How eDetails and sales reps go hand in hand.
When eDetailing first appeared 10 years ago, a common misconception took root: online detailing would ultimately make sales reps obsolete. Pharma marketing managers and brand teams fueled the myth by keeping sales managers and reps out of the loop when planning and executing an eDetail. For their part, reps typically viewed “e” tactics warily and did little to encourage their targets to reap the benefits of six-to-eight uninterrupted minutes on message.
It wasn't until we actually took the time to measure the impact of eDetailing that the truth set brand teams free. Independent analyses conducted by IMS and others repeatedly told the same story: the more effective the integration of a brand's sales and eDetailing efforts, the greater the positive change in prescribing behavior. Nevertheless, the positive data didn't always translate into a change in eMarketing strategy.
Let's take a look at a simple example. For years, database technology and ZIP code lists have made it possible to prompt a physician watching an eDetail to request product samples or a sales-rep visit. Such requests could then be routed in real time to the appropriate sales reps via e-mail. But pharma was slow to take advantage of such opportunities. Then the industry saw that the majority of all physicians who had completed an eDetail requested samples or a rep follow-up visit if given the opportunity. More startling, most of these physicians were self-described “hard-to-see” or “no-access”— which meant the eDetail actually increased rep access to physicians. Today, the evolution of back-end technology enables physicians to choose a specific day and time for a follow-up visit from a rep. With such a request in hand, a sales rep can walk into a physician's office and honestly tell the receptionist that Dr. Jones has requested a sample delivery and even scheduled the timing of the visit. Amazingly, some pharma marketers continue to bypass this rep-request feature, missing the opportunity to maximize the impact of their programs.
These same ROI analyses can often provide other valuable insights related to sales-force integration. In general, NRx increases markedly among both called-on and white-space physicians who complete eDetails, whereas prescribing levels remain flat among physicians who don't watch eDetails.
However, the rise in NRx is usually greater among eDetailed physicians who are also called on by a sales rep, vs. physicians who complete eDetails but do not receive a sales rep visit. Just as significantly, the sustainability of the NRx lift may nearly double (e.g., six months vs. three months) among eDetailed, called-on physicians versus no-see physicians. It is worth noting that eDetails can lift sales of both the eDetailed brand and its competitors among no-see physicians, a fact that further emphasizes the important role that sales reps play in reinforcing and tailoring the brand message.
An engaged sales force can dramatically heighten the impact of a strong eDetail
But the evolution of rep involvement in eDetailing didn't end with sample and rep-visit requests. A savvy sales rep suggested that the field sales force become further involved in the online program by hand-delivering eDetailing invitations to their physicians. As the length of an average sales call dipped under the one-minute mark, delivering eDetail-program invitations via a nurse or office manager became a crucial tactic for sales reps. This tactic signaled that sales reps had finally come to see the value of eDetailing to their brand and their sales numbers.
Nevertheless, for various reasons, some pharma clients still resist the idea of involving their sales force in any eMarketing initiative. Among brand teams, an increasingly common question of even the most impactful eDetail is its breadth of reach: If only 5 percent of the target market actually view it, it's getting dangerously close to the old “tree failing in the forest” metaphor. But even with only 5 percent of the audience engaged, eDetailing can often deliver ROI of three to one (or better) when integrated with sales-force efforts. And the educational depth of a good eDetail means that these doctors are well-informed and are potentially valuable influencers.
Our experience shows that eDetails should not be planned, executed or evaluated in a vacuum, nor treated as a stand-alone tactic. They should be integrated and synthesized into every online and offline initiative a brand undertakes.
An engaged sales force can dramatically heighten the impact of a strong eDetail and probably salvage a mediocre one. The more effectively you integrate the sales force in your eDetailing program, the more likely you'll be to profoundly and quantifiably affect prescribing behavior, see a sustained lift in market share and get full credit for a job well done.