Tuesday, October 03, 2006
It's no picnic being in the pharmaceutical industry these days: manufacturers are experiencing the pressure of delivering double-digit growth in the face of a more stringent FDA approval process, the worst press in their history and a diminishing return on the ROI of their field forces — to name a few challenges. One of the things that's been lacking is a real attention to what their customers — doctors — want, which is educational content, delivered on their terms, that helps doctors treat patients more effectively. But there is a hint that the U.S. Pharmaceutical industry may finally be getting customer experience religion — at least if the appearance of more pharma podcasting stories in trade pubs is any measure. With sales representative access to physicians continually eroding, the use of time-shifting technologies like podcasting to reach this busy, elusive and increasingly wired audience with customer-centric marketing techniques and education makes perfect sense. In 2005 alone the number of physicians who said technology is essential to the way they practice medicine increased 52% from the previous year [to 380,000].1
An article on pharma podcasting that ran in the September issue of Pharmaceutical Executive magazine presented some thought-provoking ideas on the potential uses of podcasts by pharma manufacturers to enhance customer experience and communication with physicians. With the industry's traditionally glacial pace of innovating the marketing process its not surprising that its taken more than 3 years since the first podcast "aired" for the industry to take notice of the medium's potential!
Funny thing is, pharma execs have been on the receiving end of "podmarketing" for some time now. Industry conferences often make some event coverage available in audio format. Some publications like PharmaVoice are even integrating podcasts and webcasts into their product mix targeted to industry executives. Nice! And for my own healthcare industry clients podcasting has formed an integral part of every business-to-business Demand Creation Strategy to reach pharma executives for at least the past two years. I can't say for sure if a podcast has been directly responsible for a sale, but in an industry where the B2B sales cycle can range from one year to several, the data has borne out that podcasts are in demand and are one of multiple integrated channels needed to support the business development team, nurture long-term leads and ultimately drive sales.
So far most of the podcast adoption studies I've seen have dealt with consumer use and most of the rosiest are probably inflated, but with companies like Mass Mutual (insurance), General Motors, and IBM in very different industries already embracing and reaping benefits from internal and external podcasts, it's high time the pharmaceutical industry took their cue. Though not from pharma, IT industry executive Max Hopper summed up the situation well: "People are used to using consumer technology. Customers will want to deal with their suppliers in the same vein and someone will have to offer that way."3 Tough medicine perhaps, but it's a pill the industry will have to swallow (or at least chew on for a while).
1 Ladley, Eric. "Online Training Increase." MedAd News. June 2005 pg. 72
2 Burkette, Scott. "The Download on Podcasting." Pharmaceutical Executive. September 2006. pg. 152-153
3 Gibson, Stan. "Podcasting: An enterprise hit" EWeek. October 2, 2006. pg. 24