Is there a future in reaching professionals through their PDAs?

I could have called this entry “Why I own two Tungsten C Palm Pilots.” The short answer is marketing to physicians.

By the way, the answer to the inevitable question “Why two?” is I use one of this pair of identical PDAs as a sort of software tester and back-up, and the other to manage my life (or attempt to).

Physicians are a market that I frequently help my clients reach. They are a difficult market, since they are extremely pressed for time and suspicious of anyone who they perceive is “selling something.” And who can blame them?

I had always been curious about whether technology can help attract this group’s attention and ultimately win their trust long enough to decide on a trial of what we were selling. Three years ago, what we were selling was a respected but underutilized Heart Center in Southern California. We knew that once referring physicians (mostly primary care specialists) sent a patient or two our way, they would likely be pleased with the results and become loyal advocates of this center.

The biggest barrier to trial was perceived distance. Although the center was not located far from our targeted physicians, it wasn’t one of the closest to them. This drive time objection was exacerbated by the major rush hours of the day.

Research at that time told us that the PDA (led, then, by the higher-level Palm OS devices) had high adoption rates among our physicians. They used their PDAs daily, to prescribe, research, review diagnostics and in other ways accelerate care. (The trend continues, with publications such as MedPage Today offering education and CME credits via the three major PDA platforms).

That led to us developing a small Palm application and corresponding Excel macro, both delivered in a direct mailing that these physicians could not ignore. The program allowed these physicians to tap in a patient’s home or work ZIP code and see the actual drive time to our heart center, shown in minutes. To more accurately simulate reality, a sliding bar could adjust for mild, medium or heavy traffic conditions.

Sadly, we never got to launch this application and test its effectiveness. But it illustrates a valuable lesson: The only hope of marketing to the professional (of any stripe) through her PDA is to help her do her job better.

To my knowledge, this is still completely uncharted territory. But with PDA adoption rates continuing to rise, the concept seems more appropriate than ever. 

One Reply to “Is there a future in reaching professionals through their PDAs?”

  1. Jeff – the team at Skyscape is doing interesting things in the world of reaching physicians via their PDA’s. In their case, the “hook” is valuable reference books/journals that MD’s like to have at their fingertips. Skyscape has been able to carefully insert marketing messages in these.
    (and no, I have no connection to the company — just an observer’s curiosity about their business model)

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