Friday, April 24, 2009

The Power of Personal Contact

In this age of twitter, facebook, text messaging, e-mail, media, and all sorts of IT and high tech ways of communicating with one another, what has happened to face-to-face contact?  Who, in business still uses this ancient method to communicate with clientele or customers and is it still effective?


In sports, it is about the personalities.  Just look at how hockey has Wayne Gretzky and now Sidney Crosby. One could say they are the face of hockey. Most of us would love to meet them and for those fortunate enough to do so, it only reinforces their perspective and love for the game. The clubs know they have to do things for the fans to keep the sales up at the gate, and it is why, early on, in the careers of hockey players, programs and awards are set up for community involvement.  Wayne or Sid are well versed in Media and fan support techniques and so are their fellow players. These fan face-to-face exchanges are an integral part of sports.



Love them or hate them, politicians are experts at the art of personal contact.  If this is an election year in your province, you certainly will see efforts by the political parties to take every advantage of getting in front of a camera, a podium, or a group gathering.  Door to door contact is still a big undertaking even if the candidate themselves can't get out. Representatives will knock at your door and ask for support. In an effort to sway voters, these face-to-face contacts are as much about listening to the concerns of the electorate as it is about getting your platform across.  This is because often voters have not all made up their minds and just want to be heard by the politicians.  Some of these folks will vote based on the candidate that seams to listen the best, or said the right response to the concerns.  It is often the defining moment in how a voter will vote.  In the American election last year of President Obama, this face-to-face, eye-to-eye contact was visible each and every day. Obama certainly used the Internet as an effective tool to augment his efforts but it was his face-to-face efforts, and on the ground support where they really added shine.


One industry that most people know little about is the Brand Pharmaceutical Companies.  This group has taken the art of personal contact to levels that perhaps Obama could learn from.  The marketing efforts of these companies utilize, all of the typical media, Internet, and other support initiatives but the power of personal contact is the cornerstone to their success.  The industry may have pushed this contact to the extreme in the last few years which has lead to a bit of a backlash by physicians, academics, and politicians. They essentially had so many personal contacts that physicians began to see fewer representatives.  However the industry is adjusting to more acceptable levels, and make no mistake about it, personal contact remains the focus of these companies. They implement numerous face-to-face, eye-to-eye contacts with the physician to build business.  After all, it is the physician that will cast the vote (in this case a prescription).   These contacts are positive in nature and the companies listen to the needs of the physician much the same as the politician looking for support.


A recently released Report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, “Drug Expenditure in Canada 1985 to 2008”  stated  “Over the last 20 years, drugs have consistently remained one of the major cost drivers in health care,” says Michael Hunt, Manager of Pharmaceutical Programs at CIHI. “Spending on pharmaceuticals has more than doubled over the past 10 years, outpacing growth in health spending by hospitals, physicians and other health professionals.”


This certainly points to the success of the Pharma business model and to the success or power of personal contact.




In an effort to control these rising costs, individual benefits groups have focused on a defensive strategy of adding restrictions, slowing authorization of drugs, cost shifting to members, plan management, and reduction of benefits where possible.  From the above report, this defensive strategy has not attained the desired effect.  We have all heard the old adage, “The best defense is a good offence”.  I suggest that the strategies currently in place neglect the prime decision maker the physician (who is equivalent of a voter or fan) and do little or nothing to garner their support.   To bring this back to hockey, this strategy is like having two teams in a constant rivalry and one team has a number of high scoring forwards and the second team has mostly defensive players and may include the best goalie in the league and perhaps some goon players.  The fans are supporting the team which continually is shooting at the net, winning the most games, constantly looking to please the fans,  .   Go Sid Go. 


So with all of the new technology and communication techniques , it appears from the above examples that the power or personal contact still reigns supreme.  If personal contact wasn’t so powerful, Hockey would ignore the fans, Politicians would only do advertising, and Brand pharmaceutical Companies would not spend detailing efforts on Physicians.




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