The Lessons We Can Learn from COVID-19

By Scott Weintraub, President of Relevate Health Group

With rapid changes in the market as a result of COVID-19, the shift from private practice to health system-employed physicians, and social determinants of health, driving brand performance is increasingly challenging. Tighter budgets, smaller sales forces, and new definitions for value make it more difficult than ever to get your message to healthcare professionals (HCPs).

However, rapid change creates opportunity. One aspect of this change is that representatives are limited in the way they can communicate with physicians. Not only are territories larger, the number of no-see physicians has been on the rise, and now, the global pandemic has further limited representative reach.

Locally relevant, scalable marketing, or regional marketing, is a methodology that can enable any brand to better flex and adapt to the marketplace, where communications need to be relevant on a market-by-market level. In order to capitalize on so many market uncertainties, marketing and sales executives need to view healthcare in a whole new light.

The Lessons We Can Learn from COVID-19:

Many of us are now working from home. We’re accepting meeting invites that will be held via video conference and preparing to FaceTime our families after work. We are pivoting our lifestyles to fit the circumstances that COVID-19 has put us in.

After lockdowns, isolations, and closures, we are starting to see the nation reopen.

How can pharmaceutical marketers learn from this?

  1. One-size-fits-all just doesn’t work. Just like coronavirus, other diseases have a higher incidence in some locations than others—for example diabetes is far more prevalent in Alabama than it is in Colorado. If you were marketing a diabetes drug, would you use the same marketing plan in Colorado as you would in Alabama? Would you spend the same amount of time and resources?

    Just like the sales reps who approach each doctor a little differently, you should approach
    each market a little differently. Being able to identify that difference and strategize based on
    geography and audience allows you to make better decisions for the brand.

  2. Get comfortable with non personal promotion. By now, work meetings, happy hours, and family gatherings over video chat are quickly becoming a part of our weekly routine.

    It was always confusing on how to best support sales reps in ways that would help them break through the clutter of a doctor’s busy day. Now, with face-to-face communication at
    a standstill, you need non-sales professional solutions. Sales reps are not allowed in doctor
    offices now and who thinks they will ever be allowed back in at the pre-pandemic rates? If
    they are allowed in, great. But, if they are not, pharma marketers will need to figure out how
    to educate doctors with less (much less) face-to-face sales rep contact.

  3. Stay flexible. Things are changing every day. Being able to quickly make changes and execute them can be the saving grace in your next marketing program. Whether reworking a drug launch or supplementing doctor visits, the ability to change, and change quickly, can be the difference between success and failure. The world is changing fast and we are all doing our best to keep up. By taking the time to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic, we can better adjust for what will follow. Eventually, pharmaceutical reps will be back in doctors’ offices, offering samples, and providing meals, but the tactics we can take away from the coronavirus pandemic can lead us into a stronger and more strategic future.

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