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Measuring Message Efficacy: How to Change HCP Brand Perceptions

By Shawn Cripps

Pharma companies share product messaging with providers in a myriad of ways, from email campaigns to social media to next-best-action marketing, print and online media, and industry conferences. Despite the rise of omni-channel marketing, in-person meetings are still a crucial means of communicating a brand’s value, efficacy, and competitive differentiators to healthcare professionals (HCPs).

Of course, it has become increasingly difficult to access HCPs, as many are unwilling to meet with pharmaceutical sales reps. According to the Veeva Pulse Field Trends report, HCP access is back to pre-pandemic levels, dropping from 60% two years ago to 45% in 2024. When a manufacturer scores a meeting with a key HCP, they can’t afford to lead with messaging that doesn’t resonate.

So how can pharma companies better anticipate HCP points of view? Let’s take a look at some best practices in assessing the impact of your messaging.

Measure Comprehension, Not Just Recognition

Pharma companies often hire a third-party data vendor to conduct promotional effectiveness tracking to measure the efficacy of their brand messaging. Typically, this type of HCP surveying hinges on visual aids. HCPs are presented with the same slide deck or leave-behinds they reviewed with a company’s sales rep the week before. Providers are asked if they remember this messaging and are prompted to rate it on various scales: is it believable? Is it likely to change their prescribing habits?

In many cases, the survey will also pose questions about the HCP’s recognition of key competitors’ messaging. As pharma companies are often unaware of how other brands in their therapeutic area are being presented to HCPs, they use publicly available information and competitive intelligence to make an educated guess. Surveyors then present the manufacturer’s best estimate of their competitors’ messaging to HCPs, who are asked for confirmation about whether they remember a certain visual or statement.

While this kind of promotional effectiveness tracking does help manufacturers pin down how their competitors are positioning their products, it does nothing to measure what truly matters: which elements of your messaging are resonating with HCPs vis-à-vis your competitor’s messaging? Do HCPs understand your brand’s main differentiators, and are they correctly attributing them to your brand? Which data points are the most and least impactful in terms of changing HCP behavior?

To properly assess how prescribers perceive your messaging delivery, credibility and efficacy, a survey must ask open-ended questions—without the use of visual aids. Only then can you evaluate the stickiness and clarity of your clinical and financial differentiators rather than an HCP’s short-term recall. By measuring unaided retention and soliciting verbatim feedback on the value of a brand, manufacturers can get to the truth of how they’re perceived by prescribers.

Segment HCPs by Receptivity and Reaction

All providers are inundated with pharma messaging, and those who agree to take meetings with pharma reps often see multiple companies within the same month—all claiming that their product is the best. It’s not uncommon for an HCP to remember an impactful message (such as 92% of patients have no side effects on drug X), but not attribute it to your product.

HCPs also are prone to misremembering a message. For example, if your sales rep shares the fact that drug X improves progression-free survival by 20% compared to a competitor drug, a week later the HCP would likely confirm that they’d seen that statement before. But when asked an open-ended question on an unaided survey, that HCP might respond: “I think there was something about ‘progression-free survival,’ but I don’t remember the percentage or what drug they were comparing it to.”

Evaluating retention of brand messaging helps manufacturers identify how existing and upcoming therapies are perceived by HCPs, which in turn helps manufacturers hone their value proposition as needed. Manufacturers can also use HCP feedback to segment prescribers across two coordinates: how receptive they are to meeting with reps and hearing brand messaging, and how willing they are to prescribe a brand based on what they hear.

By doing a deep dive into HCP messaging segmentation, manufacturers can figure out which particular elements of their strategy are (or are not) resonating with which types of providers. For example, are the HCPs that are most likely to change their behavior after hearing your messaging in a community setting, or an academic hospital setting? Which verbatim comments are most common from that audience?

Insights like these can help your sales team identify the strengths and weakness of your messaging for each HCP persona. If your most unenthusiastic HCPs have been in practice for 20+ years, how can you tweak your messaging to appeal to that demographic? Would your least-receptive HCPs be better served by leave-behind materials that include coverage and cost information? Should your presentation to skeptical HCPs focus more on your brand’s safety profile, or its novel MOA?

Set Your Intentions, but Monitor Outcomes

All too often, the clinical and financial value propositions that a pharma company intends to communicate aren’t the message that sticks. A key differentiator may be misunderstood by HCPs for any number of reasons: it can be too complex to recall, or not well-stated, or perhaps it’s actually irrelevant to that particular audience. Competitive influence can factor in as well; perhaps that differentiator is already claimed by another brand, or a competitor is disputing your brand’s message.

HCP segmentation can help manufacturers better understand the range of HCP pain points, which can in turn helps pharma companies determine the kind of messaging that will increase engagement. The key to changing prescribing behavior is ensuring that providers correctly understand, attribute, and retain your brand’s value proposition—so they will change their minds about whether your therapy is the best choice for their patients.

Depending on the therapeutic area and indication, manufacturers should conduct unaided promotional effectiveness tracking every three to six months. By adjusting your strategy to meet HCPs where they are, you can improve the clarity and utility of your communications and increase your brand’s market share.

If you’re ready to tailor your messaging to targeted HCPs, learn more about our HCP Message Monitor solution.

© 2024 MMIT
Shawn Cripps

Shawn Cripps

Shawn Cripps is a director on the Advisory and Insights team at MMIT.

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