Pharma's digital contact with docs now surpasses sales rep visits: Survey

When one door closes, another email opens? That seems to be the case in pharma marketing, where indirect attempts to reach physicians have overtaken in-person meetings with sales reps.

More than half (53%) of marketing outreach to doctors now happens via “non-personal promotions”--the majority of which are digital communications, with some direct mail and speaker programs in the mix, too. That's the word from a semiannual survey conducted by sales and marketing consultancy ZS.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen the non-personal marketing, especially digital, actually pass the amount of sales force activity,” study leader Malcolm Sturgis told FiercePharmaMarketing

But there's a problem with that. Pharma is using multiple channels to get around sales force access restraints, which is a good thing, he said--but marketers are "not always coordinating with the other things they’re doing.”

And all that contact can be overwhelming for already inundated doctors. Physicians who participated in the survey estimated they spend about 84 hours per year--or two full work weeks--interacting with pharma via digital and other non-personal marketing channels. The 26,000 most-contacted doctors that ZS queried said they're reached about 2,800 times every year by the pharma industry--equal to about one contact every working hour, including weekends and holidays.

“With this volume of outreach, it is critical that pharma companies tailor their interactions to the physician's preferred channel and ensure sales reps bring meaningful material to the physician's attention," Sturgis said.

His advice to pharma is to think about being more customer-centric. Instead of planning marketing channel by channel, start with the customer and ask what’s the right combination of marketing and information. Also make sure that sales reps--who, despite making fewer visits, will remain an important part of marketing--are involved and informed in the overall strategic marketing plan, he said.

- read the press release

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