Coughs mean cold cash

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A cough is music to Karen Dawes' ears. As senior VP-marketing and sales for Bayer AG's Pharmaceuticals Business Group, she is responsible for the promotion and selling of Bayer's pharmaceutical drugs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

These days, Dawes is leading the blitz for the respiratory antibiotic Avelox. The fast-acting drug, which is designed to give patients relief of acute cold symptoms, is deemed central to Bayer's future growth. Launched a little less than a year ago, this is Avelox's first full cough and cold season.

One of the pharmaceutical industry's highest ranking women, Dawes was formerly senior VP-global strategic marketing for pharmaceutical firm Wyeth-Ayerst International Inc. Looking ahead, Dawes will likely be a key player in Bayer's 2002 launch of the erectile dysfunction drug Nuviva.

In a recent interview, Dawes addressed Bayer's marketing of Avelox, its partnership philosophy and the drug maker's e-commerce activities.

BtoB: How did you tailor the Avelox message for doctors?

Dawes: For our direct customer, the physician's office, we've brought up in our messaging that Avelox means fewer callbacks. If you are a physician in the middle of the cough and cold season, the added burden of getting callbacks saying, 'Gee, doc, I was in a couple of days ago, you gave me this drug and I still don't feel any better,' makes it all the more difficult for them.

BtoB: More and more pharmaceuticals are conducting huge advertising campaigns. What's different about your strategy?

Dawes: Most of the direct-to-consumer advertising in our industry is for drugs that treat chronic care, like hypertension, high blood pressure or high lipids. For acute-care products like ours, we have focused on service-oriented programs that can go directly to the consumer, but also serve our business prospects.

BtoB: What's a good example of a service-oriented program?

Dawes: In the last two weeks, we've kicked off the RTI [respiratory tract infection] Alert. It's a toll-free number and Web site that allows you to track how the cough and cold season is going in your area. For physicians, or an employee on a physician's office staff, you can regularly go to the Web site or call the number to track where the season is going. We've been told this is valuable because it allows a doctor to order more supplies or plan for extra part-time staffing.

BtoB: Would you have been engaged in service-oriented marketing programs for a new drug five or seven years ago?

Dawes: Probably not. Our industry has seen a lot more direct-to-consumer, service-oriented programs and very specific product-oriented advertising.

BtoB: You manage Bayer's sales and marketing organizations. How has the Internet changed the relationship of those two organizations?

Dawes: In the pharmaceutical industry, e-marketing is just coming into its own. We've added an e-marketing group in the U.S. and an e-business group in our global organization. At Bayer, we've taken some measured steps. Some pharmaceutical companies have spent millions on Internet marketing, but we've done some watchful waiting. Now we're conducting focus groups with people using the Internet and health care sites.

BtoB: What is Bayer's strategy for sales-force automation and customer relationship management?

Dawes: Each of our sales representatives is armed with a laptop, and they use them extensively for communication. We have 1,500 representatives in the primary care arena out in the field. It is important that they communicate with each other because, within one territory, there are three or four or five representatives. As a company, one of our goals is to be paperless. We use a lot of e-mail. Sometimes I think we use e-mail just a little too much.

BtoB: Bayer has started partnerships to extend the reach of its sales force. Why?

Dawes: There's been a lot of consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry, with mergers creating these mega-pharmaceutical companies. We're a midsize company. We compete with some of the larger companies in a number of products with which we market. To stay competitive, we've partnered with other companies to co-promote products. For example, we have one partnership where 250 representatives sell Avelox for us. We're looking for elegant partnerships where we focus on the same physicians, and good synergy with the products.

BtoB: What other ways is Bayer competing against the mega-pharmaceutical companies?

Dawes: We've gone into a partnership with the contract sales organization, Professional Detailing Inc. They field sales forces, but don't develop or market products on their own. We've contracted with them for 500 dedicated representatives, marketing only our products to the primary care audience. That gives us a marketplace voice we need to be competitive.

BtoB: Is Bayer involved in Internet e-marketplaces?

Dawes: We have a couple of initiatives with specific products. In the biological area, patients can actually order their drugs through the company directly. Currently, we've just taken some first steps in those areas. The whole industry will be moving toward more access for patients.

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