3 Challenges for Non-Personal Promotion

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Pharma marketing is changing. For many years, pharmaceutical companies looking to market new drugs sent representatives to have one-on-one conversations with physicians and other clients and promote the products in-person. Today, this traditional representative-centric marketing model is coming under great strain.

As advances in technology create seismic shifts in how medical information is accessed and consumed, physicians are taking control of how and when they access and consume it. Many now prefer to seek out information sources they can review in their own time and on their own electronic devices, rather than meet and engage with pharmaceutical representatives sent to visit them at work.

It's no secret that today's physicians slog it out for long hours every week, meaning that they simply don't have the time (or energy) for conversations with pharmaceutical reps. And even if they were willing to spare an hour out of their busy day, new restrictive policies at hospitals and healthcare institutions have made it extremely difficult for reps to get access to doctors in the first place (policymed.com), so organizing a meeting is often not feasible at all.

Enter Non-Personal Promotion

It is for these reasons that non-personal promotion (NPP) is proving to be the solution for pharmaceutical companies looking to get their products in front of modern healthcare professionals. Rather than taking the traditional, person-to-person approach to marketing, new tactics like email and other digital marketing channels are combined with print publications as effective, measurable means to reach the target audience.

The benefits of NPP are two-fold - pharma companies are able to connect with healthcare professionals, and the physicians themselves can access relevant and valuable information at a time convenient to them. NPP messages via email and other channels are designed to be direct and personalized. The fact that the messages are written renders them extremely practical in terms of recall - rather than being left with a fading memory of a conversation, physicians have an easily accessible email, digital newsletter, or print pamphlet to refer to.

3 Challenges for Successful Non-Personal Promotion

In order to remain relevant and successful, pharmaceutical companies need to keep up with changes in technology and communication - and that means investing in non-personal promotion campaigns.

But what do pharma companies need to be aware of in order to make NPP a success? Let's consider three challenges for successful non-personal promotion.

  1. Demonstrating ROI
  2. NPP allows pharmaceutical companies to leverage cost-effective channels that optimize marketing budgets. Digital and print media campaigns can reach a wide breadth of physicians at significantly lower cost than sending out a small army of representatives all over the country to meet with them each individually.

    Nonetheless, ROI still needs to be demonstrated in order to justify NPP opportunities. As in other industries like retail and financial services - where digital strategies have been crucial for many years already - in-market experimentation is one of the best ways to address this particular challenge.

    The process involves trialing an NPP program with a selected group of physicians and comparing performance against a highly similar group that received only the business-as-usual personal promotions via representatives. Analyzing the results reveals meaningful cause-and-effect relationships between the tested NPP action and relevant KPIs (key performance indicators).

    This approach is advocated by Leanne Smith, VP, Insights and Analytics at CMI, in a November 2017 article for MM&M - '4 Ways to Demonstrate ROI in Non-Personal Promotion'.

    "In order to measure the success of a multichannel NPP program, the ideal scenario is to create a well-stratified control group that does not receive any of the targeted messages and is also not regularly called upon," says Smith. "The control that is created should be designed to ensure that their attributes mirror those of the test group based on specialty, geographic region, market segmentation, and product prescribing behavior in a six- to 12-month period prior to the NPP campaign. [...] In order to conduct the study, HCP-level reach and engagement data should be collected and analyzed across all tactics. A cross-channel analysis can be conducted by any involved party; however, it should not be conducted by publishers, who will only have a view into their own media. Those analyzing the results should understand the context of the media, which is the proper way to measure reach and engagement along with the associated messaging cadence executed to ensure proper, actionable learnings."

  3. Ensuring Messages Reach Their Intended Audience
  4. As with all digital marketing initiatives, ensuring your well-crafted messages actually fall before the eyes of their intended audience is critical. As reaching healthcare professionals in-person becomes increasingly difficult, verifying and authenticating email lists of desired targets is of crucial importance if NPP is to have an impact.

    Ultimately, the purpose of an NPP program is to raise awareness among potential prospects that a certain product exists, and subsequently educate them about its benefits. This requires, first, the creation of engaging and authoritative content, and, second, the appropriate distribution of it.

    For David Reim, Chief Product Officer at DMD, the authentication of email lists is of high strategic priority for pharma companies looking to demonstrate non-personal promotion ROI.

    "The primary method of NPP to HCPs is email," says Reim. "Considering the rigor that pharma applies to issues of privacy and authentication in the website channel, we are shocked that these same standards are not applied to outbound email. Almost no company demands that its email lists are authenticated or audited. So the first step in demonstrating ROI is to ensure that outbound emails reach the intended physician targets. [...] Many, many millions of media dollars are spent at the large medical websites and on email that drives physician traffic, without any third-party verification. Madness! NPP ROI starts with independent physician verification."

  5. Keeping Non-Personal Promotion Personal
  6. Despite its name, non-personal promotion is anything but impersonal - or at least it should be. The best and most successful NPP campaigns are those that speak directly to a clearly-defined target audience. As John Decina, Founding Principal at Blitz Health, puts it: "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?"

    Physicians today are more pressed for time than ever before, so it's vital that an NPP program's mix of channels and content is appropriately tailored to each - even at an individual level. Pharma companies should build comprehensive prescriber profiles that include a combination of personal information and data that's been collected through both personal and non-personal promotion interactions. In terms of NPP, key metrics to be measured can include channel preference, time spent watching a promotional video or engaging with other online promotional content, and response to various email and inbound marketing requests.

    This data can then be used to inform other initiatives within an NPP campaign, and indeed carried forward into future campaigns. By personally addressing physicians in all correspondence and tailoring communications to their specific needs, NPP can enable personal connections, even without an in-person visit from a representative.

Final Thoughts

Non-personal promotion can be an extremely effective and cost-effective marketing approach for pharma companies looking to get their products in front of the right healthcare professionals at the right time. As pharma marketing reaches a crossroads, mastering NPP is becoming essential to overcoming industry challenges and reaching more time-strapped physicians on their own terms.

Non-personal promotion is set to be a hot topic at Future Pharma 2018, taking place this September at The Westin Copley Place, Boston, MA.

Download the Agenda today for more information and insights.