Ground level product promotional activity
Ref. for above image:https://www.imd.org/research-knowledge/articles/digital-business-transformation/
Product promotional messaging is the life breath of every business, and finance is the life blood of every business. Both feed each other. Promotional messages are transmitted through messengers – both animate and non-animate. From the inception of pharmaceutical industry in India, the medical representatives (MRs) have played a hallmark role of being messengers of product promotional messages to target doctors and pharmacists. Alongside, they have performed the role of relationship managers too, providing persuasion tools like samples and other knickknacks or sponsorships.
Marketing myopia is another truism of marketing domain - it happens because marketers like to remain in the comfort zone. Instead of viewing the product messages as being the pull creator of product sales, companies began to view medical representatives as the product sales pullers. Yes, the MRs are certainly product sales pullers, but is so only when they push product promotional messages. Otherwise, they are just mendicant or postman medical representatives. Hence, the prima donna force providing sales pull is the array of product promotional messages (through MRs or through other means).
There are some pharmaceutical companies who learnt this home truth early on; that the medical representatives are relationship managers, people who handle collaterals in a value added manner, and are product promotional message transmitters. This is what makes the MRs’ masters of persuasion practice. The MR based product messaging activity is through the classic modes of visual aid and collateral detailing, extempore detailing and dialogue detailing with yes momentum. Earlier on the printed visual aid and literatures were main tools for collateral based detailing, today, electronic aids like ipad, smartphone and tablet pc based collateral detailing are being done by MRs to engage the doctors and get them engrossed in the message. Videos, digital images, gif images, and audio recordings used on these electronic devices have gripped the attention and engaged doctors during in-clinic activity, in-CME product promotion and in-stall or in-booth activity. So the nub of the matter is that delivery of PRODUCT PROMOTIONAL MESSAGES produces the business outcomes, while other ‘give and take’ transactions, provides a higher level to the business outcome. For example negotiated sponsorships along with product messaging activity have provided rocket growth to pharmaceutical companies in India.
The digital dimension of product promotional messaging activity
Covid-19 coronaviral infection has upset the apple cart of routine product promotional messaging activity in the pharmaceutical sector. Doctors have been used to medical representative visits, who provide positive strokes, appreciation, ego massage, informational product points (these are very important to help recapitulate, after all knowledge is volatile) and other inputs that are valued by them (samples, gifts etc). The virulent pandemic Covid-19 has made people go in for social and physical distancing. Doctors have seen the horrid of morbidity and mortality with Covid-19 infection from close quarters; hence, they are hesitant to meet up with medical representatives. This has changed the way pharmaceutical companies transfer product promotional messages and do the relationship management.
Pharmaceutical companies adapt to the market change
There is a saying - IF IT IS IMPORTANT, YOU WILL FIND A WAY - OR YOU WILL FIND AN EXCUSE. Thus, savvy pharmaceutical marketers have immediately redrawn the blue print of product promotional message transfer, from relying solely on medical representatives to laying focus on the digital route of messaging to target audiences.
Abbott has found its solution through international Key Opinion Leader (KOL) webinars and focus group discussions involving core doctors. Micro Labs has started influencing and messaging doctors through zoom based advisory board discussions, and phone talking with core doctors. Whatsapp has proved a great help to push messages to core doctors and core pharmacies. So the focus is to find the 20% of doctors, pharmacies and territories (or areas or pincodes) that provide the 80% of the business - and ring-fencing them to protect businesses.
Group Pharmaceuticals, Bangalore is a very innovative and dynamic pharmaceutical company with research based oral care products - this company has focused on digital means of reaching target patients, doctors and pharmacies, through the website route, webinars (for pharmacists and doctors), social cause marketing like Dental Reach and ensuring push messaging of useful nuggets of wisdom to engage doctors and end consumers. Group Pharmaceuticals has a committed field force with a high morale for ground level activation too.
The nature of patient-centric reality of the pharmaceutical business especially for OTX (over-the –counter plus prescription products) portfolio has come to the fore due to the Covid-19 disruption. Many companies are also facilitating or drawing up plans to help doctors provide telemedicine connects to patients.
Conclusion – ‘phygital’ is the way forward
Phygital (physical + digital) is the way forward for ensuring product promotional messages are delivered at the right time, in the right amount of the right quality to the targeted audience, because it is the product promotional messages that actually bring in the business rather than the messenger, -this is the home truth. The other home truth that has once again hit investors is that cash is king, and businesses survive only when marketing is sharp enough to ensure smooth cash flow into the organization. And if the business outcomes have to be further improved, then relationship management concepts become important, and here too, ‘phygital ’ is the way forward.