The Sales & KAM Director of a reputed, top 10 pharma company recently sat down with Charlotte Jaeger (Senior Customer Success Manager) and Sunanda Verma Bhatta (Senior Marketing Manager) from PeakData to talk about segmentation & targeting, and how his company uses the PeakData platform for target optimisation.  

Hi, thank you for taking time out to feedback on a few questions related to our partnership. Perhaps we could start by inviting you to share a brief overview of your professional background.  

My background is mostly in sales, and sales execution. I have spent more than a decade working across multiple roles in commercial excellence, sales force excellence and strategy. 

Currently I am the Sales and KAM director for global commercial execution.  

So, what is your perspective on segmentation & targeting strategy for product launch? And could we ask you to share your thoughts on the paradigms currently employed for pharma HCP segmentation?   

Firstly, product launch is a little bit different to established products.   

For established medicines, I’m a big fan of healthcare provider segmentation. And here, I believe the most important HCP attribute is the number of patients related to the appropriate therapeutic area.  

And for traditional drugs, the products already present in the market, I think the most important metric is the number of patients, and then HCP product affinity – as in product usage. I visualize this as a two-way grid with these two parameters: HCP potential and HCP product affinity, with different tactics employed for HCPs with differing product affinities.  

This model recognises varied levels of product affinity: Is the HCP an early-stage adopter? A regular user? Or a product advocate? I can apply different tactics accordingly, but it’s also important to factor in the potential of each HCP.  

Reliance on the ‘number of patients’ metric can have some disadvantages. Consider scientific HCPs, who are mostly national, or international, key opinion leaders. They don’t see many patients, but they do influence other HCPs. So, be aware of this, and arm yourself with a good KOL mapping tool. If there’s an HCP with a handful of patients, who has the potential to change the treatment paradigm as other HCPs are looking up to this key opinion leader for his expertise, you must visit them often and allocate resources which reflect their potential.  

But none of this applies to the launch phases. So here, the key is HCP behavior. Is your HCP a conservative or an early adopter? That’s an important element for pharmaceutical market segmentation. HCPs open to new therapies, new drugs or new concepts are the ones you would most likely convince to try your launch product before their associates.  

What have been your customary sources for HCP and KOL profiling and acquiring data on HCP potential and product affinity?  

Outside the US, we largely rely on information we receive from our reps, which makes the data quite subjective. We then allocate resources differentiated according to the perceived status of HCP relationships.  

In the US, we get both HCP-level and prescription-level data, which gives us direct insight into HCP potential as well as product preference.  

In a few countries, we get sales data for maybe 5-6 HCPs in a given geolocation. But this won’t always tell us the right number of prescriptions: When you visit a doctor, you might still get your medication in the pharmacy in a different location.  

How have things evolved over the last 3-5 years? Has Covid-19 had any permanent impact on the conventional approach?  

The industry has tried to use AI to predict the potential of a doctor. For instance, we have compared the sales trends of other products in an effort to identify real HCP potential, and we also use our geographic sales information to narrow down and help us interpret HCP-level data.  

Covid has, of course, boosted digital interactions.  

So now the question is: Which is the best way to engage with an HCP? Face-to-face or digital?  

At the beginning of the pandemic all interactions were digital. But face-to-face has made a comeback, and the majority of our interactions are once again face to face. I can say digital today is maybe around 10% of total engagement with healthcare professionals, though that may increase over time. So, we are trying to understand HCP digital affinity and looking at ways to promote digital engagement.  

It’s interesting to hear that only 10% of post-Covid interactions are digital. Could you elaborate?  

Yes, they just went back to normal – let’s say ‘old normal’.  

There were some interesting things happening around Covid. We bought some surveys and market research reports in which HCPs were telling us they prefer digital engagements. We were hearing things like: ‘there’s no need for face-to-face calls’, and ‘digital visits’ are the most impactful. But in reality, most HCPs still prefer personal connection and face to face interactions.  

Maybe they think digital is the ideal world – but for everyday practice face-to-face remains the interactive tool of choice.  

Has your approach to pharma market segmentation, targeting & target optimisation changed post-Covid?  

There is a shift. We now have a lot of data available from different data sources to help us evaluate HCPs and improve their customer experience with our organisation. Plus, at the very least, we’ll now get a chance to validate the accuracy of our information.  

And mostly for key opinion leaders, we have an HCP network and influence maps we can use. We don’t need direct feedback from the HCP or the marketer, because we now have actual data and can start understanding the network structures.  

So yes, it will evolve, and that’s what I’m working on now. Very soon, I will be launching a new targeting and segmentation system supported by PeakData and some other data sources to deliver a more accurate healthcare provider segmentation.  

What do you consider to have been your top challenge in effective segmentation & targeting of your HCPs?  

One particular change has introduced an element of complexity – telemedicine.  

In traditional practice, you knew the number of patients visiting an HCP. But telemedicine makes it harder to gauge HCP potential and patient catchments. For example, a Swiss-based HCP could have patients in Germany – so telemedicine can undermine an accurate assessment of HCP potential.  

Could you share your experience of the PeakData platform and explain how it has helped you so far?  

We are starting to explore the platform in more detail these days.  

The PeakData team’s HCP market research has provided us with some HCPs with therapeutic area relevance who are not yet on our target list. I’m currently also looking for HCPs with high neuroscience affinity or high neuroscience custom scores – untargeted HCPs with low tiers. Once I have gathered this information, I can share it with countries, and reevaluate HCP tiering, then expand our reach to such HCPs.  

LinkedIn list is another quick win which has helped us. Here, we determined the HCPs with LinkedIn accounts and shared this information with our country organisations. One of our pilot countries, Switzerland, came up with the idea. They plan to engage their HCPs through LinkedIn, or maybe want to post an event through LinkedIn. I think that’s doable in other countries, too.  

We are keen to explore HCP relationships to optimise our peer-to-peer events. The PeakData team’s HCP market research has provided us with HCP networks that help us to understand HCPs’ connections and influence maps. This insight helped us to organize better Scientific meetings with higher participation! 

What would be your advice to colleagues in the segmentation & targeting phase of their upcoming launch?  

I think the number of patients is a crucial element, as is the HCP’s product preference, with digital affinity as a third attribute. KOL identification also can’t be overlooked – an HCP who influences others is an important aspect of the segmentation. So, KOL/DOL mapping software has an essential role to play.  

Digital is not a direct element of segmentation, but digital pharma segmentation is still a great way to understand the ideal mode of HCP engagement. Digital affinity can be used to identify the optimal way to engage with an HCP – face-to-face, digital, or a mix. Mostly it’s a mix.  

Thank you for taking time out for this interaction and sharing your experience. We look forward to a successful and an enduring partnership.