Compass Healthcare, a digital communications company for the pharmaceutical industry, has moved from Nassau Street to Princeton South Corporate Center in Ewing because it outgrew its downtown space.

CEO Peter Nalen founded the company in 2003 with Kristin Marvin Keller and Jack Bilson III as an antidote to the 1.5 million incorrect or illegible prescriptions written every year that result in 8,000 fatalities. Nalen was an early part of a movement toward getting all prescriptions to be written electronically by this year.

It has yet to happen, but medical industry watchdogs are still pushing for all-digital prescriptions that can be sent directly to pharmacies and annotated in a patient’s medical file. Nalen says the government and the industry are on the right track, though, and he is hopeful that once everyone finds a platform from which they can work, transportable, instantly available medical records will be commonplace.

But that’s not the company’s main focus right now. Where Compass is concentrating its energies, says Nalen, is on what he calls “relationship marketing.” The old model of a pharma sales rep walking into the doctor’s office with free pens and a one-size-fits-all message are over, he says, mainly because the industry has realized that not all doctors are the same.

Some doctors like to talk to a visiting sales rep, Nalen says, but some don’t. And while some doctors know every aspect of every drug they prescribe, some know very little.

Nalen describes a layered approach that targets doctors at various stages of knowledge and engagement, via an advanced database that lets Compass know what individual doctors know about a given drug. For example, the firm will start with an E-mail that offers general information about a drug and gives the doctor a choice of which aspects to check out — the diseases, the side effects, the technical nature of the drug itself. Based on the response, Compass will know which aspect a particular doctor is most interested in and follow up with increasingly customized messages through online media that increase the value of the communication for that doctor, Nalen says.

This approach is fast becoming the norm in an industry laden with communications and new products. But it also helps pharma companies market their products directly to doctors in places where sales reps face governmental hurdles. In Massachusetts, Minnesota, and parts of Pennsylvania, Nalen says, pharma reps are not allowed to market to doctors unless the doctors invite them in. “So how do you market to doctors?” he asks. The answer is to offer them information of increasing interest and warrant an invitation.

The layered approach to marketing to doctors does take its cue from how average people use the Internet. Nalen uses restaurants as an example: if you were to visit a new town, you would start with a general search of the area for a good restaurant. Your initial search might lead to a review site like Zagat’s, and that in turn might lead you directly to the restaurant’s online menu.

“We call it online outreach, which is another way of saying ‘online PR,’” Nalen says. The idea is that people use multiple websites to find information about one thing. Compass uses this same approach in its marketing, understanding that a person with a knee injury, for example, might start out with a general search and wend his way through the web until he comes across the page for a drug designed to treat his condition.

“It’s like an information buffet,” he says. “You sample from a buffet, you don’t just stand there eating one thing.”

Nalen grew up near Minneapolis, where his father was a marketing executive, and graduated in 1983 from Middlebury with a double major in American literature and marine biology. The latter involved a term at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and a trip on a 120-foot schooner to the Bahamas. He worked for General Mills while earning his marketing MBA in 1987, then did consumer product brand management at Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati; Johnson & Johnson, working on Purpose skin care and Clean & Clear; and at the Sawtooth Group in Woodbridge.

Nalen took a hiatus from the corporate world and spent two years in Vermont, where he ran marketing for a snowboard company, before moving back to Princeton to work at Simstar (now Rosetta). He left there to start his own firm in the fall of 2003.

#b#Compass Healthcare Communications#/b#, 200 Princeton South Corporate Center, Suite 320, Ewing 08628; 609-688-8440. Peter H. Nalen, president/CEO. www.compasshc.com

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