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When It’s Time to Fire Your Agency

Marketing to doctors (a.k.a medical marketing, health marketing, professional marketing) is a core marcomm tactic that helps brands stand out against the blaring noise on neighboring store shelves. Naturally, as companies have abused this system to scrounge up market share, we’ve turned what was once a right to engage with doctors into a privilege, which the FDA is increasingly regulating. Meanwhile, physician perception of this approach is shifting, which is evident by the more than 40% of doctors deeming themselves “no access” for reps.

So how do you make sure the millions you’re spending on clinical trials to validate your product is translating into real results with the medical community? These are the biggest mistakes we see agencies make when targeting health care professionals (HCPs):

  1. They don’t speak science.

    Marketing 101 – deliver engaging, audience-centric content to win. HCP engagement normally happens when you speak to science through artful presentation of research, data, literature, studies or new discoveries.

    When companies rely on their consumer marketing agencies that generally don’t have management or sales representatives with appropriate scientific training, they can’t speak the part with HCPs, which reflects on your brand. Find a real medical marketing agency that can have engaging conversations with doctors about your science.

  2. Their tactics don’t change.

    Is your agency still sticking to the straight door-to-door office visit approach? With healthcare constantly changing, and a new wave of HCPs graduating into practice, wouldn’t it make sense that how and where you connect with docs change too?

    In our experience, agencies aren’t changing their tactics. Why? Because most agencies are comfortable with the status quo, which happens to bring in the biggest budgets. As an entrepreneurially-wired firm, we tend to think big agency budgets must translate to big returns for clients, or there’s a terminal problem.

    As you plan for 2019, ask your agency to present some new, fresh ideas that will speak to the range of sub-segments found in each target audience.

  3. They treat HCPs as a single audience, and don’t consider healthcare influencers.

    While on that topic – with more than 120 medical specialties, which are made up of people of different demographics and practices – marketing to doctors is not one-size-fits-all. There are also non-MD specialties -such as physical therapists- that boast just as much (if not more) influence on patients/consumers for your product. Depending on the product has your agency recommended marketing strategies geared toward lactation consultants, aestheticians, hollistic medicine doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, etc.?

    While many agencies tailor messaging to how ‘valuable’ the HCP  is to the brand, most do not consider differentiating factors, such as urban physician vs. rural, private insurance focus vs. public, independent practice vs. solo, etc… and they need to.

  4. They’re focused on the sale, not the strategy.

    Do you like being sold to? No, and neither do HCPs. Sales reps often work in silos with a laser focus on meeting their goals for a quarterly bonus.  People do what they get paid for and reps are no different. Therefore, if agencies mirror your objectives with their incentives, the results should align.

    If your medical marketing agency isn’t constantly working to add more value to your HCPs practices, you will most likely see results trickle down the wrong slope.

  5. They poorly (or just plain don’t) track their success.

    Ever heard “there’s no way to track that?” Aside from  referencing prescription sales data, many agencies barely track or report how initiatives performed, and even crazier, clients don’t ask. A top-performing agency meticulously tracks activity and examines results to identify what behaviors belong to the most profitable customer segment, and then reports on this data with proposals for how to optimize. Try asking for a regression analysis of your tactics to determine the highest leverage activities to your campaign’s success.

    Read our Health Marketing & Communication case study showcasing how SPRIM helped a major personal care company garner its first regional on-pack claim. We did it by turning the company’s disjointed marketing initiative into a cohesive campaign, offering local brand offices and agencies the support they needed.


Written by Michelle Katz Segal

Michelle is the Director of SPRIM US and acts as the executive leader across the health marketing, strategy & innovation, and regulatory practice areas. Prior to joining, Michelle worked in management consulting firms where she focused on market research, strategy and organizational development. During Michelle’s tenure at SPRIM, she has covered a range of global projects leveraging her MBA and management consulting experience to assist clients with opportunity identification, breakthrough innovation, new paths to market, and health care professional communication programs.