By TKG’s Rachna Pawar
In the past, pharmaceutical companies marketed directly to physicians and physician-led groups. Their efforts focused almost exclusively on one question: does it work?
Seems like a simple question. On some level, every drug or therapy either outperforms an existing option, treats something that was previously considered untreatable or improves a condition previously unrecognized as an ailment.
Guided by the practitioner’s perspective, pharma marketing emphasized a “this drug works better than that drug” approach through branded resources and experiences designed to position products. In its era, product-centered marketing provided the answer to the question.
Now consider the same question – does it work? – but imagine a health system administrator asking it. As the landscape of healthcare delivery has changed, it’s meant that the decision-makers have changed too. Just like that, a simple question becomes much more complicated.
No longer are physicians making decisions directly based on a drug’s effectiveness, instead system administrators are tasked with assessing efficacy alongside cost and probable patient-outcomes – all of which contribute to incentives and disincentives. So whether or not a drug “works” now depends on a complex and evolving value equation that includes patient experience, cost and quality of care, community outcomes and other systemic impacts. In other words, what was once a linear, empirically provable answer has now become a conversation.
And the answer is no longer as simple as a sales sheet.
In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that branded, product-centered marketing is no longer the most effective approach for introducing new drugs and treatments. Seen from the system administrator perspective, classic “this works better than that” techniques fail to address the challenges they face related to changing delivery, reimbursement models and business structures.
Instead, we’ve seen better results from customer-centered marketing – a new approach that emphasizes relationship-building between account manager and administrator through the delivery of tools and resources that address the full spectrum of the administrator’s needs. What happens when the patient leaves the hospital? What actions could they take that would prevent costly reoccurrences of symptoms? How is a particular pathology influenced by other treatments or behaviors? How do recommended treatments fit within the context of a patient-centered medical home?
Marketing that addresses these issues and sets the appropriate context for a decision about a drug has proven to be the superior strategy. And for good reason. A healthcare system administrator’s responsibilities go far beyond the gurney.
Which brings us back to the original question – does it work? The answer, increasingly, is maybe. Savvy marketers and key account managers that offer value through unbranded tools and resources designed to set the context for answering the question have gained a significant advantage.