10 February 2009

E - Detailing - New hope for Pharmacutical Industy.

Reduction in access to physicians means pharmaceutical sales forces must find new and different models for selling their wares. Traditionally, the pharmaceutical industry has been able to control sales through increasing ratios of sales calls to meetings, and widening its sales force as necessary to keep growing. No longer.

Other industries have changed and adapted to digitalization. Now the pharmaceutical industry must do the same. eMarketing has evolved to a new phase in its development. It is more informed by a new generation of physicians which is using the internet regularly and extensively to meet a variety of professional needs. Early online marketing of drugs to physicians through channels such as eDetailing saw a reconstruction of the sales rep presentation using technology. Now, new technological trends such as web 2.0 and an increasingly connected physician customer base mean that pharmaceutical sales and marketing support needs to reflect the complexity of physician online behaviors and preferences.

Despite this complexity, one simple theme runs throughout. Pharmaceutical firms must listen to their customers. No amount of innovative web-based tools and connectivity can replace a genuine understanding of physician's needs. eMarketing techniques are there to support this relationship, which will still need to be maintained on a face-to-face basis. But with face-to face contact time diminishing due to ever-increasing demands on physician time, one of the marketing tools that offers potential for reaching a wide audience of physicians is eDetailing.

However based on research, current awareness and use of eDetailing is low amongst European physicians - only around 13% of physicians spoken to state that they had used the technology.

So why focus on eDetailing? According to today’s industry experts, eDetailing does indeed make up a relatively small part of the overall marketing mix, but detailing physicians using technological aids is set to increase dramatically in the future. This will be driven by advanced eMarketing techniques such as social networks, a rise in online physician time, and a reduction in physician availability for face-to-face interaction with sales reps, and changing marketing budgets and strategies.

However, doctors appreciate the ability to be able to access information as and when they need it and doctors are active online. The challenge is around using the technology correctly. The drawbacks to eDetailing in its current form that we uncovered were largely down to the simplistic manner in which it is being carried out today. The content and design are seen as too biased, one-sided and static. Physicians that had used eDetailing wanted more interactivity, more ability to question the presentation and a way to judge the information against other sources. A brave new world of eMarketing beckons.

This research shows that European physicians seek more transparency around how pharmaceutical companies market their drugs. They are used to peer reviewed materials in medical journals to make their decisions. They talk to other doctors, whether pharmaceutical firms know about it or not. Social networks can help facilitate these interactions and the pharmaceutical industry should embrace them as other industries have. The industry may often feel ashamed of the term ‘big pharma’, but the size and power of large pharmaceuticals firms are one of the things that help to engender a sense of trust amongst physicians. Doctors feel that when a rep comes to them their products have been developed and tested by the biggest and best in the business.

Doctors are becoming used to peer communication via email, social networks, blogs, and forums, and are leaving pharmaceutical firms behind in their online habits. The social networking revolution has not taken place in the workplace; it has occurred in people’s homes, via Facebook, blogs and national newspaper websites. If companies want to harness the full extent of modern technology for sales and marketing, they need to understand how their customers are using these tools.

Pharmaceutical firms can use this technology to similar ends, facilitating discussion between physicians and learning from the interactions that take place. This is already happening in the US through mediums such as Sermo, and has potential to catch on in Europe through portals such as Doctors.net. The Genric Hub – India, becoming a very big market for E – Pharma in future.