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How to Segment and Target HCPs by Phase

In recent years, marketers have shifted their health care professional (HCP) marketing strategy from a "market aggregation" approach, which essentially treats everyone the same way, to a more targeted approach. The traditional approach to segmentation was grounded in the value of the HCP to the company, while newer practices focus on the additional dimension of brand value to the HCP. This approach uses the principles of people-based marketing and leverages knowledge gathered from market research, in combination with behavioral and attitudinal data.

Historically, marketers looked to recognize the heterogeneous needs of an HCP marketing strategy. This approach, however, failed to tell us little, if anything at all about the "real-time" evolution of the HCP’s journey: awareness, trial, adoption, loyalty, and defection (see figure below). Each of the new journey steps are a unique point in the HCP’s “segment” migration and is defined by intelligence gathered via the HCP’s response to the brand, as well as the brand's non-personal promotion (NPP) communications. The migration analysis, and supporting segmentation, can apply to any brand at any stage in a product life cycle.

HCP Activity-Based Migration

Diagram of healthcare provider activity-based migration

First, the awareness phase consists of HCPs that have been contacted with NPP or are new to the target list and have yet to write a prescription for the brand. The second, or trial phase of the journey consists of HCPs who have just started writing. This group consists of unique and multiple responders to NPP as well as physicians who have never responded, and collectively have an Rx volume below median. The adoption and loyalty phases consist of HCPs who are medium and high writers, respectively. In both of these phases, HCPs can be further segmented by those who either did not respond or responded to one or multiple NPP communications. The final, or defection phase of the journey includes physicians who were previous brand writers but have not written a script in a defined period (e.g., three months, one year, etc.).


For a company to maximize sales, it is crucial that the notion of delivering value to physicians is taken into consideration. Different HCPs present different needs, look for different levels of support, and interact with the brand in different ways. This approach to segmentation allows you to gain greater insight into individual engagement across all stages of the HCP journey, from awareness through to defection. Moreover, you can capture incremental granular data that is more predictive of the next -best content/message or desired action within each segment. You can use level of engagement as a surrogate for performance and can project impact before Rx lift is fully realized. Aggregate analysis allows you to accelerate optimization cycles to drive investment and mix, while saving costs on over-saturation of communications, and reducing the risk of flooding our most valuable customers.

The real value in this approach is to allow HCPs to experience a more relevant and connected interaction with the brand, which in turn sets the stage for them to work with the pharmaceutical company as a partner. It is not just about promoting drugs, but better understanding their needs to provide education, information, and solutions that help them serve patients. The new segmentation approach moves the marketing paradigm away from one that’s measured by sales performance. Now, you can move toward a broader engagement model with greater potential for incremental Rx, broader and deeper HCP relationships, and an expanded continuum of care and support for HCPs, clinical support teams, and patients.