Can You Trust eDetailing Surveys? OpEd by John Mack

Marketers love surveys and I love quoting numbers from surveys. But I wish it were easier to compare one survey’s results with another!

Take, for example, surveys about new media marketing techniques, by which I mean the Internet and specifically surveys about eDetailing (see this month’s feature article, “eDetailing: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow“).

There are a lot of research firms surveying doctors about eDetailing. These include Forrester Research, Manhattan Research, JupiterResearch, etc. In addition, eDetailing vendors may do their own research or do surveys in conjunction with one or more of the research firms mentioned.

Now that eDetailing has been around for a few years, marketers are beginning to compare data from one year to the next in order to discover trends. More often than not they are trying to convince their bosses that ePrescribing works and induce their companies to spend more money developing and launching ePrescribing programs.

There are many advocates of eDetailing — including myself — that would like to see more of it and who look to surveys for support. In some cases, however, the surveys seem to show confusing trends and even may suggest that eDetailing may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.

The eDetailing surveys that I am talking about use different methodologies, ask questions in different ways, and vary widely with regard to the number of participants. Some, like the recent JupiterResearch survey of physicians cited in the article are based on very small numbers of physicians (e.g., 163 to 250). I hate to say it, but how can you make multi-million dollar decisions based on the opinions of 163 physicians?

It’s important, therefore, to choose the right survey when making your case for or against eDetailing, but it is even more important to correctly interpret the results in any survey you choose to use. Mark Bard, from Manhattan Research has some interesting insights on this that are included in this month’s article.

Another problem is bias. Results of surveys by eDetailers or done in conjunction with eDetailers could be biased in favor of eDetailing. You have to look closely at the wording of the questions, not just the chart of results presented in the executive summary.

Advocates of eDetailing should be careful when using data from these surveys. I attended a conference where a marketer from a major pharmaceutical company compared 2004 Forrester data with 2003 Forrester data. The only thing I and the rest of the audience remembered was that 50% of eDetailed physicians said they prescribed less of the featured drug in 2004 compared to 6% in 2003! I hope she didn’t show the data to her boss because this anomaly is a fluke caused by differing survey methodologies!

Vol. 4, No.9: October 2005
Word Count: n/a

Glossary Term: eDetailing