Extend Sampling Programs With Telemarketing and Direct Mail

September 3, 2010
Jessica Labita, QPharma

Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - September/October 2010,

A biopharma marketer uses direct mail and a call center to access hard-to-reach physicians

Performing successful pharmaceutical promotions has become harder by many degrees in today’s highly regulated, barrier-restricted environment. But with some skill and hard work, success is still possible.

Recently, a US biotech firm sought alternative sampling techniques to boost prescriptions written for their brand among low-decile, hard-to-see or “no see” (restricted-access) physicians. The company had recently reduced its sales staff, so it needed to deploy its remaining staff carefully.

To supplement the traditional sampling program executed by the remaining sales representatives, QPharma proposed a business reply card (BRC) program to a target list of lower-decile practitioners, as well as vacant-territory “white space” locations. The BRC included additional branded literature, thus creating a sample request kit to be mailed to the practitioner. In addition, QPharma performed outbound follow-up calls direct to the targeted practitioner offices that received the BRC mailing. The purpose of the follow-up call was to reinforce the mailing and engage non-responders to complete their sample requests. QPharma worked with the biotech firm to design and review the BRC card, ensuring it met the requirements of the Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA). QPharma also validated, processed, and fulfilled all returned sample request forms, mailing the samples directly to the physician’s office. Lastly, QPharma developed the call script, detailing the communicated follow-up message and executed the telesampling program.

Multiple phases

The program was divided into two phases. The first phase complemented the direct mail campaign. QPharma contacted all viable targets, confirmed receipt of the sample request kits, delivered the client’s branded message, and engaged the office to return the sample request forms. Practitioner offices that indicated they did not receive sample request kits were logged as such and sent an additional sample request kit. During the outreach follow-up efforts, QPharma identified that the client’s original target list contained outdated and missing information, contributing to the initial low response rate. QPharma re-engaged targets that did not receive kits by updating the targets’ contact information, delivering the client-approved branded message, and resending the additional sample request kits.

A second phase engaged all contacts not reached during phase one. These included physicians who were unavailable or were non-responsive to the initial outbound calling efforts.

QPharma provided the client with monthly reports indicating both summary and detail information pertaining to call activity. This information allowed QPharma to analyze and assess the data, as well as to provide recommendations for future marketing programs.

Overall, the program occurred as follows:

  • Mass mailer sent to target list
  • Initial sample requests fulfilled, but poor response rate calls for additional actions
  • Telesampling program proposed and approved
  • Weaknesses in data quality of target list identified and resolved
  • Phase 1 target calls and mailings using new data completed
  • Phase 2 follow-up calls initiated
  • Summary program analysis, assessment, and recommendations provided to the client.

The results

The client’s target practitioner list consisted of 2,646 physicians. Initially, they mailed to all of these physicians and received 142 returned BRCs or 5.3% of the total. During the telesampling process, QPharma reached out to all targeted practitioners. As some practitioners were contacted twice, QPharma contacted 130% of the initial target list via call center pull-through.

As a result of the outbound calling efforts, 942 additional BRCs were mailed to the target list, representing 36% of the total customers. An additional 402 BRCs were returned because of the calling efforts, representing 15% of the total customers. A combined 544 BRCs were returned based on the client and QPharma’s efforts, representing 21% of total customers.

QPharma’s telesampling efforts increased the sample request return rate by 183% or 260 responses. The client was satisfied with this level of response, given that this campaign was being performed on low-decile prescribers and without in-person visits. Overall, the sampling program and supplemental telesampling efforts created a greater awareness of the brand and will likely increase the prescriptions written for this brand by low-decile prescribers. PC

About the Author

Jessica Labita is the Marketing Communications Manager for QPharma in Morristown, NJ. She holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix. She has over ten years of experience providing, delivering, and managing outsourced marketing and sales support solutions for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and related businesses in the life science industry.