Remember, You’re Marketing to the Physician, Too

Perhaps "DTC" should be redesignated as "DTCBWFATOUSP". Give up? "Direct to Consumer But Without Forgetting About the Overworked Underpaid Physician." If you want to confirm this, read Dr. Sandeep Jauhar’s new book, Intern, which the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog wrote about today. Becoming a doctor is neither fun nor easy, and these physicians have an immense role to play in pharma marketing.

Jauhar, who also publishes a nice blog, describes the process by which medical students become doctors as a kind of trial by fire, with patients in the middle. Interns work incredibly long shifts, there is often poor communication between doctors — even in the same hospital — and the overall sense one gets from the book, at least as the Journal describes it, is of unrelenting pressure, inadequate resources, and physicians, as a species, who are severely under the gun.

What does this mean for marketers? It means that in a world where there is a screaming lack of primary care physicians, where the average patient spends under 10 minutes talking with his physician, and where profitable, procedure-driven specialties that don’t require long or late hours, anything that can make the physician’s life easier will be embraced. We are NOT, and never were, in the business of simply pushing pills. We are in the business of making patients’ lives better, and their treatments more successful.
I’ve already written about how service and information are the coin of the realm in pharmaceutical marketing. Ultimately, the relationship we develop with patients has to inform them, empower them, and help lighten the physician’s burden. Not only is an informed patient more likely to stay on therapy and experience a better result, but she’s also going to be less of a load on her doctor.

We have to make sure the doctors are aware of this. The pharmaceutical company, and the dreaded pharmaceutical sales rep has long been portrayed as just slightly less immoral than, say, the leader of a Satanic cult who sacrifices infants on the altar of Molloch. This perception needs to change. particularly as relationship marketers, we can help, we should help, and we do help. We just need to remember who to tell about it.

Raising the Bar of Service

Dear Pharma and Biotech Brand Marketers:

Here’s something to
think about: efficacy doesn’t mean what you think it does.

The dictionary definition of the term is simple: it’s the power or capacity to produce a desired effect. In the case of drugs, historically that’s meant "Does it work? How well?" For decades, efficacy has been a matter of chemistry and medicine. But now we all need to consider the
next level of efficacy: servicing the patient.

Most pharma and
biotech marketing folks grew up professionally inside the industry. This gives
them a wealth of knowledge and a deep understanding of the
medications they market and the complexity of the multiple channels
they need to serve, from managed care to professional to patient.

what many miss is that patients — as consumers — are used to and expecting more and more: "If I buy your product, you will service
me like a customer." They get this everywhere they go — from the phone company to airlines to Enterprise Rent-a-car. In all kinds of industries, the service bar has been raised. A lot.

It’s time for us to do the same. We need
to stop thinking by channel but instead by need.

People need
support in nearly all decisions they make — and none more so than those related
to health. And a brochure, a Web site and a direct mail piece that
comes six weeks after you ask for information, just is not looking at
what patients need — what HUMANS need — in the right way.

has done a good job of understanding that you need to make yourself
accessible to answer patients’ questions and provide that service — you
see a face and a phone number on all their Web sites.The point is made again and again that GSK is a company of people.

happens when your drug is fifth to market, or a blockbuster threatened
by generic switching — what can you do? Service the patient, make it
easy for them to build some trust and do not be afraid to answer their
questions. After all, with an average of 4-8 minutes a visit, the
doctor no longer provides the answers people need.

So, can an industry that acts like scientists and manufacturers become experts at service? The short answer is "maybe". The longer answer is "they have to."

Printers, Razor Blades and Pharmaceuticals

In 2006, Hewlett-Packard had revenues of around $90 billion, give or take a few billion. Of that, around one-fourth came from their printing and imaging division. You know, laserprinters. There’s a lesson in HP’s strategy for pharmaceutical marketers. In a sentence, HP doesn’t want to sell you a printer. HP wants you to use it.

Keep reading.

In a post today in Pharmalot, it was revealed that pharma DTC spending declined by around 7% in the third quarter of this year, after a long run of steady increases. Television was hit especially hard. What do we learn from this? Well, television is a great, albeit expensive, medium for launching a drug. But it takes something more to keep the momentum going.

What does this have to do with Hewlett-Packard? Everything.

Sitting right next to my desk are two printers. They’re both from HP. One is an oldish black-and-white laser printer, that’s the office workhorse. The other is a color injet printer that I use when I, you know, need to print something in color. Both were impossibly cheap to purchase. I don’t remember the exact amounts, but I recall being pleasantly surprised at how little they cost.

And unpleasantly surprised at how fast they seem to chew through ink cartridges. The color printer has six different cartirdges, they cost the earth, and they seem to be in need of replacement about every ten days.

This is not an accident. Some genius at HP figured out a long time ago that the real money is not in selling printers. The real money is in selling replacement cartridges. The revenue stream goes on for years, the profit margin is higher, and once someone’s purchased your printer, they’re also going to buy your cartridges for a long, long time. Razors work the same way. Gillette makes money on the blades, not on the razors.

In some verticals, the same is true for pharma. DTC, particularly television, is great for launching a new drug. You can get an enormous amount of awareness very quickly using television, and get a new drug off to a great start.

But particularly with patients with chronic conditions — diabetes, arthritis, respiratory problems, depression — the key is to keep them on the regimen. And television isn’t the answer. Part of the answer, yes. But once a patient begins taking a drug, they develop a whole new perspective on it. They are interested in understanding how the drug, and the condition it treats, fit into their daily lives. They want to know what it means to them.

A television commercial is not going to do that. By definition, television is a mass medium. A sixty-second spot cannot have the information content necessary to help a patient who’s on a drug understand why she should stay on it.

As pharma marketing moves forward and evolves, more and more marketers are coming to realize that one size does not necessarily fit all. We have a large, and ever-increasing set of tools, and television is only one of them. To quote Alanis Morisette, for pharma companies seeking to develop long-term, profitable relationships, DTC television really is ten thousand spoons when what you need it a knife. And it looks like a lot of people are beginning to figure that out.