Jun 29, 2010

RM differences for consumers and professionals

I have seen this multiple times in each direction: well meaning companies and their I.T. organizations wanting to adapt their consumer relationship marketing systems to handle professionals, or inversely, attempting to modify their professional RM infrastructure to handle consumers.

After all, the "C" in CRM stands for "customer" and these are just two types of customers, right? The both have names, addresses, emails, true?

Yes, but that is just scratching the surface. These two segments are not exactly the same. Software and database vendors who specialize in one or the other are likely to advocate this supposed equivalence when they are trying to sell themselves from one customer vertical to another. Be cautious about this.

There are different business processes, data availability, and campaign rules that apply to each of consumers and professionals. Here is a sample:

For professionals, there are sets of affiliations that we care about, such as group practice memberships, hospital affiliations, medical schools. Multiple addresses result. Multiple specialties are important to note. Usually, professionals are called on by a sales force, whose activities on each call, details and samples, must in turn be noted as transactions that are separate from the 'transactions' of prescriber-level Rx data. There is the firm distinction between marketing and medical contact management that must be preserved.

Consumers have special attributes as well: census, demographic, and psychographic data are particularly important. Also, due to HIPAA compliance, for most companies there is not usually an option to measure direct behaviors, so surrogates from web analytics are even more important. Consumers also change residence and email addresses quite frequently, making data cleansing especially vital. Consumers are the ones in conversion and adherence programs with financial components like coupons, vouchers, or copay cards, depending on the healthcare category.

These differences can demand distinct data structures, and different campaign business rule designs. Does a company need to pay twice for RM infrastructure for each customer vertical? Many companies in fact do. Even those that have tried to adapt one system to the other, the lesson learned is: this is not a quick migration, it takes a great deal of planning, implementation time, and specialization.

For these reasons I tend to advocate using "C" in CRM is "consumer" and the "P" in PRM is professional.