July 17, 2018

Benchmarking - The Difference Between Good and Best

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John Cusmina

President, TL Health

In a recent benchmarking study, we asked 181 Healthcare Professionals what their intent was to prescribe a product after attending an average program versus the best program they ever attended.  Here were the results: 25% of physicians planned to prescribe more of a product after attending an average program compared to 45% after attending the best program they ever attended.

Looking at the above results, that is almost a two-fold increase in the number of physicians who intend to increase their prescribing after attending a “best” program compared to an average program!  Think about how many HCPs go to your meetings each year and what the impact would be to your bottom line if you moved from average to best!

If an increase in prescribers wasn’t enough motivation for you to improve your speaker programs, here are a few more reasons to be striving for best:

  • 88% of the attendees will discuss the meeting with a colleague
  • 80% of attendees will recommend a program to a colleague
  • 75% of the colleagues who receive a recommendation will attend that program
  • 53% of attendees will apply what they learned immediately after the program

In addition, speaker programs grant you multiple touchpoints with an HCP. We asked HCPs their preferred method to be invited to a meeting; and overwhelmingly, they wanted to be invited by the sales rep.  This is a good thing!  Consider that each speaker program can get the rep at least four touchpoints with a customer: 

  • Initial invite
  • Follow-up to make sure the HCP can still make the meeting and to see if there are any issues they would like discussed during the meeting
  • Meeting itself
  • Follow-up after the meeting

Sales statistics indicate that 80% of sales are made on the 5th to 12th contact.  When you consider the speaker’s presentation and audience discussion, this one program can go a long way in getting the contacts needed to get that first prescription.

But despite all the positives of speaker programs, it is becoming more and more difficult to get HCPs to attend.

On average, physicians receive about one invite per week to attend a speaker program, but they only attend a meeting once every other month.  That gives you about a 12% chance of getting them to one of your meetings over the course of a year.

Given the difficulty it takes to get physicians to your programs, you want to maximize this opportunity. Benchmarking research helps you do that.

Maximize the Opportunity

Benchmarking research takes your programs from good to best and should be aligned to the strategic objectives of the speaker programs.

From my experience in pharma, key stakeholders were brought together once each year to review the Situational Analysis.  This was a look back at the past year.  How did we perform?  What did we do that was good?  What could have we done better?  What did we learn?  And how will this impact us moving forward?  This helped us to develop the three to five Strategic Drivers that would help us achieve our revenue goals for the following year.

Each stakeholder was then asked to develop their tactics and budget that aligned with the strategic drivers. From these outputs, we created our Strategic Plan for the brand. Once this was completed you then created the metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure success.  In the context of Speaker Programs, it might include, number of programs, number of attendees, etc.

But you need to take it further than just striving for “best”.  This is where benchmarking research comes in.  Using your KPI’s and a blinded survey, where the customers do not know which company is asking the questions, you can get unbiased feedback across a spectrum of metrics.  Asking customers to rank/rate your programs will not only help you see YOUR strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, but also how your programs stack up against the competition. Benchmark research should be a continuous process of measuring and comparing your own programs against those of the competition.

The companies that we see beating the average have very specific processes in place to collect customer feedback.  They are using pre, during and post program research to capture the customer experience throughout the process. These companies realize each touchpoint with a customer is an opportunity to learn. Learnings can then be turned into knowledge.  Knowledge can then be turned into a competitive advantage.

What should you be benchmarking?

Your KPIs should include before, during and after the meeting metrics because you want to understand what the best practices across the continuum are, from the invitation to after they leave the meeting.  

You will want to know:

  • How did you compare to the competition across key program attributes?
  • Which program would the attendees recommend if they had to choose only one?
  • Which program did the attendee think was the best overall?

Of course, just as important, is capturing the barriers and logistics to attending a program: 

  • How far are they willing to travel?
  • When should the programs take place?
  • How can you make web programs better?

Lastly, what happens after they leave the program to understand the impact the program had on them moving forward:

  • Did the meeting impact treatment patterns?
  • Did they tell a colleague about the information that was presented?
  • Did they recommend the program?
  • If they recommend the program, what percent of the time does that colleague attend?

These are just a few of the metrics you should consider measuring when conducting a benchmark study, but there are many more you will want to measure based on your own unique business needs.


Speaker programs are an important marketing initiative with numerous benefits. But although these programs are a great tool, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get HCPs to attend. That is why it is critical for you to create best in class programs that captures attendees’ attention and generates buzz within the community.

A great way to do this is through benchmark research. The real benefit of the benchmark research is that not only does it provide your SWOT analysis for your own programs; but it compares your program to the competition.  It helps the team focus on the areas that will provide the biggest impact to improve your programs and helps ensure that when an HCP has two or more choices between programs to attend, they choose your program!

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John Cusmina

John has over 34 years of pharmaceutical industry experience working in Product Management, Market Research, Sales and Sales Operations for companies such as GSK, AstraZeneca, Shire, Medeva Pharmaceuticals, and IMS Health. His specialties include: Market Strategy Planning & Development, Launch and Operational Planning, Market Research, Multi-Channel Promotions and Business Development.

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