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The New Role of the Pharma Rep and Raising the Digital Stakes

Given the rapidly evolving changes to our healthcare system, as well as the overwhelming volume of content that healthcare professionals (HCP) are faced with daily across channels, a defined HCP communication strategy at the therapeutic and brand level is more important than ever for the pharmaceutical industry. To compete in this dynamic and over-saturated market, pharma companies must shift their approach to focus less on the individual campaign and more on an enterprise-wide strategy that places the customer at the center of the business.

The pharmaceutical rep has been increasingly losing its impact and reach, making it imperative for the industry to understand and redefine/reinvent that role, as pharma companies shift toward engaging with individual HCPs, and reinforcing existing relationships with every interaction. While the approach is to leverage all touchpoints into a people-based marketing framework, the real context is customer centricity, and the solution just might be a “rep franchise.”  

Consider that physician promotions are oversaturating the market, with the average primary care physician (PCP) now receiving almost 300 communications per month across all touchpoints – a three-fold increase from 2010. Furthermore, with the exception of inbound, content-rich initiatives, promotional engagement has been declining for over five years. Combine this with the fact that physician interest in beyond-the-pill programs and new, tech-driven care models are exploding, there is ample opportunity, and rationale to energize rep roles and relationships.

To take advantage of this opportunity and overcome “tune out,” the pharma industry needs to invest in people-based marketing strategies. The front end of this equation is about reducing advertising waste, while improving the value of the content, promotional efficiency of online marketing initiatives, and personalization based on preferences. This approach is validated by the fact that HCP audiences and end-user customers are slowly pulling away from listening to companies via the traditional modeling, especially face-to-face detailing – which reinforces pharma’s need to raise its digital stakes.

Just because face-to-face interactions are diminishing, doesn’t mean the end of the sales rep is near, or that pharma should neglect physician engagement. Instead pharma needs to rethink the role of the rep, and leverage a variety of tools, especially within the digital space, to facilitate communication and engagement through rep orchestrated personalized, branded content targeted at physician needs, combined with an understanding of the elements that can have a genuine influence on engagement, relevance, reach and ultimately, relationships.

To learn more, download Merkle’s report titled “Energizing the Local Rep Franchise: Pharmaceutical Companies are Creating Competitive Advantage Through-People Based Marketingand stay tuned for a second blog post that will dive into the rep franchise model.