For pharma reps, there is a historic battle to gain access to targeted physicians. And with a growing number of patient appointments packed into each day, reps can expect even stiffer waiting room competition and tighter restrictions on physician access.

So how can you target valuable healthcare providers, or HCPs, and get your message across? New strategies move beyond the office, using different media tools to connect with relevant HCPs.

Regardless of how you connect with targeted physicians, a program should be in place so that you can create a high-quality message that invites relevant HCPs to interact with your company. That said, to connect with high-value physicians, there is often a need to tailor your message to individual doctors and the requirements of their patient population. A common goal is to get physicians to agree to permission-based marketing, an approach that allows for the exchange of valuable information and supports a mutually productive relationship.

Evaluate your pool of targeted physicians
The first step in connecting with relevant HCPs is narrowing the pool of targeted physicians to whom you intend to gain access. This requires assigning value to a physician by evaluating their personal network, their ability to adapt to new therapies, and the needs of their patients. For example, the HCP network can be evaluated in order to identify key opinion leaders, or KOLs, and their specific level of influence. Prominent physicians often have a strong personal network, and other HCPs typically pay attention to the prescribing patterns of well-respected physicians.

Another approach when it comes to connecting with relevant HCPs is to understand whose patients will specifically benefit from using your product. Find out what percentage of a physician’s patient population is diagnosed for a condition that can be treated by your therapy. Not only will this information allow you a greater chance to connect with high-value physicians, but it will also better focus your time and resources.

Tailor your message and communication tools
In the process of narrowing your physician pool, you have likely learned a thing or two about the HCPs you plan to target. At this point, it is important to tailor your message to address the needs of the individual physician. More specifically, your message should speak to the needs of their patient population. A tailored approach to communication should further consider the targeted physician’s preferred way of receiving information. Take time to explore conventional and new marketing tools that invite physician interactivity.

Assess your communication toolkit for platforms that best support HCP interaction. Virtual meetings, webinars or webcasts, and discussion forums can facilitate valuable dialogue and are convenient options for busy physicians. These platforms invite collaboration, and any shared media or resources can be easily accessed anywhere, anytime. Furthermore, these new electronic platforms make it easy to modify the content according to the unique interests of the physician, making the most of their time and yours.

Permission-based marketing
The best way to access targeted physicians is to initiate a permission-based marketing plan. Most high-value physicians are almost impossible to see in the office. Many companies have further agreed to refrain from seeking out HCPs after hours. So how do you gain access to relevant HCPs? Permission-based marketing does not require monetary exchange for service, but does offer physicians something useful for their time, eg, new clinical data or high-quality messages that are of value to their practice.

In permission-based marketing, a high-value physician will give permission to interact with them, often on a regular basis. A survey of physicians shows that most are open to permission-based sales interactions when they receive useful information in exchange. Furthermore, the permission-based model builds relationships at the convenience of the physicians. Many of these interactions take advantage of the electronic platforms that have replaced traditional face-to-face marketing activities.

Initiating an ongoing collaboration
While connecting with relevant HCPs can take some effort, a recent survey suggests electronic media as the best way to make initial contact with a busy physician. In order to gain permission for ongoing sales interactions, it’s important to communicate the value of a potential collaboration. Interaction is one of the key aspects that motivate a physician to partner with a pharma company. To this end, permission-based marketing better fits a physician’s busy schedule and establishes an ongoing and mutually productive relationship.

Other ways to connect with physicians
Permission-based marketing usually targets specific HCPs after assessing the value of a collaboration. However, there are other ways to identify targeted physicians, such as inviting a group of doctors to attend a series of educational or promotional meetings. As with permission-based marketing, this approach provides useful information to a targeted audience of doctors. In exchange, a relationship with one or several physicians may be born. Where this approach falls short is in the ability to assess the value of the physician audience or to tailor the message to the individual.

Continuing medical education (CME) is also an attractive platform for interacting with forward-thinking physicians. However, the objective is not to introduce a marketing message, but rather to inform HCPs of new trends and advances in medical science. Similarly, grant programs sponsored by pharma companies are appealing for physicians. While participation in CME or grant programs can prove fruitful for HCPs, these activities are considered indirect marketing activities and should be secondary to a permission-based relationship.

Promotional mailings, along with journal and web advertisements, are effective and far-reaching methods for delivering your message regarding the use and efficacy of your therapy. While the message and mode of delivery are less tailored than in permission-based marketing, these methods are still quite productive in extending your reach across a wider physician network, enabling a more far-reaching approach to connecting with relevant HCPs.