Fight the Contagion with Contagion—Maximizing Reach Through Better Targeting

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As featured in PM360

“eDetailing. Zoom lunches. Provide empathy and support for the staff. Be there…virtually. Don’t be in the way, but don’t be forgotten”

These are quotes from Vicki, not your average pharma rep. She is consistently a top performer based on the trusted relationship she’s developed with her physicians over many years. She has weathered every launch and salesforce structure change and trend for more than two decades—and remains among the best in the business. For top performers like Vicki, and more important, average reps and pharma sales forces at large, the COVID-19 quarantine has been the latest, and easily the largest disruption to the pharma sales/marketing business model ever.

The switch from the highly engaging face-to-face channel to the much less personal digital channels will certainly lead to lower access and effectiveness, putting further pressure on the investment in the salesforce. The industry has to find other means to offset the reduced access and find a way to amplify the access it does have. The solution to the COVID-19 contagion for reduced industry access is, ironically, leveraging the contagion of information.

Like the contagion we are now fighting; information, ideas, and behaviors also move rapidly between connected networks of individuals. Social network science documents that the depth and speed of adoption of new behaviors is more rapid and pronounced within connected networks than outside of them. Physician behavior is no different.

Targeting Via a Network Lens

Now is an ideal time to re-assess strategy and increase your targeting and engagement with key HCPs, KOLs, speakers, and related individuals, for it is through the multiplier effect of these engagements that you will be able to offset the reduction in overall engagement. Rather than continue to view your targets based solely on behavioral profiles (decile, category, segment) it is now imperative that you add a network lens to your planning.

By identifying influential leaders and their connections, you can enhance your current efforts in a few different ways:

  • Prioritize contact with the leaders, which puts a contagion/multiplier effect into play.
    • You may already be doing this without even knowing it, but have you considered it at scale?
  • Visualize where their connections are and spread your coverage so that you are not overly redundant (picture a Venn diagram, don’t over cover).
  • Expand your reach—use this time to evaluate contact beyond your routine call plan. Are there doctors you don’t normally get to? Where do they fit into a network map? Leader? Influencer? Close connected follower?
  • Spend time on lagging clusters/communities. ID the segments in your territories that are below average and increase focus on leaders and connections there.
  • Virtual programs are increasing. HCP attendance may improve due to convenience of logging in from home or office vs. giving up a few hours of time to go to a venue. Expand your invitation process and let network connections help you prioritize both the speaker/ moderators as well as the attendee list.
  • MSL/Rep coordination: Networks don’t always follow territory zip alignments. Reps and MSLs can coordinate coverage and outreach to maximize reach and coverage.

We are living through one of the most dramatic upheavals in the healthcare community we have ever seen, the repercussions of which will be seen for years. The most successful companies will be those that re-evaluate their current practices in light of this new environment. Leveraging the multiplier effect of your targeting efforts, regardless of channel, is one of the most important actions you can do now to succeed in this new environment.

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