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Expert marketing that boosts over-the-counter health brands

Today, the popularity of over-the-counter (OTC) products in various treatment regimens continues to evolve. With an abundance of these products available, consumers are empowered to treat themselves through self-care. They are knowledgeable; therefore they judge and choose OTC medicines based on the available product information. So how do pharmaceutical companies leverage the unstoppable growth of the consumer health market to their advantage?

Understanding the decision-making factors across the purchase journey

Physicians and pharmacists are still considered to be the most important sources in helping consumers/patients navigate the OTC marketplace. These experts maintain a role as trusted advisers and a primary source of information, which has proven to lead to greater product sales.

This being so, the expert-consumer/patient dialogue and recommendations that result is a key trigger for consumers’ purchase decisions. The dialogue around recommendation is pivotal since it is initiated by experts and patients/consumers alike.

While physicians’ recommendations are based on, for example, clinical experience with a product, the patient’s knowledge comes from product usage, direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads, family, friends and word of mouth. Together, they are the deciding factors about what product should be and eventually will be purchased or used. Depending on the category, 30% to 45% of OTC products a year are purchased because of recommendations from health experts.

The power of expert marketing in the mix

For these reasons, pharmaceutical companies selling OTC products are increasingly investing in expert marketing. The core outcome of such marketing activities is the recommendation and sampling behavior of physicians. In the cough and cold category, about 20% of physician or pharmacist recommendations result in a purchase of that product.

The key to generating more accurate brand recommendations

It is strategically sound to quantify the value of healthcare professionals (HCP) recommendations as a key experience point for consumers’ purchase decisions in the overall context of consumer touchpoints and messages.

In our research, we have applied a modular research framework that allows a flexible and holistic understanding of experts’ recommendation behavior and its key triggers.

By capturing expert views on consumer brands in a flexible and holistic way, marketers can get globally standardized recommendation KPIs.  At the same time it is possible to get a deeper understanding of specific business topics of interests according to business and/or local needs.  Additionally, by linking diagnostics and recommendation, marketers gain meaningful insights and guidance for better managing recommendations.

Multichannel marketing approach = more exposure for targeted messaging and recommendations

Which channels are the most effective to ensure a wider exposure to your brand by healthcare professionals? And how should you invest in new channels, such as digital?

Identifying the channels that have the strongest influence on the expert’s recommendation becomes significant in allocating your marketing budget successfully. In addition, marketers must know about the potential of channel-specific communication to decide what messages need to be communicated and through which channels. This multichannel marketing approach increases exposure and provides an opportunity to target product messaging and recommendation promotion to customers/patients.

Assessing the quality and effectiveness of the most relevant channel – the sales force

Still, the sales force is one of the most important channels of expert marketing. Sales force effectiveness depends not only on the detailing itself or the messaging. In some instances, samples, coupons and vouchers are instrumental in driving physicians’ recommendations. In the dental area, for example, giving a dentist small samples of a mouthwash can be instrumental in getting a recommendation for that brand. A deep understanding of how the different sales force activities impact recommendation behavior is a must when assessing HCP marketing activities.

In summary

For boosting over-the-counter brands in a market that is surging with new entries every day, it’s all about understanding the purchasing decision dynamics. That means gaining an understanding of patients’ and physicians’ brand relationships and HCP brand recommendations. It’s about managing your expert marketing to generate more recommendations. And, ultimately, it’s about utilizing and optimizing all of the possible channels with effective messaging.

This article was co-authored by Susanna Meyer, Steve O’Hara, Charlotte Koenig and Christian Reuschenbach.

Please email susanna.meyer@gfk.com to share your thoughts.

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