Non-Personal Promotion in the Time of COVID-19

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The first case of COVID-19 was in Wuhan City, China back in 2019. Thought to have come to humans from bats via pangolins, the disease has moved rapidly across the globe. Most countries now have lockdown and social distancing measures in place to help minimize human contact and slow the spread of the virus.

Many businesses have shut their doors for the duration of the pandemic and are receiving government aid to help support themselves during this difficult time. However, many companies are still operational. This is generally because they fall into one of two categories — non-essential businesses which can effectively operate remotely, and essential businesses such as grocery stores, supermarkets, and healthcare providers, which have no choice but to stay open.

Naturally, the pharmaceutical industry is in the trenches of this crisis working hard to develop treatments and, hopefully, a vaccine to fight this deadly disease. However, there have had to be some serious changes in how the business operates.

Pharmaceutical Sales and Marketing

For the last few years, the world has felt very divided and highly politicized. However, one pleasant side-effect of the current crisis is that it appears to have brought many communities together in support of the efforts of frontline workers — especially healthcare providers, lab companies, scientists, infectious disease doctors, and researchers.

For those working in the sales and marketing teams of pharmaceutical companies however, many unique challenges have sprung up during the coronavirus crisis. They’ve had to find new ways to carry out their roles.

Of course, much of the grunt work of pharmaceutical sales and marketing still occurs with boots on the ground, with sales reps visiting healthcare professionals and promoting the very latest advances in the field. However, with the coronavirus situation set to continue for an indeterminate amount of time, this simply isn’t possible in the current climate.

This is leading to many pharmaceutical brands turning to virtual tools and non-personal promotion to help their sales and marketing teams continue to operate, albeit in a safer manner.

"We are asking that you cease in-person engagement and use virtual customer tools where possible,” said Pfizer in a staff communication. “This decision has been made from an abundance of caution, with the aim to mitigate the risk of exposure to the virus for colleagues and our community. All Pfizer customer facing colleagues in the U.S and Puerto Rico will use virtual customer tools to maintain important contact with health care providers and other customers. We will continue to re-assess this decision and continue regular communications with our customers.”

Non-Personal Promotion

As gaps in customer engagement continue to grow, here are some suggestions on how pharmaceutical brands can continue sales and marketing operations with non-personal promotion.

#1 Get ahead of the game by developing scenarios and strategies which account for a continuing decline in sales rep access. This virus will continue to affect this side of the business, so it would be wise to be prepared.

#2 Evaluate every aspect of your creative departments and establish what can be repurposed, brought forward, or accelerated in the queue. Search for tools that can maintain or increase non-personal promotion across your channels.

#3 Close the gaps in your existing non-personal promotion cadence and explore models that will help you achieve maximum saturation while preparing for the opt-outs and unsubscribes which are likely to occur.

#4 Previously under-utilized channels are likely to see new relevance in this new environment. Direct mail, digital radio, and addressable television are less likely to become overloaded than more common channels such as home office and iRep email.

#5 Look to third-party programs that can help increase messaging while simultaneously providing credibility and reducing potential brand-direct promotional fatigue.

#6 Use your data to deduce those areas where rep visits are declining and where digital engagement is on the rise. Finding where these two factors correlate with one another will help your non-personal promotion achieve the biggest impact.

#7 Increase investment in virtual sales tools that help your reps engage in compliant virtual meetings between themselves and healthcare providers/decision makers.

#8 Tailor experiences knowing that different healthcare professionals will likely react to promotional efforts in different ways. For example, those directly triaging infected patients may be swamped in the short-term if the infection outbreak becomes even more serious, with a potential decline in promotional response.

Non-related healthcare providers may experience appointment cancellations among at-risk groups. Closely monitor engagement with existing programs and be prepared to scale communication frequency accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Non-personal promotion is going to see significantly increased importance for the duration of this crisis. Pharmaceutical sales reps and marketing professionals would be well served by making sure they have a solid strategy in place to make the most of this new status quo.

Non-personal promotion is certain to be a hot topic at Future Pharma 2020, being held in September at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf, Boston, MA.

Please download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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