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Leveraging Loyalty in Marketing Pharmaceuticals to Health Care Professionals

There isn’t a pharmaceutical brand marketer who hasn’t considered the notion of “loyalty” in their marketing efforts at some point in the planning cycle. On the surface it seems like a worthwhile proposition, but on closer scrutiny, the effort associated with delivery, application, impact and maintenance may outweigh the benefits. In this first of two blogs discussing pharma loyalty, we will provide a general overview and then drill into the challenges and opportunities associated with loyalty marketing to HCPs.

In considering loyalty in pharma, you need to ask who you are considering within the scope of the engagement. The patient, the payor, the health care professional (HCP), the pharmacy and therapeutics (P&T) committee, the health institution, buying group or perhaps the legal jurisdiction (county, state, governing body, etc.) are all potential targets in the development of a loyalty-based initiative.

With respect to HCP-focused marketing efforts, there are a number of additional considerations: Are we leveraging loyalty to the brand, the brand’s therapeutic franchise within the pharmaceutical company, the company itself or perhaps the pharma rep? Additionally, we need to determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) will be used to evaluate choice, impact and alignment with our products’ strategies.

While there are a number of variables that will influence an HCP’s relationship with any given brand, the associated KPIs are intuitive. Impact will be a measure of either absolute loyalty (total Brand X prescribed) or relative loyalty (% of Brand X prescribed relative to total therapeutic Rx activity). Over time we will naturally want to look at the evolution of this performance longitudinally — namely, what is the dynamic nature of product migration over a defined period? We will also want to consider the extent and impact of rep access — are we able to optimize our visits relative to goal, or do we typically fall short of the number of planned calls? Consider other metrics such as open rates or engagement with non-personal promotion, participation and attendance at therapeutic-focused conventions and booth visits, key opinion leader activity and patient engagement with targeted communications.

Influencing variables will include (but are not limited to), HCP age, gender, training and education, specialty, size of practice, relative unique MCO coverage among their patients, patient profile, patient responsiveness to treatment, patient reported outcomes,  affiliation with buying groups, health institutions and adoption rate of new technology. These factors will influence message response, trial and loyalty.

Thus, while the concept of leveraging loyalty in pharmaceutical marketing seems like a given, the multiple stakeholders and potential targets, unique influencing variables and quantitative challenges require detailed cross-target considerations and a broader analysis of the real opportunities. Designing pilot initiatives to isolate and quantify the impact of these considerations is critical to developing effective loyalty-based initiatives and realizing their true benefit.

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