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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Keying in loyalty

Why you need to put return on engagement (RoE) above all else

There does appear to be a fair amount of unease on how to define RoI within pharmaceutical marketing. Perhaps it has always been tricky, but due to the new industry guidelines, the complex regulations and the increased scrutiny from regulatory, what was tricky before, is only going to get more difficult. What is clear is that these factors are all impacting marketing practices, whether this is online or offline.

One of the biggest challenges currently facing pharma is the increasing difficulty of not only reaching, but also influencing HCPs through traditional and non-traditional sales and marketing efforts. As we've known for some while, sales forces are getting ever increasingly smaller. In fact a recent study showed that just 27 per cent of sales visits result in the rep actually getting to see a HCP – on the flip side the survey showed only 23 per cent of the HCPs would rate the sales force performance as excellent.

At a time of increased competition, these findings are worrying. Costs are skyrocketing, engagement is decreasing, and the demand for RoI is higher than ever. With responsibility of every penny spent needing to be attributed, the vicious circle of unease continues to swell.

The bottom line is that the way RoI is measured is flawed. HCPs are not loyal to one brand; they could defect to another brand tomorrow. So measuring the investment in a 'campaign' is not the biggest measure anymore. We now need to treat HCPs as consumers. And in consumer marketing capturing brand loyalty has been practiced for decades.

I believe that it is time to drop our over reliance on just chasing those unattainable and arguably, misleading, RoI metrics. It is now the time to look at incorporating relationship and engagement metrics that build loyalty towards a brand.

RoE is a more accurate measure of the value of marketing as it is now. Experience shows that commitment to a brand is a greater measure of the future success and value than the original marketing RoI. Pharma marketing is starting to move to this model: however there does seem to be confusion as to how to build a successful RoE strategy. How do we increase engagement outside of the traditional models of using the sales force with an edetail aid or congress/symposia?

To pull together a brand loyalty strategy, it is vital that the marketing team does a brand MOT. An MOT exercise will determine the following factors:

  1. Diagnose the problem. Consider assessing awareness, recall, usage and emotional behaviours
  2. Understand marketing factors. Consider your segmentation of HCPs and patients, how effective your current sales force activities are, how HCP and patient education can factor in, and your challenges re access on pricing.

Once the challenge you face is understood, it is time to develop a strategy and put the tactical solutions in place. It is vital that RoE is continually measured to ensure that loyalty is driving HCP prescribing behaviours. Then, at this point, RoI comes into play to understand whether each tactic is effective in providing the level of financial return you are seeking.

Consider the success of recent marketing campaigns by John Lewis and Coca-Cola. These brands use the power of emotion, to engage, to attract and then to retain customers. Pharma needs to start adopting these consumer practices too in order to increase brand loyalties. After all, each marketing tactic needs to put the patient at the heart of their strategy.

So why is clinical data the only benchmark for increasing loyalty? Pharma needs to motivate, inspire and engage HCPs. Bottom line; it is all about the patient. The relationship is key. RoI is just a fraction of the bigger picture, and not the holy grail of success.

Article by
Ashish Rishi

managing director of Couch Integrated Marketing

4th March 2013


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