Sunday, October 10, 2010

Communication mix in pharma marketing

Above image from here.

One interesting observation of people who take a fresh view of pharma marketing or when a new person looks in to pharma marketing, he observes that the communication mix is heavily tipped in favor of PERSONAL SELLING.

The next important element of the communication mix, particularly in India is SALES PROMOTION (providing cash discounts or bonus offers), to retailers and stockists (not to patients). Nevertheless, there are some interesting new parts of communication that are gaining traction like mobile based messaging, and POP (point-of-purchase) promotional activities. Pharma companies are definitely seeing the importance of various other communication systems hitherto not emphasized in pharma marketing.

The traditional view of pharmaceutical communication is providing an emphasis on the following elements:

1) Personal selling: this element of the communication mix gets the maximum focus in pharma marketing, MRs are appointed who are trained to provide the personal selling function.

2) Sales promotion: mind you, the focus of sales promotional offers unlike FMCG marketing is solely the retailer (and to some extent the stockist ie., wholeseller), almost never the patient!!

3) Advertising: is a useful input of the communication mix in pharmaceutical marketing. Pharmed established its new concept products in the 1990s ie., glucosamine based products solely through slick print advertisements in medical journals. Advts. continue to be important for providing information and provoking prescription flow.

4) Direct marketing: was employed by Cipla (it is being done to some extent by them even now), when they had some problems in personal selling function. In fact, the mailers and inputs provided through direct marketing was so impressive, doctors would wait for the material to arrive through mail or courier.

IF PERSONAL SELLING IS A PROBLEM DUE TO TERRITORY DISTURBANCE OR LACK OF MRs OR LACK OF WORKING BY MRs OR UNIONISM OR LACK OF QUALITY COMMUNICATION BY MRs, then direct marketing is an important approach to supplement or substitute personal selling and keep the marketing game on! Some marketing is always better than bad or no marketing!!

Direct marketing is an interesting approach. Firstly, it is not a foot-in-the-door type of approach. It respects the target person's privacy. It gives a freedom to the doctor to go through the mailed material at his leisure.

Often management personnel think that mailers received by doctors go to the waste paper basket directly without them being opened. This is not wholly true. It depends on the corporate image of the sender. For instance, when the then Glaxo and Cipla would send mailers doctors would value them - content in the mailer makes the difference.

When the content is plainly uninteresting then it is obvious doctors will loath mailers. Direct marketing mailers are not a failure approach, but the content being inferior makes the mailer approach a failure.

To put the above point in right perspective, imagine a slothful and unimpressive MR, will he be encouraged by the doctor? Just because the quality of the MR is poor, can we conclude that personal selling function based on MR is not useful in product promotion?

On the product promotional horizon, the personal selling function is getting challenging, MRs are not committed as before, quality MRs are difficult to get, the no. of MRs is getting a tad too crowded in the market ... so which way out?

Already, people are putting their money on sales promotion. But that is not going to be enough. Still more options of the product promotional mix need to be used to ensure best returns for the marketing buck. These options include targeted direct marketing, POP promotion, advertising, trade stall promotion ...

The Indian healthcare market

The Indian healthcare market including pharmaceutical market is looking up. 18% growth is assured. There is a lot of scope for market penetration. The need for pharma products and healthcare services is growing day by day. The Indian pharma retail market of about Rs. 45000 crores is growing at 18%! The media labels it 'steroid growth'. This pot of honey is attracting many entrepreneurs.

The usual approach to the pharma communication mix will out date the marketing game of pharma companies. With the personal selling function getting hotter in the Indian pharma market, it is inevitable that all other elements of product promotional mix will gain in importance.

Optimizing the marketing funds

If you have Rs. 10/- how will you distribute it among the elements of the pharma communication mix? This will be the real challenge ahead in pharma marketing. Marketing money allotments will only increase with competition become fiercer. How to optimize, how to expand communication activities? How to transform pharma marketing communication activity? There are a lot of interesting challenges ahead! Will making visual aids, literatures, allotting samples, gifts (big and small), providing schemes or bonus offers to retailers (of which much is gobbled by wholesellers, ie., the retail offers may not percolate down completely), alone suffice? Grappling with these questions is essential to pharma companies to survive and grow profitably in the future market!

Thnks for reading the blogpost on communication mix and how it may evolve in the future in Indian pharma market! Please scroll down to read all other blogposts (click on older posts as and when required), do recommend this blog to your friends.


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