Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reinventing pharma marketing in India today


The PwC report, “ India Pharma Inc – Changing Landscape of the Indian pharma industry “ has eloquently documented the challenges Indian pharma today faces.  What can pharma do to cope with the current slowdown in growth rate and sales ?

Pharma marketing in India seems to be stuck in a time warp – they keep on doing what they’ve been doing for decades. Now I can understand this inertia on their part – after all, if it’s not broken, why fix
it ? However, the truth is that the old model no longer works. The law of diminishing returns applies – and because this is a very competitive space, trying to induce doctors to prescribe a particular brand by incentivising them is a mug’s game because there is no loyalty being created – the doctor will happily switch brands once some other company offers them more.

Selling to doctors is still the heart and soul of the pharma industry business model. While MRs form the backbone of the pharma sales force, they are no longer as effective as they used to be. While companies are trying to invest in technology in order to increase their sales force effectiveness, they need to go back to basics – What can they do to ensure their sales force gets enough quality face time with the doctor ?  Most doctors disrespect MRs today . They are only seen to be a source of freebies – and are made to wait for hours on end. This affects their self-esteem, and many MRs are changing jobs because they are so dis-satisfied with their role. This kind of churn affects morale and all the time, money and energy spent in training the sales representative goes down the drain.

Today’s pharma  sales force is disgruntled and unhappy, as shown by their high attrition rates.  Sadly, pharma marketing still seems to be stuck in a time warp. Marketing and Sales Managers will have to start  thinking out of the box given the fact that the old methods no longer work – it’s time for disruptive innovation !  Good managers will have to invest in tools and technology so that doctors will want to talk to their MRs.
The good news is that it’s not expensive to do this – they just need to start thinking  about what they can do to improve the doctor’s productivity and efficiency ! What do doctors want ? The answer is simple – they want more patients ! A pharma company which can help doctors to do this is going to find that doctors are very receptive !

Doctors are realising that they need to invest in educating their patients  in order to be able to increase their practice and improve their profitability . If pharma companies create actionable patient education tools for doctors to use in their practices, doctors will be happy to use these – creating a win-win situation where everyone benefits – patients; doctors and the pharma company !

Pharma should Invest in improving the doctor-patient relationship by harnessing the power of technology and social media. Doctors want their patients to be as satisfied as possible with their care , which is why they want to have  informed and quality interactions with their patients. But in real life, this often does not happen, primarily because doctors find it difficult to spend enough time with their patients, no matter how good their intentions maybe. To compound the problem, patients are also often not health literate. One solution to both make the doctor more efficient and the patient more aware about his condition is by investing in Information Therapy , which the doctor can then prescribe to his patients.

Advances in digital technology and the opening of new online communication channels means there are now lots of opportunities to improve the doctor-patient relationship significantly. Sadly, most individual doctors don’t have either the expertise or the resources to tap these. This is a huge opportunity for pharma, which can act as a catalyst to improve the doctor-patient relationship . Enlightened pharma companies which do this stand to gain lots of goodwill and loyalty of both doctors and patients.

There are many ways of doing this.

1.    They can create customized personalized patient education DVDs. Doctors can gift these to their patients at the end of the consultation, so they can review them at home. This can help doctors to enhance their brand and create patient loyalty.

2.    These DVDs can be played in the waiting room TV.  This will ensure that the patient becomes better informed about his illness and its treatment – and he will not be so unhappy when the doctor is running late ! In high end clinics, this content can also be played on tablets, which the receptionist can offer to patients while they are waiting. 

3.    Create personalized  websites for doctors.   Doctors today have realized that a majority of their patients are online . They understand the value a personal website can offer them,  but don’t know how to go about creating one for themselves.  Most website companies don’t understand medicine and most doctors don’t understand digital technology.  A pharma company could create individual websites for doctors, with the domain name which the doctor himself chooses. Not only is this very valuable digital real estate, it also then opens up a direct marketing channel to the doctor for the pharma company ! After all, every doctor takes pride in his own website , and not only will he print his url on his visiting cards and letter heads , he will check it to analyse the traffic he is getting ( doctors can be very competitive !). The trick is to provide content rich websites, which are prepopulated according to the specialty of the doctor, which he can then further customize and personalize if he wants to.

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