Marketing models: the 3 challenges yesterday and today

I try to explain how we need to review our marketing models and how we need to apply them in three simple points, and why.

In a study by Inail in 2021, experts had developed a risk classification model for post-covid re-entry. The Inail model worked according to three basic variables:

"Exposure", i.e. the probability of coming into contact with sources of contagion while performing specific work activities;
"Proximity", the intrinsic characteristics of carrying out work that do not allow sufficient social distancing;
"Aggregation", the type of work that involves contact with others besides workers in the same company.
The first risk was exposure to contagion, with the health worker among the figures most involved; the second risk was proximity to others; the third risk was aggregation with third parties who do not work in the same company, as happens for example in health care, schools, or prisons.

I would not like to be mistaken, but to my eye, the pharmaceutical sales representative is almost at the top of the scale in all three indices. Moreover, this is working with the person who, by definition, has the highest degree of risk: the doctor. And the doctor will be the real scarce resource in the SSN, more than equipment and investments, therefore very much protected by future regulations, indeed protected by the state as an insurance of the health of citizens, I would finally add.

When I said that the problem/challenge of pharmaceutical sales representative in Italy has shifted from attention to access, this is what I was referring to. Seriously.

If the problem is access, we have to find a solution to that, and we have to find it in the past and not in the future. We have to find it that is already working, already on track, because we don't have the time to build both a train and its tracks in such a short time, we need a system that is already tested, working and whose characteristics and, if you like, limitations are known.

The mode of communication we have at our disposal is the one the doctor uses, let's not go too far. The doctor, in order to focus more on patient care and at the same time agree with the obligations of distancing, now simply uses more of what he used less before: remote diagnosis and treatment. It is certainly not a discovery that the doctor on the phone or via messaging receives analyses, requests, questions from patients and simply responds with a brief diagnostic hypothesis, then with any further investigations and, finally, with the prescription code. The doctor has vicariously visited the patient, obviously where and when he deems it possible, in a remote mode. Has this reduced his attention to patient care? Not at all, he devotes more time in his daily load to his core activity, which is patient care. No frills.

The whistleblower spends part of his time between one doctor and another, between a doctor's office crowded with patients and a hospital ward. Activity interspersed with transfers, parking, waiting, breaks between visits. Largely inaccurate survey data say that an pharmaceutical sales representative in Italy makes 6 to 8 visits a day, and that these last on average 7 or 8 minutes. In the average case therefore of his whole working day about one hour is dedicated to core business, the rest is necessary but non-productive time.

The post-COVID-19 crisis leads us to assume that doctors in Italy will receive pharmaceutical sales representative with an empty waiting room, by appointment, and in a fairly spaced out manner. So they will receive fewer pharmaceutical sales representative per month.

It must be borne in mind that doctors and specialists will be struggling with visits they have not made and could not make, and will therefore have extra clinic and home work for many months. Their commitment could reasonably reduce the time devoted to other educational, bureaucratic and refresher activities with the pharmaceutical sales representative.

At least these two factors lead us to assume that the normalcy of the pharmaceutical sales representative's face-to-face visit work will have difficulties in accessing, and therefore in the productivity of visits per day. I believe this can be a shared assumption and therefore, can be considered a 'new normal' that we must anticipate and address. What will be the challenges in this new normal of access difficulties?

The challenges at this point are threefold:

"Content", to give better content to their pharmaceutical sales representatives so that the very valuable time the doctor spends on them is productive;

"Smart- empowered", equipping the network with the remote skills that doctors themselves have, leading them to have the skills to communicate also with alternative channels;

"Multichannel-remote", equipping a multichannel and remote network to intervene in areas, specialisations or products that do not need the frontline network or that can be benefited by alternative modes.



It is nothing new, marketing must adapt to the challenge of having, then producing, material of greater quantity and quality. This is, believe me, the trickiest part, a complete readjustment to the way marketing works to produce scientific material that is effective, up-to-date, and above all suitable for the channel. The scientific skills we want to transfer to the medical profession will make the difference, and the mulchannel mode requires, by its very nature, separate material for each channel and updated for each wave.

On closer inspection there is nothing new, only that it will be more accelerated and broader than in the past as each piece of material has to be thought of or adjusted for each channel and by storytelling.

Smart - empowered

It consists of the ways in which the work of the pharmaceutical sales representative in Italy adapts to the life of today's doctor: smarter, more digital, more remote. The whistleblower adapts to the new spirit, the new way in which the doctor works: telemedicine, tele-assistance, remote diagnosis, use of platforms for sharing data with the patient, between general practitioner and specialist or hospital specialist centre. These skills will be, especially for the best and most experienced professionals, quite difficult to implement, but they will be part of one's communication background. It is therefore necessary to help the isf with both appropriate content, suitable sharing platforms, and specific communication skills. And this, regardless of the product they bring, will be the additional key to productivity that will otherwise decline.

The best informant wins in the quadrant 'professional engagement/relationship' and 'ability to access/manage new channels': basically not very different from what is required of a good sales professional today.


The relationship model that puts the doctor at the centre by connecting him/her with the message through different channels. Digital, remote pharmaceutical sales representative, smart frontal sales representative are now all to be used, all the time.

There is only the difficulty of knowing how to choose for each product and for each target the right channel or channels, combining revenue objectives with those of cost and information pressure. Quite simply, marketing and sales have, more than yesterday, a matrix model of customer relations with which to choose how to communicate. Between covered areas and doctors seen, uncovered areas or doctors off the shelf, products brought in by the network or on that target or not, revenue assumptions per product and investment, product lifecycle at launch or mature, marketing and sales arm in arm have to define which tool or tools to use. Welcome to the new century, where FMCG marketing already uses all promotional levers simultaneously and decides which ones to use. The remote pharmaceutical sales representative in Italy will not only be in use for some but in most projects, and it will be necessary to know how to use it well.

Having more possibilities to promote and communicate in multichannel and remote is not a problem in itself, you just need to know how to do it and rely on an agency that knows its trade in multichannel.

On closer inspection, the world to come of marketing and sales in pharmaceuticals will be the same as before only a little different (to paraphrase Ben Lerner).

Salvatore Ruggiero

Salvatore Ruggiero

Salvatore Ruggiero nasce a Napoli nel 1964, si definisce un imprenditore seriale. Oggi a capo del gruppo Merqurio, di cui è stato anche fondatore. Sposato con Giuseppina, ha due figli e nel tempo libero, tra un'escursione e un'altra, tra un film ed un altro, è alla ricerca della ricetta dei biscotti perfetti.

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