The reasons why pharma fails to engage physicians online


The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. The traditional commercial pharma model of sales reps selling to physicians is dying. Here are some stats:

  • Physicians close their door to more than 53% of sales reps.
  • Average sales call duration is 1 minute and 51 seconds.
  • Cost per sales call is between $300 and $500 (those two minutes with a physician are darn expensive!

At the same time, physicians spend 6+ hours per week online staying up to date, and 71% of them believe that pharma should be a better partner when it comes to medical education...but it is not. 

In other words, pharma is failing to engage physicians online (latest DRG "Taking the Pulse" research confirms this finding).

So why is this so?

We believe that the reason is not technology, it’s not sales and marketing effectiveness, it’s not lack of skills or knowledge. The main reason is the mindset.

When it comes to engaging physicians online, pharma has what we call a “megaphone mindset.” What does that mean?

Well, the megaphone is a device people use to be louder than others. The basic premise of a megaphone is that if you are louder, your message will cut through the clutter.

For pharma, this means repeating your product/clinical study message often enough and loud enough until some physicians will hear it so you make your sales numbers. And while that worked well in the 90s and 2000s with sales forces, it just doesn’t work online because physicians can simply close the tab of their internet browser and do something else. It’s that easy for them. 

Why does the “megaphone mindset” fail? When it comes to websites, pharma companies mostly create websites that are solely focused on their products, and then try to drive tons of paid traffic with Google ads and display ads. The moment the paid traffic stops, no one ever visits the website. Why? Because there is not much value added there for physicians that they cannot get elsewhere.

Why do pharma companies still have that mindset? We have come to believe that the reason is pharma’s long term success with the sales force model, and the fact that most of today's pharma top executives come from sales and marketing backgrounds during 90s and 2000s, steadily climbing the ranks from entry level sales jobs. This type of mindset is well depicted by the movie character played by Alec Baldwin in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross and the phrase “always be closing.”

But again, ​the megaphone approach just doesn’t work online - it’s actually seen by physicians as intrusive and disrespectful.

So what’s the answer to this? It’s simple - first add value/goodwill to create trust online...and only then talk about your products in a permission-based manner.

If you want to learn more about how to do that, contact us and we’ll be delighted to share a blueprint for online HCP engagement strategy that works.