3 lessons pharma companies can learn from doctors

Health care providers and pharmaceutical companies run in similar but separate circles. They both want to help people as much as possible, but they have different levels of access to them. Doctors have gained hands-on experience with getting to know their patients and how to best treat them, but pharma representatives haven't had that opportunity. However, by looking at how physicians communicate with people, these companies may be able to gain further insight on how to better market to the public.

1. Partner up
With so many pharmaceuticals in the health care market, it can be hard for companies to get their name out there, especially if they're new. More well-known corporations may be getting the most business, and small organizations need to work harder to make people aware of their brands and products. While direct-to-consumer marketing could lead to some patients asking their doctors about certain medications, it might not bring in the amount of business these companies would like.

"Health care providers receive 45% of their patients from referrals."

Doctors partner up with larger organizations to have access to more patients. According to The New York Times, health care providers receive 45 percent of their patients from referrals, Medical Marketing & Media contributor Chris Lundgren reported. When doctors are part of a larger network, they can work with their peers across various departments in the organization. They can refer patients to specialists and other providers based on specific needs.

Pharma companies can use a similar tactic for their marketing strategy. Richard Roberts, a family physician and a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Medical Economics that knowing the patient is more important than knowing the condition. By communicating with doctors, pharmaceutical representatives can form that connection with patients. While they may not know them on a personal level, pharma companies will know people's needs through their health care providers. If physicians know a business, its product and the patient, they are better able to recommend treatments.

2. Focus on the patient
Doctors are successful because they provide quality customer service and are there whenever patients need them. They can be reached by email, phone call, and, in some instances, social media or text. This leads to higher patient satisfaction. If people have a good experience with them, there's a likely chance that they will return for future appointments. According to LinkedIn contributor Raghavender Velpula, this topnotch service is what drives referrals for doctors.

Pharma companies should adopt this approach. While advertisements can raise awareness about certain products and brands, they can't answer questions like people can. Pharma corporations need to emulate doctors in this regard. They should provide outlets for current and potential customers to contact them with comments, suggestions and questions and to find more information. Websites can list phone numbers, emails and forums to allow people to get in touch with customer service, as well as providing resources to enhance patient education. Pharma companies should always be willing to help consumers as much as possible in determining whether certain medications are right for them.

This amount of openness can lead to a trusting relationship between pharma companies and patients. If people know they can rely on the information they're receiving from these corporations and can turn to representatives with any questions, they'll be more likely to do business with the companies.

Doctors have a patient-centric approach, and pharma companies should attempt to do the same.Doctors have a patient-centric approach, and pharma companies should attempt to do the same.

3. Use the right channels
Today, there are countless methods to use to promote products and services. The older generations may rely more on television and newspapers to get their news, while the younger crowd may turn to the Internet and social media to learn more about what's going on around them. Health care providers have realized this trend and have turned to multi-channel marketing to reach larger audiences. They use several platforms to build their brands, Velpula explained. Doctors are creating websites and using email, while still relying on word-of-mouth to advance their business.

This technique is also useful to pharma companies. They need to create an omnichannel presence to reach as many people as possible. They can create advertisements on TV, in newspapers and for the Web, establish their brand on popular social media pages and use patient referrals. By making people aware of their companies across all channels, they'll be better able to create a conversation with their audiences.

Advertising to the right people can be a difficult process. By looking at their peers in similar fields, pharma representatives may be able to develop marketing strategies that will appeal to consumers.