The pharmaceutical sector is an ever growing and innovative one. This multi-billion dollar industry is constantly trying to introduce new drugs with different combinations and under different brand names. Initially, when pharma companies came out with a new drug, they used to turn to patients and distribute samples to them so as to give them an opportunity to use these drugs. However, not being qualified enough to dispense these drugs on their own, this methodology of marketing came under fire and soon it was deemed unethical and heavily criticized. Pharma companies realized that if they wanted to sell a new drug in the highly competitive market of medicines, then, they would instead need to target those people that are legally authorized and have the knowledge to dispense drugs to the right patient at the right time. These are basically physicians and they form the group known as Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs. So now, instead of the ‘pull’ marketing that pharma companies were opting for, wherein they were pulling in customers to try out their drugs, their approach shifted towards ‘push’ marketing, wherein they narrowed down on physicians that could popularize their drug. As a KOL myself, this is my account of how a pharma company wished to use my expertise to help sell one of their newer drugs on the market and succeeded.
Recognizing my potential as a KOL due to
my patient flow, the pharma company made use of sophisticated customer
relationship management software, to shortlist my name. They approached me
thereafter and gave me details regarding their new drug, its effects and
contraindications and also gave me a batch of samples to dispatch to patients.
Not only that, they also gave me a set of feedback forms so that I could review
their drug depending on the patients' feedback. They took down my address and
various other details. I was a bit skeptical at first as I’d been warned by my
seniors and peers about scavenging and brutal pharma companies and their
sales tactics. However, seeing how organized they were with their CRM for KOL management in place,
I agreed to dispense their drug to any patient that was genuinely in need of
1. Finding reliable KOLs
The first step involved in this lengthy process for the pharma company was to find a reliable and trustworthy KOL. I had a flourishing dental practice in a suburb of Mumbai, with a steady flow of loyal patients. I also worked one shift in the dental unit of a well known hospital nearby, where I was the main dentist dabbling in various field including endodontics and extractions. Needless to say, these are fields where invariably, drugs must be prescribed so as to curb any inflammatory condition or swelling. Drugs are also often prescribed on a prophylactic basis prior to any invasive procedure.
|Holistic view of a Key Opinion Leader|
2. Regular follow-up with the KOLs
Once registered, the next important step for this company was to maintain a follow-up. After having dispatched the samples to me, the same sales representative kept coming back on a weekly basis like clockwork. He had my name down in his CRM software and so, at the same time every week, made it a point to come and drop by to give me more samples and collect the feedback forms that I’d filled, so that he could enter it in his system. This was just as important as finding and targeting a KOL because without a proper system in place to follow-up on the drug response, the entire process would fail.
3. Using Social Media to increase reach
My patients slowly gave me positive feedback on this drug and I myself was happy to see the results clinically. And the icing on the cake was that this drug was lower priced than the standard drug prescribed to treat swellings and inflammatory conditions. Thus, impressed with the feedback of my patients, I decided to further the news about this new and effective drug to my peers.
Physicians are usually not very tech savvy and hence, tend to underestimate the huge influence that social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter can have on a personal brand. It isn’t without a reason that these are among the top 5 most popular portals in the world. Thus, I wrote a note detailing my findings on the drug with pre and post operative pictures of my patients and tagged it to the page of the drug that had been created by the pharma company on Facebook. In no time, my friends started inquiring about this drug and eventually, word spread like wildfire.
This is merely a small account of how one pharma company managed to make full use of a single influential KOL in furthering the reach of their new drug in the market. Although there are few pharma companies that have realized the potential of CRM and KOL management in the marketing of new drugs and to sustain old ones, the smarter companies have already got a head start on this. KOL management holds the key to the future of pharmaceutical industries. In fact, the pharmaceutical sector is still recovering from the numerous mistakes it has made in the past. Due to the various scandals that even big names regularly get embroiled in, patient skepticism is at an all time high. Patients, quite understandably, prefer to use their good old, tried and tested drugs which they know work well on them. So, if a pharma company really wishes to create a trustworthy brand name, then, it needs to propagate its drugs with a multi-pronged strategy in place, and this will only be possible if its KOL management system is in its right place to begin with.