Friday, November 17, 2006

Era of Relationship Marketing

There was a time in pharma marketing in India when quality alone was an important factor. If a company offered quality products it was sure to gain an adequate share in the prescription market. However, the honeymoon with quality did not last long. Quality soon became a qualifier in the rat race to gain market share.

Next was the era of brand equity (brand image) and corporate image. One could influence prescription habits based on brand and corporate image.

Today, brand equity and product quality have become qualifiers in the race for prescription and mind share. Welcome, today, to the ERA OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING. Relationship marketing has always been the foundation of pharma marketing. However, the accent on relationship marketing has increased thanks to fierce competitive marketing practices in the field of pharma marketing.


The fulcrum of relationship marketing is building customer bonds. The focus in relationship marketing is building a bond between the target doctor/chemist and pharma company. The emphasis in relationship marketing goes beyond promotion of products and services. It includes product promotion, value added services and customer bond building.

Relationship marketing is a communication process. There is a dialog between the customer and the company. Relationship marketing is also about discovering customer needs and servicing them. Indian pharma companies have traditionally excelled in relationship marketing. However, innovator Indian pharma companies like DRL today excel both on the product front and relationship marketing. In fact, the magazine HOUSECALLS from DRL and its S - team have set new standards in pharma relationship marketing. “Housecalls” is a magazine that connects prescriber community and the company. DRL’s S – team is a force of professionals who sell concepts to prospects and soften the ground for its main field force to enter the arena and promote. Himalaya too, with its CAPSULE and other magazines has leveraged highly on relationship marketing. So the key in relationship marketing is two-way communication.


Pharma markets in India are cruelly competitive. Building differentiation in products and services is becoming difficult. Competitive practices are similar. Pharma companies look and sound the same to the doctor(s). There is in fact, promotional clutter. This is where relationship marketing works in the pharmaceutical field.

Relationship marketing treats doctors not as “prescription generators”. Relationship marketing is emotional – builds feelings of trust, goodwill and mutual respect. Relationship marketing is effective because it is based on the fact that 70% of purchase (prescribing) decisions are made emotionally.


Relationship marketing will work if two vital questions are asked:

Who are the right target doctors/chemists for the business?
Why do these target doctors/chemists want a relationship with our pharma companies?

After answering the above questions, the next step is chalking out the doctor/chemist list.

Now to these target doctors/chemists a taut communication plan is crucial. The communication should be attractive. And persistent. Regular calls are a key to pharma success and along with it goes TRUST. Trust develops when the pharma marketer has the doctors/chemists best interests at heart for mutual benefits.

Relationship pharma marketing is essential in today’s pharma marketing process. The bottomline: people do business with people.

1) Relationship marketing is a communication process. It is building bonds with doctors/chemists based on trust, goodwill, mutual benefit and regular two-way communication.
2) Emotion (especially TRUST) is a vital influencer of prescribing habits and purchase decisions.
3) Right target doctors/chemists (based on product features) are vital for relationship marketing.
4) The basic age old fact is: PEOPLE DO BUSINESS WITH PEOPLE.

Author: Sunil S Chiplunkar M Pharma PGDMM
Juggat Pharma, Bangalore

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