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The role of online networks in developing doctor relationships

Network-based digital activity should be viewed as part of a long-term process

Doctors.net.uk's pharma clients naturally want their marketing and communications activities to deliver clear messages that cut through and resonate with the audience, whilst delivering a measurable return on investment. Yet while field sales force effectiveness is relatively easy to measure, is it possible to directly attribute or link investment in isolated programmes using online professional networks to immediate improvements in sales?

The answer to that question is not always – since network-based digital activity must be measured alongside all activities as part of the ongoing, integrated, influencing and engagement process that takes a doctor on a journey of awareness, interest, desire and action.  Single tactical campaigns are always hard to judge and compare in isolation, against a sales force programme with target groups, that combine all the itinerant on and offline marketing activities. However, in online programmes where there is no sales force activity and no other marketing support, the uplift can be directly linked.

Online networks enable pharma companies to develop meaningful and measurable relationships with doctors that are founded on a clear understanding of their wants and needs in relation to specific disease areas, and seek to provide resources that are truly valuable to them, thus bridging the gap between infrequent sales calls with self-directed online engagement.

The level of granularity of data that online communities can provide to the sales force about doctors is more sophisticated than any data that can be generated from field sales activity and can provide invaluable insights to complement field activities and engagement.

This data, which can be gathered at any point within an online engagement programme, also enables pharma marketers to measure progress between the different stages of awareness, interest, desire and action within target groups of doctors and tailor their sales and marketing accordingly.

It is hard to put a price on the value that can be generated from gathering such detailed insights into doctors' thinking and behaviour around a particular therapy area, since this intelligence can inform and strengthen sales and marketing activity across the board. Indeed, such integration between online community programmes and other digital and sales force activity is key to maximising engagement and building long term, meaningful relationships with doctors.   

By Simon Grime, Managing Director of Communications for Doctors.net.uk - the UK's largest and most active network of medical professionals

For more information on Doctors.net.uk, please call Simon Grime on +44 (0)1235 828400, or email Simon.Grime@mess.doctors.org.uk. You can also follow Doctors.net.uk on twitter: @doctors_net_uk

26th September 2012

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