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by Alex Palmer | March 30, 2016
(Pictured) Astellas Pharma Poland took incentive winners on a pirate-themed trip to Croatia
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Few industries have faced more hurdles to incentives and meetings in recent years than pharmaceuticals. From the restrictions on giving healthcare providers virtually anything of value except travel to educational events under the Open Payments provisions of the U.S. Affordable Care Act to the requirement to track and disclose even that, these laws have presented many challenges to the healthcare industry. They have also made it more difficult for pharma companies to find ways to creatively and effectively motivate their staffs and customers. Here are two recent examples -- both finalists for Incentive's 2015 Motivation Masters awards -- that show how pharmaceutical companies are designing and embracing effective incentives.


Using Data to Drive Sales Incentives
Dublin-based pharmaceutical company Allergan was faced with the challenge of improving on its historic sales growth, setting a goal for itself to attain a return of $3 in value for every $1 spent on its incentive program. Keeping things interesting were the unique competitive environments faced by the products in Allergan's portfolio, combined with the significant regulations being placed on pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. and abroad.

Working with St. Louis-based Maritz Motivation Solutions, Allergan developed the Partner Privileges program, pursuing the business of physicians, business owners, and buyers of its products. The program used data aggregated from physicians' research studies that were run in 2012 and 2014, as well as deep analytics of sales and transaction data it began tracking in 2012. Federal regulations and the industry's own PhRMA Code limited the company's sales team to offering rebates and marketing support in its efforts to attract physicians. Traditional non-cash incentives -- high-end incentive travel or a box of donuts for doctors' office staff -- have long been forbidden.

Allergan separated its business into six levels, implementing a Portfolio Bonus Rebate offering that aimed to encourage individual accounts to add more of the company's products. This was based on data the company had gathered, which showed that faster growth among accounts was often associated with a wider breadth of products purchased. Allergan also created a Top 50 list of its accounts, using competitive spirit to encourage buyers to seek elite status.
The efforts paid off. Since implementing the program at the start of 2014, Allergan saw sales increase more than 20 percent, with almost $80 million in incremental sales attributed to Partner Privileges. Its Top 50 list alone delivered $6 million in sales growth, while the Portfolio Bonus Rebate program accounted for $40 million in incremental sales -- with stunning returns of $11 for every $1 spent. Overall, the program far surpassed the goal Allergan set for itself, reaching an ROI of $5.6 for every $1 spent.


Astellas' Pirate-Themed Outing 
A very different kind of incentive program was put in place by Poland-based incentive house ICP Group SA, charged with creating a travel reward program to drive the performance of sales reps for Warsaw, Poland-based pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma Poland. Setting their sights on Croatia, the incentive house sought to create a themed event that participants would not soon forget -- and looked for inspiration to Captain Jack Sparrow. The creative thinking and success of the company's "Croatia Under the Pirate Flag" program earned it this year's Motivation Master Award in the category of Recogniton.

Over five days in September 2014, Astellas Pharma treated 180 of its top performers -- in both sales and non-sales roles -- to a luxury trip in Croatia. Seeking a way to integrate this memorable destination with the client's company values of team- and result-orientation, openness, enthusiasm, and mutual respect, ICP saw potential in the theme of a loyal pirate crew.

The program emphasized that each team member has important roles to play on a ship.

"Our task was to deliver 'wow' effect," explains Valeria Koshel, junior account executive for ICP Group SA. "Every detail of the incentive was considered: menu and satisfaction survey designs, bus branding, staff uniform -- everything reflected the single concept."

That meant activities like sailing a ship decked out like a pirate vessel, with the stunning Croatian scenery as backdrop. The Admiral Grand Slano, where the group stayed, hung Jolly Roger flags and staff wore "Pirate Crew" pins. Attendees were treated to a gala dinner fit for a captain at the exclusive Lovrijenac Fortress, a fortress and theater rarely made available for such gatherings.

"[Astellas] sought a program together with teambuilding, but first of all they wanted a concept that would allow them to engage all participants," says Hanna Chechlacz, project manager for ICP Group SA.

Aiming to maximize the impact of the trip, ICP also worked to raise excitement about the trip before and after the event itself. All the pre-trip materials also emphasized the pirate theme, with a group of actors dressed up as pirates (complete with parrot) inviting the winners to the trip.

Beyond creating a fun and memorable outing (in which ICP succeeded, with a 96 percent satisfaction response in post-event surveys) sales results also spoke volumes, with participants exceeding their sales targets by 30 percent, and 98 percent of participants in the 2014 event taking part in the 2015 campaign.