Not only can you select physicians by their CME preferences, you can also communicate with them via their preferred medium, such as direct mail.
In perhaps the understatement of the millennium (albeit, it's early), Internet analyst William E. Whyman, co-founder and president of the Precursor Group, said, at a sparsely attended keynote presentation at this year's Association for Interactive Media's Interact 2001 conference, that the worst of the dot-com implosion is probably over.
As I hear about the dot-com debacle and the failure of wireless commerce, I have concluded that the moral of the story is: The most important subject to master is human behavior. For-profit or not, if you seek to market a product or service, the most important thing to understand is the behavioral model of the target audience. What motivates them? What will or won't they do? How much will they pay? Will they pay at all?
The classic contemporary example is the wireless purchasing bubble. Using myself as a focus group, I can tell you the odds of my purchasing anything using my cell phone as a data entry terminal are nil. I can't even enter the phone numbers of my friends and family without tech support! I question whether those who pegged their futures to this sort of application did enough a priori research to see if their intended customers found such transactions practical.
A similar caveat needs to be posted on the road to online CME. The medical profession is probably slower by inclination and culture to adopt new technology than the educated population at large. (Witness the molasses-like movement of medics toward use of e-mail to communicate with patients.)
When Docs Move Like Molasses
This trend is supported by the 2001 AMA Study on Physicians' Use of the World Wide Web that indicates that although 70 percent of physicians are Web users, only 41 percent of are using the Internet for CME. (For more information or to order the study, call 800/621-8335, or visit www.ama-assn.org/catalog.) While this is a significant and growing percentage, it is still a minority. In addition, it remains to be determined what percentage of total CME hours are being earned online by physicians who obtain CME via the Web.
The good news for CME marketers is that off-line CME is alive and well and has good visibility. However, the adoption of online CME by a growing percentage of physicians must be factored into the behavioral equation.
Beware of Stereotypes
Segmentation is one tactic worth testing by CME marketers. The AMA study indicates that there is an inverse correlation between age and computer usage — 91 percent of physicians under 40 are computer users, versus only 46 percent of those over 60. But, although you can generalize about age, you can't specifically identify older physicians who are or are not computer users.
More promising are lists that capture physician preference for method of CME. These lists allow you to select or exclude physicians who prefer online CME or who indicate use of the Internet for related topics (e.g., obtaining drug information). There are even lists that capture preferences for type of off-line CME — e.g., grand rounds, local, or out-of-town seminars. Not only can you select physicians by their CME preferences, you can also communicate with them via their preferred medium, such as direct mail. Ask your list vendor for recommendations.
By using these lists, available from a number of leading list providers, you can put an understanding of human behavior to work for you. And as the world once knew, that understanding is the sine qua non for virtually all human endeavors.
Terry Nugent has 25 years' experience marketing T-Nugent@mmslists.com.. Since 1989, he has been director of marketing for Medical Marketing Service Inc., an American Medical Association database licensee. Before that, he directed AMA's membership development efforts. He is a past president of the Midwest Healthcare Marketing Association. Send your questions or topic ideas at