Doctor Detailing and ROI: How effective are Healthcare Marketing sales reps in informing doctors about practice management and new drugs, who, after all, have gone through years of scientific training? After all, pharmaceutical sales reps tend not to have medical backgrounds. Our research reveals that marketing to physicians can be both informative and persuasive—and that it is possible to measure the extent of time for which the informative effect dominates. This is especially true early in the lifecycle of a product. However, understanding new research on physician behaviour can have a substantial impact on ROI from detailing.
Pharmaceutical companies spent over $10 billion on marketing in North America alone. Most of this is spent on communicating with doctors. Drug companies spend substantial resources on deciding on call frequencies to physician and when to make those calls. Our research indicates doctors learn at different rates depending on years of experience, attitudes to sales reps and interest in new clinical information. There are fast learners, slow learners, and those who fall in between. But currently, drug companies tend to allocate investments for detailing based upon heavy, medium and light prescribers and not on knowledge and interest in a particular drug. If drug companies persist in detailing information about a particular drug to a fast learner, the marketing dollars are effectively wasted. On the other hand, stopping detailing before a slower learner has absorbed everything he or she needs to know about a particular drug can end up hurting overall sales.
Detailing plays an informative role and can influence preference. And not only is detailing more profitable than direct-to-consumer advertising, but timing is critical. Reps can spend exactly the same amount on detailing, but in different periods it can have a different impact. For example, reps could increase revenues by 4 percent to 14 percent if they followed the same detailing pattern as with a drug which has more front loading of advertising expenditures. This is more likely for drugs with OTC and prescription variants, eg. antihistamines.
Detailing has a higher return for drug companies than direct-to-consumer advertising, but marketing to physicians has the added effect of lowering prices for consumers by increasing the price sensitivity of consumers. And although consumer ads tend to increase sales for all drugs in a category—detailing increases sales for the particular brand of drug being pushed. Detailing can influence shifts in market share.
Pharmaceutical firms can distinguish fast learners from slow learners through statistical analyses such as how quickly a doctor prescribes a new drug based on his or her age, time since graduation from medical school, or other attributes that can be easily observed. There are consulting firms in the industry that perform these types of analyses to help drug makers target their detailing more precisely.
Direct-to-consumer advertising may help a drug company’s competitors as much as it helps the advertiser’s product by expanding demand for an entire category of drugs. On the other hand, well-timed advertising directed to doctors tends to boost sales of the brand that spent the marketing dollars. Pharmaceutical companies could increase revenues if they shift their advertising to spend more heavily soon after the launch of a new product and away from later periods