A few weeks ago my uncle sent me the piece below.It's from an organization called the Alliance for Retired Americans, a Washington lobbying group that, as its name implies, advocates on behalf of the elderly and retired. Whether or not this piece is a factually accurate prediction, it's pretty clear that at least some of what it describes is going to happen:
As pharma marketers, how do we respond to this? Should we all be worried? Should we be planning "scenarios" for alternative marketing? Should we make outreach and develop guidelines (again) around DTC and make it what it could be — the most responsible form of advertising it is, supporting and educating patients. Should we, could we, must we…
My answer? It's a cliche, but hope for the best, plan for the worst. If this comes to pass, RM is suddenly going to be absolutely critical. Copmanies with weak or nonexistent RM programs, or those that have let them languish, are suddenly going to find themselves at a real, serious disadvantage. They've effectively put every single marketing egg they have in one basket, which is not a good idea in the bst of times, and could be an incredibly bad one if all this comes to pass.
What does this means specifically?
- Build your database as aggressively as you can. A lot of companies eventually just put the development of their databaes on a kind of automatic pilot — content with mediocre, or "acceptable" results. If, under President Obama, DTC becomes a less-viable option, the database is suddenly going to become very important.
- Make sure your patient need/access programs are well funded and used. These programs are like aircraft carriers — you can't just turn them on a dime. It takes time and planning to bring them up to speed. Begin now.
- Plan to change your DTC TV to adherence messaging. Regulation of DTC will almost certainly be focused on what's perceived as hard-sell acquisition marketing. By switching to an adherence focus, this can be managed without gutting your DTC mechanism.
- Start using multi-channel Relationship Marketing with a strong emphasis on service not sales.The multi-channel part is essential. We are increasingly living in a world where consumers get their information through many channels. This means pharma, too.
LIke it or not, ready for it or not, fair or not, change is almost certainly coming. Being prepared is simply a variant on the idea of not putting all of your eggs in one marketing basket. Start moving them now.