Center, access is also limited by the schedule challenges HCPs face in their practices every day. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has significantly increased the number of patients being seen, particularly for primary care providers.

Combined with the increase in time spent on Electronic Health Records and other paperwork such as the ICD-10 changes, HCPs no longer have the extra time each day that they had just a few years ago. 

And even if a physician could find the time, they’d be torn between devoting more to patient care (their passion) or using it to see reps. The result is that practice staff are becoming more involved and important as front-line care professionals. This has enabled non-personal promotion to target more individuals. So even if HCPs can be seen by reps, they frequently don’t have the time.

HCP Preference

HCPs still prefer to have strong relationships with Pharma. According to a 2014 survey from Publicis conducted on Sermo, reduced access with providers:

  • 62% of PCPs want more primary care reps 
  • 91% of specialists stated they want more specialty representatives, and 
  • 74% want more customer service representatives

Customer service representatives are defined as reps who do not “sell,” but work with practices to provide support through such items as samples, patient literature, formulary detail, etc. This defines the Blitz Health strategy of providing educational materials to the right HCP at the right time..

The Right Mix of Promotion

Reduced access to physicians and increased roles for other HCP types (Nurses, NPs, PAs, etc.) has allowed us to leverage our live calling to learn more and bring more value to each office. Reps have always been trained to detail everyone in the office because it’s important to a successful sales call. Blitz can return valuable insights to the Brand and leverage the views of the HCP and the overall practice in all communication decisions. Our deployment plan looks at target value, preference and behavior data, reach and frequency goals and what we know about the practice.

In reality, the optimal approach has to be learned using multi-channel marketing with test and control, leveraging digital media, traditional tactics, and contact with representatives. 

This hybrid approach allows brands to glean valuable preference data from HCP interactions with Sales and combine that with what they actually demonstrate affinity for through their actions with promotional content. 

With the multitude of non-personal promotion channels available today, pharmaceutical companies need to better understand how each health care practitioner and their practice reacts to different sales and marketing efforts.

The more we learn, the more relevant we can be with every communication.

Contact us to get supporting case studies and learn more about our approach.