Physicians are in distress, and that is a marketing opportunity

Physicians are in distress, and that is a marketing opportunity – editorial

Donald E.L. Johnson

Physicians are in distress, and that is a marketing opportunity

Selling products and services to health care institutions and physicians is a value-added game.

And physicians are one constituency who need value added programs. They are being demoralized by changes in the health care industry more than any other group.

Just how demoralized this critical customer base has become was outlined in a three part series in the New York Times last month. While the series basically repeated a cover story in last summer’s Time magazine, it served as an important signal that the vendor that figures out how to help physicians will have a tremendous advantage in their market.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are geniuses in coming up with value added programs for physicians, but they don’t have a monopoly on this marketing strategy.

Whether you are a manufacturers’ representative, detail person, distributor, medical device manufacturer or consultant, there are ways to help physicians contend with:

* Threats to their income,

* Contentious patients,

* Managed care constraints and

* Reduced autonomy.

A favorite pharmaceutical company strategy is to sponsor scientific meetings for doctors most likely to prescribe a particular drug.

Some pharmaceutical companies assign evangelists to work with local, state and national specialty societies, helping them put on special programs, sponsoring studies, underwriting dinners and doing whatever is necessary to get on the good side of the physicians. Other pharmaceutical companies sponsor single-sponsored journals and newsletters for their target constituencies, and try to help them with their marketing and business management programs.

Such efforts can be quite expensive when conducted on a national scale.

But a distributor catering to physicians in a few states or a metropolitan area might come up with value-added programs designed to help physicians improve their relations with patients and regulators. And a sales person who regularly calls on physicians might make points by encouraging a key supplier to back a program designed to help physicians do a better job of communicating with patients and regulators.

The problem faced by physicians is that patients are less likely to trust their judgment, and insurers are increasingly likely to demand second opinions and utilization review. All of this activity, coupled by growing public interest in participating in medical decision making has undermined the authority of the physician. This has taken the joy and autonomy out of the job, probably forever. And it is gradually changing the importance of physicians as decision makers when it comes to selecting products and services.

But physicians are still critical customers. And suppliers can help themselves by helping their customers develop subtle promotion campaigns to replace physician advertising, which is backfiring.

Underwrite generic publications that your customer can distribute to patients. Sponsor community events that involve your customers and give them opportunities to make and renew friendships.

Back medical society promotion efforts, and underwrite the development of such efforts. Small distributors and detail people can win points by contributing time to promoting doctors in their towns. Most important, put your creative mind to work thinking about the physician’s problems and possible solutions.

COPYRIGHT 1990 J.B. Lippincott Company

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group