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As the Coronavirus Impacts Sales Rep Access, Here’s How NPP Can Close Gaps in Engagement

As healthcare workplaces in the US begin to respond more aggressively to coronavirus (COVID-19), increasing Non-Personal Promotion (NPP) and virtual rep visits may become more prominent in the short-term to make up for temporary gaps in Salesforce access. 

Consider the restrictions in China as a harbringer of what we may anticipate in the US. Some pharma sales organizations are reporting the inability of their sales representatives to call on doctors face-to-face as just one part of their outbreak control strategy. Currently in the US, dinner meetings, conferences, and corporate travel are already being impacted. 

For pharma marketers in the US who may be facing new access challenges, here are ten recommended changes to omni-channel programs that will help maintain engagement during a period of significant uncertainty:

1. Start by developing scenarios that account for more aggressive declines in rep access. Despite this long-term trend, what’s different now is the speed at which this virus will curtail potentially massive amounts of face-to-face business-driving activity.

2. Review all omni-channel plans and identify quick wins — what creative can be repurposed, brought forward, or accelerated in the queue? Find new ways to maintain or increase NPP share of voice across all channels as rep visits drop or decline.

3. Explore maximum saturation models and balance increasing engagement with opt-outs/unsubscribes by closing gaps in your existing NPP communication cadence. 

4. Consider enhancing under-utilized channels that are proven performers, like direct mail. Explore testing into new addressable channels like digital radio and addressable TV so as not to overload the lowest-hanging-fruit channels like home office and iRep email.

5. Introduce third-party programs that can increase messaging surround sound while providing credibility and reducing potential brand-direct promotional fatigue.

6. Develop a new trigger concept that uses your data to detect where rep visits are declining and possibly where digital engagement has been on the rise. This can support a more focused NPP scenario based on impacted healthcare practitioner (HCP) audiences.

7. Invest more deliberately in virtual sales tools like Veeva Engage Tool, a feature potentially available within existing toolsets that enables compliant virtual meetings between sales reps and doctors.

8. Given the impact to corporate travel, 1x1 video details and longer form video formats for branded ads and e-CME may become more valuable (and viable) as a replacement to time spent at live meetings and conferences. 

9. Tailor experiences knowing that different HCPs will likely change their promotional responses in various ways – Pulmonologists, Infectious Disease doctors, PCPs, or NP/PAs directly triaging infected patients may be swamped in the short-term if the infection outbreak becomes even more serious, with a potential decline in promotional response. However, non-related HCPs may experience appointment cancellations among at-risk groups, e.g., the elderly. Closely monitor engagement with existing programs and be prepared to scale NPP communication frequency, up or down, accordingly.

10. Evaluate scenarios where more budget may be available for NPP and other virtual channels, and keep testing into optimal saturations across all channels.

Ultimately, these moves reflect the right evolution based on known trends including the last decade of declining representative access and the shift to digital-virtual environments. The pharmaceutical companies that move faster and shift investment accordingly in the next few months will come out ahead and may be in a better leadership position than before. Until a vaccine becomes available in 2021, consider a new normal where at-risk groups must be protected as our omni-channel marketing norms must quickly adapt to these changes. 

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