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Physician Segmentation Case Study

Our client, a leading pharmaceutical company, wanted to develop a segmentation scheme for oncologists but did not have the resources for a large-scale project. They challenged us to come up with a way to research market segmentation using only qualitative techniques.

 

Our Recommendation

We completed the segmentation study with oncologists in three countries over a three-week period:

  • Week One consisted of three texts a day at various times (morning, mid-day, and after work), including weekends.

  • Week Two consisted of telephone interviews.

  • Week Three again consisted of telephone interviews.
     

In the texting phase, with no contact prior and no rapport built between the moderator and respondents, we asked questions to get to know the oncologists as human beings. We asked such questions as “As you drove into work today, what was on your mind?” and “What are your plans for this evening, and did what happened to you today at work impact those plans?” In the second interview, we continued this line of inquiry but got to know them even more deeply. We asked about their family, social situation, culture, hobbies, and leisure activities. We didn’t ask about oncology or being an oncologist at all until the second (last)telephone interview.

The Results

What the respondents told us varied with the timing and mode of asking. For example, via text, many of them told us that they were not happy with being an oncologist and would choose a different career path if they could. During the telephone interview, however, once they had a voice and a personality to go with the contact, some of those same respondents voiced satisfaction with their career choice.

Similarly, when we asked them what motivates them through their workday. Via text, a few told us that patients motivated them, but others were motivated by their families, leisure activities, or money. During the interviews, on the other hand, we heard overwhelmingly that patients and patient success stories motivate them.

Another insight gained was that the physicians’ personalities and cultures strongly impact how they practice oncology. For example, we found one doctor who lived in a very structured community replicating his home culture. He was highly active socially, but all within that community. Another doctor, a mom with several children, on the other hand, had a large and varied social life, driven by her children and their diverse interests. In their practices, they mirrored their personalities. The first doctor was very risk-averse, staying emotionally distant from his patients. The other doctor was deeply involved in her patients’ emotional journey through their disease, getting to know their families and even attending the patients’ funerals.

 

Most pharmaceutical physician segmentation schema reveals four segments (early adopter, late adopter, people-driven, or science-driven). Using the multi-modal/multi-touchpoint qualitative research approach, we shared insights with our client that led to a vastly different and revealing segmentation scheme that they successfully applied to their marketing.