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As sales reps see doors close for in-person visits with physicians, digital doors open communication

Global sales and marketing consulting firm ZS uncovers best new ways for pharmaceutical companies to communicate with physicians in new AffinityMonitor™ report

EVANSTON, lll. — September 23, 2014 — As physicians seek information about drugs today, increasingly more look to digital communication channels to learn about new therapies or ask questions of pharmaceutical companies. This finding – from a new report by global sales and marketing consultants at ZS – shows that communicating via a customized mix of digital media and visits from sales representatives provides the best opportunity to engage with physicians. And, productive engagement with physicians leads to better business results.

ZS’s new AffinityMonitor™ measures health care provider (HCP) engagement across various communication channels and includes all major physician specialties. The report is based on a study of behaviors that indicate channel preferences of more than 500,000 HCPs. It also includes cross-channel metrics for both in-person promotion (e.g., sales rep visits with physicians) and alternative communication channels – including mobile alerts, speaker programs, e-details, telesales, video, webinars, direct mail and email.

“Greater cost pressures and more practice consolidations have translated into doctors having less time to see reps and institutional policies limiting the number of times a rep can see the doctor,” said ZS Managing Principal Pratap Khedkar.  “While rep headcount in the United States has dropped 35 percent in the past nine years, alternative channels – from virtual speaker programs to social media communities – have exploded in number and availability.”

“With dozens of channels available today, pharmacos need to better understand how health care practitioners react to different sales and marketing efforts and ways to best reach physicians who continue to limit rep access. AffinityMonitor™ provides data-backed insights at the individual doctor level to help pharmacos align their communication choices with the channel preferences of individual physicians and streamline their marketing and sales investment.”

Account for variation by specialty

While personal selling remains in the top three preferred channels for nearly half (47 percent) of all HCPs, the 2014 AffinityMonitor™ report also found that physician interaction with pharmaco communications varied distinctly by provider specialty.

 For example, about half of all oncologists studied (49 percent) place heavy restrictions on rep access. However, many of these oncologists will also engage with pharma via digital channels. Leveraging these non-personal promotional channels in addition to rep details can help extend a pharmaco’s reach with this specialty group by 35 percent.

On the other hand, traditionally rep-friendly specialists – such as dermatologists and allergists – engage less frequently with other channels. According to AffinityMonitor™, adding alternative means of engagement to the marketing mix for these rep-friendly specialists only extends reach by 5 percent relative to what the sales force already achieves.

“Roughly one-third of all physicians in the United States can be reached through digital channels, but there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” said Malcolm Sturgis, an associate principal at ZS and lead of the AffinityMonitor™ product team.

For example, 38 percent of physicians are likely to engage with a pharmaco via either personal or non-personal communication channels – but not both. On the flipside, 25 percent of health care providers will engage pharmacos through both personal and non-personal channels.

“AffinityMonitor™ allows pharmacos to determine which channel – or channels – will provide the best physician engagement and ways to deploy appropriate, lower-cost channels with physicians who demonstrate an affinity for them,” said Sturgis. “The ability to integrate and coordinate physician outreach across multiple platforms has a powerful impact on a company’s sales and marketing budget, increases overall effectiveness and improves customer experience.”

Layer multiple channels to boost impact

Access to physicians has declined steadily with about half (49 percent) of U.S. doctors placing moderate-to-severe restrictions on visits from pharma sales reps in 2014, according to ZS’s AccessMonitor™ report. However, many physicians still interact with sales reps – at least to some extent – and this personal point of contact can provide a powerful connection.

“Deploying the rep as an orchestrator of a multi-tiered communications plan can reap dividends in this environment,” said Sturgis. “In our experience, the sales impact of a speaker program is 1.5 times greater if followed by a rep detail within one week of the speaking engagement. Open rates more than triple when an email is sent by a rep the prescriber knows compared to an email sent by someone at headquarters.”

Further, the message or offer included in HCP communication is just as important as the choice of communication channel. According to the AffinityMonitor™ report, two-thirds (67 percent) of HCPs are more likely to engage (e.g., open email, allow rep access, respond to direct mail) when a patient service – such as samples, vouchers or co-pay assistance – is built into the physician communication.

The report also found that most physicians (81 percent) demonstrate a clear preference for specific types of offers – independent of the channel used to communicate this offer. Prescribers are more likely to engage with communication that includes their preferred offer type, whether that is a patient service or clinical information from a peer.

“When your industry has witnessed $100 billion in patent expirations over the past four years, doing more with less becomes very important,” said Khedkar. “Pharmacos have always known that channel preferences exist but, until now, they did not have a meaningful way to dissect individual customer behaviors or track the performance of their sales and marketing programs against industry benchmarks. AffinityMonitor™ allows companies to become more customer-centric and add rigor to their planning and resource allocation.

“For the first time, AffinityMonitor™ provides an opportunity for sales reps to focus on how physicians prefer to engage, and then customize their interactions with preferences for individual physicians and specialties.”

For more information on ZS’s AffinityMonitor™, please visit http://bit.ly/ZS-AffinityMonitor. To read an executive summary of the report, please visit http://bit.ly/ZS-AffinityMonitor2014.

About ZS

ZS is a global leader in sales and marketing consulting, outsourcing, technology and software. For more than 30 years, ZS has helped companies across a range of industries get the most out of their sales and marketing organizations. From 21 offices around the world, ZS experts use analytics and deep expertise to help companies make smart decisions quickly and cost effectively. ZS comprises multiple affiliated legal entities. Learn more at: http://www.zs.com.

About AffinityMonitor™

AffinityMonitor provides a unique view of how healthcare practitioners engage across all pharmaceutical marketing and sales channels. Pharma companies can use this information to better understand physician channel preferences and streamline their sales and marketing plans. To learn more or to participate in the next round of reporting, visit http://bit.ly/ZS-AffinityMonitor.

Greg Austin
Director, Marketing & Communication, ZS
Greg.Austin@zs.com 

Anahita Wadia Khan / Kyle Adams
Sikich Marketing & Public Relations
akhan@sikich.com  
kadams@sikich.com