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


The 13th Annual Digital Pharma East

Digital Pharma East returns to the Pennsylvania Convention Center September 17–20, bringing together over 1000 attendees from biotech and pharma, to better understand how to present business plans, justify budget and innovation, and de-risk proposals getting shut down — essentially, understand how they can return to the office and become champions for their internal digital needs. Join us and save 15% on standard rates when you register with Discount Code DPE19Fierce.

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

Related Articles:
In a bad-news first for pharma reps, more than half of doctors now restrict access
Sales reps need to bone up on tech skills as drug launches move digital
Pharma rep pay scrapes the bottom of the medical sales barrel

Suggested Articles

For just the second time, the DOJ indicted an opioid distributor for its role in illegally pushing pills at the height of the addiction epidemic.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is out to expand the pool of colorectal cancer patients it can treat with Opdivo—and it’s bringing in Bayer to help.

When AstraZeneca sold its Avlon, England plant in 2016, it thought its liabilities were over. Former employees said the drugmaker broke its promises.