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SEAMLESS LIVING, SEAMLESS PROMOTION
For Ram – the modern-day medical representative – being digital was no more an aspirational thing. He was 22 years and digital was an everyday way of life. At crack of dawn, he checked the doctor visit plan on his smartphone and recollected the conversations of past calls. Simultaneously, in the early morning hours, Dr. Lakshman was checking the no. of footsteps walked yesterday and was planning his walk and exercise schedule, while looking up the weather through his smartphone. If the weather was fine, this young dapper 24-year-old orthopedics PG aspirant was ready to cycle to the teaching hospital. He was also a co-administrator in a whatsapp group: ‘Young Orthos’. He was also member of other medical students only whatsapp groups. Besides, his facebook account followed several medical sites and journals. His home screen had abundant links to medical websites, and his passion was to check the updates on diagnosis, best medical practices, ortho implants and improvements, ortho surgical techniques and of course medical humour.
Another interesting whatsapp group on Dr. Lakshman’s whatsapp was ‘My MR colleagues’, where as an admin, he permitted some MRs and pharma personnel into the group. They were allowed to post one digital post a day relating to product updates. He quite liked the fervor with which the pharma professionals made very attractive videos, gif posts and other still foto posts.
Ram the MR, always found it funny when in meetings his aged bosses harped that digital is the way forward! Ram felt digital is already happening – so what forward?!! He had negotiated his entry into several doctor groups, he had taken permission to send whatsapp posts on his products. His emails on product aspects or therapy updates were welcomed by doctors whose trust he had won. So digital was a part of his ‘professional product promotional present’ and not the way forward.
Digital is not to be overbeaten, Ram strongly felt. Digital was as much a vital collateral as print inputs were. Ram’s calls to doctors involved showing a video snippet, an interesting product picture update on his tablet PC, and also a providing a print input – usually, a reminder card or journal. He was grateful that his company patronized subscription requests from doctors to e-journals, and cleverly ensured that password included the target brand name.
Ram’s concerns were also market trend oriented, he experienced the fractured and fragmented market daily. If 50 prescriptions were generated daily by a doctor, 20 would go to the pharmacy owned by his ‘saala’ (wife’s brother), 10 prescriptions would be self-dispensed, another 15 would go either Jan Aushadhi or a private generic store, and the battle for remaining prescriptions was between the brand marketers. This, the company management would never understand he remorsefully felt. For instance, Dr. Murugan would prescribe teneligliptin as once a day antidiabetic tablet to his patients, and most of his patients were now encashing those at Jan Aushadi, buying 100 tablets, which meant 100 days usage of his brand was lost!!
Ram had sagaciously chosen another way out of this muddle. He would focus on pharmacies and the unique products in his marketing portfolio. There were some nutraceuticals that could be pushed by pharmacies, he also ensured that the brands in the pharmacy were VISIBLE to both pharmacists and patients so that over-the-counter push would take place.
BROWN BAG CONSULTATION
The internet superhighway was full of information feeding Ram’s curious mind. He came across a concept of BROWN BAG CONSULTATION through his browsing. In the brown bag consultation, the pharmacist would request a patient to bring all his medications and other OTC products consumed by him in a bag for a quick consultation. The pharmacist would then quickly check for any repeat drugs in different dosage forms and other incompatibilities including drug- drug interactions, and advice each patient on timing the intake of medicines and other products and generally discuss about the products, so that there is rationalization.
Ram’s pharmacists did not know about the brown bag consultation approach. Ram persuasively represented this concept as an opportunity for pharmacists to build trust and over-the-counter business. For instance, Tilak of Hanuman Medicals decided to have atleast 1 brown bag consultation daily. Tilak found that bonding with his patients was better, and they would come more frequently. Further, he could persuasively cross-sell some of the nutraceuticals. For example he had converted many patients to turmeric tablets CURCUMED and introduced new dental pastes to specific patients (a specific toothpaste for gum bleeding patients), and a whole new set of patients were opened up for milk mix beverages, MULMINA antioxidant immune booster drink, and health medical soaps (like PURE virgin coconut oil soap). Ram profited by this brown bag consultation approach of his pharmacists, through improved sales of his nutraceutical and other products that enjoyed over-the-counter push.
Digital is now a regular collateral and a medium to message with doctors along with print inputs. Digital has become an add-on and a mandatory method of marketing. Ram and Dr. Lakshman are living seamlessly with digital and non-digital, but the moot question is whether strategists have become hyper or hypo digital, neither is good, striking the right balance and getting the optimal level of digital marketing will work in pharma favour!