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Think global but act local to engage doctors worldwide

Combating budget cuts to follow an integrated, multi-channel marketing approach

Online European healthcare audiencesWith sales and marketing department cuts, and increased pressure on resources, engaging doctors internationally as part of an integrated, multi-channel approach, presents a real challenge for the pharma industry.

However, taking a country by country approach and tailoring information to doctors' nationality, as well as factors such as their age, seniority and specialty, is essential since different countries have different healthcare systems and ways of operating.

Independent online networks, which are used by more than three million doctors worldwide for information, education and collaboration, provide a valuable channel through which to research doctors' clinical wants and needs on a national basis, as well as navigate their culture and regulations. 

Data shows that 99 per cent of doctors log on to independent professional networks to communicate with colleagues, 66 per cent use them to keep up-to-date with information, 44 per cent for online CME and 35 per cent to ask a clinical question. In fact, these networks have become so essential to a doctor's working day that they are now one of their most highly trusted resources. 

A number of pharma companies have tried to replicate this model by setting up their own online networks. But while websites and KOL or doctor networks that have been set up or sponsored by pharma provide some value, evidence suggests that independent credibility and lack of impartiality are still a major stumbling block for many doctors, especially hospital specialists. For example, data* shows that only three per cent of doctors think online pharma resources are credible and 42 per cent say they never visit their websites. 

Peer-to-peer privacy is also an issue for doctors using pharma networks. Evidence shows that they are very selective about where they are willing to discuss sensitive issues in an online environment. 

While senior executives readily admit that the pharmaceutical industry is still lagging behind most other industries in terms of 'digital maturity'[1], evidence shows that the situation is changing. Investment in digital initiatives is growing significantly and 58 per cent of pharma executives across Europe predict an increase in expenditure on physician communities[2]. This view is supported by a poll conducted during a recent PMLiVE webinar in May, which showed that 81 per cent of the 300 attendees thought such networks have an important role to play in the sales and marketing mix. 

It is likely that these perceptions will increasingly be turned into action as companies recognise the value of independent online networks and how they can leverage that independence to build a more trusted and transparent relationship with their key customers – one that can be effectively measured, as part of the overall multi-channel strategy.

Simon Grime, is Managing Director of Communications for Networks in Health. For more information on Networks in Health, please call Simon Grime on +44 (0)1235 828400, or email You can also follow Networks in Health on twitter: netwrksinhealth

* research data where n= 1,021 GPs

[1] The Digital Advantage: How Digital Leaders Outperform their Peers in Every Industry

[2] Pharmaceutical Sales and Marketing Trends    

21st August 2013

From: Marketing



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