Pharmaceutical and medical device companies looking to launch a new product—or even to introduce a new indication for an existing product—face more challenges than ever before. This new era is defined by shrinking pipelines, tightening budgets, the increasing influence of payers, the rise of ePatients, a slew of new channels and an abundance of data that is now at everyone’s fingertips. That doesn’t even take into account the emerging restrictions that threaten to sideline even the best products as they negotiate the convoluted path to FDA approval, market introduction and robust sales.

How can pharmaceutical and medical device companies best position themselves for success when preparing to launch a new product or indication? PM360 checked in with six industry leaders to gather some insights.

Michael Navin
Michael Navin
CEO and Founder
Element Marketing Group

Go Further With Your Segmentation Plan

At the core of every successful launch is a strategy aimed at ideally positioning the brand. That strategy can be built on a scaffold of four key questions:

1. Where does the product fit in the current marketplace?
2. What unmet need does the product serve?
3. What attribute does the product offer that can differentiate it in the market?
4. How well developed is the manufacturer’s channel segmentation plan?

Focusing on that last question, market segmentation is a strategy that involves dividing a broad target market into subsets of consumers who have common needs and applications for the relevant goods and services. Depending on the specific characteristics of the product, these subsets may be divided by such criteria as age and gender, or other distinctions such as location or income.

My advice for product launch planners and marketers: Go further! When creating a segmentation plan, consider, for instance, whether it is sufficient to break segments down into groups, or should the team be evaluating the value of a paid speaker versus an academic influencer? Academic influence goes far beyond a one-to-one ROI for a new prescription. While these groups are often underused—and the investment in communicating with them is often minimal because they won’t necessarily speak on the manufacturer’s behalf—they can potentially position the product on the forefront of clinical paradigms, thereby offering enormous brand support.

It is also often the case that payers are allocated a low portion of the marketing budget. Yet payers have transcended the employer segment to encompass health plans, PBMs, the federal government, long-term care facilities, hospitals, ACOs/IDNs and specialty pharmacies. These groups account for 85% to 90% of product revenue, regardless of category or formulation, so why invest less than 10% of critical marketing spend in these groups? Take a closer look at these segments when dividing up the marketing budget.

Go further! Segment potential buyers into categories such as lives, benefit design, geographic influence and market share, and financial strength. Using an influence-mapping exercise and scoring of the value of that position, the launch team can quantify the likelihood of success in that market. Launching in markets offering the most promise of early success helps the manufacturer to build momentum and manage spend in areas that may not see uptake for two to three years post-launch. If early planning for success paves the way to launching in all key markets nationally with no reimbursement issues, then consider a broad launch campaign.

Eric Densmore
Eric Densmore
Vice President, Account Director

Make Sure You Have a Skilled Maestro

A new launch trend that has been driven by technology is the era of the specialist. Brands increasingly have more cooks in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the value of a specialist for your patient-focused social campaign featuring non-mainstream spokespeople identified by your advocacy PR firm. But when your cross-functional team meets, make sure you save a seat for your maestro (insert Seinfeld joke here).

By maestro, I mean that person who sees the big picture, ensures strategic consistency among all specialists, and, most importantly, drives synchronized execution. That means intimate awareness of the details, so every specialist delivers the results envisioned by the launch plan composers.

When complex pharma transaction models have a specialist at every step, the smallest of inconsistencies can snowball and have epic ramifications downstream. What if your patient-focused social campaign featuring non-mainstream spokespeople resulted in 25% more patients talking to their doctors? High fives? Not necessarily. That’s only a win if the maestro ensures that specialists focused on the HCPs make sure that those patients are identified as appropriate for your brand.

It matters less who the maestro is, brand or agency team, but that his or her eye is on flawless integration and execution by your specialists. Without the maestro, you’re very likely to miss out on the true potential of the band of specialists you’ve put together.

Frank Powers
Frank Powers

Understand the Intersection of the Patient-Physician Relationship

What pharma companies must do to place themselves in the best position possible when launching a new product is to better understand the intersection of the patient-physician relationship. But before we can analyze the moment of truth about this critical juncture, we must appreciate the perspectives of both the patient and the physician before their first encounter.

The patient’s journey begins long before the patient ever steps foot in the HCP’s office, and marketers must appreciate all the homework and self-evaluation that patients undergo even before they schedule an office visit. How the patient communicates—and how the physician reacts—affects the treatment pathway that both will decide on. When considering the HCP’s point-of-view, marketers should have a working knowledge of the current landscape of the community-level physician. All too often, clients rely on frequent interactions with KOLs, which can cloud the general perception of the current competitive environment. It is vitally important to shape the perception of the market from the podium through the use of KOLs. But having a baseline portrait of the marketplace from the community-physician’s perspective will give marketers an accurate assessment of the marketplace and the segments to which they are launching.

Finally, being involved at the intersection of the patient-physician relationship to telegraph value is the best way to introduce a product. Most marketers and companies don’t understand the best ways to contribute and add value to these conversations. So, opportunities to support providers, patients and payers are often lost. Through the use of innovative launch tactics, marketers can assure themselves of bringing awareness, appropriate uptake and influence to the patient-physician dialogue—whenever that moment of truth arrives.

Jay Bolling
Jay Bolling
Roska Healthcare

Experiential Over Push Marketing

Launching a new Rx brand to consumers by simply creating a 60-second spot, website and patient brochure, and just putting our features/benefits (and balance!) out there for all to see, just isn’t realistic in today’s world. “Push marketing” has gone the way of the dinosaur, reminding us that, if we want our audience to pay attention to our brand features/benefits, we have to do a lot more than just “put our messages out there.” To interact with today’s healthcare consumer our communications must be part of an experiential marketing effort that’s:

  • Relevant to the consumer’s needs, interests and emotions, wherever they are in their patient journey.
  • Authentic by not over-promising or trying to put our brands in the “forefront” of their lives.
  • Engaging by identifying and leveraging the things most important to them (whether they should or shouldn’t be).

Experiential marketing follows the idea that people respond to impactful moments along a brand journey. When consumers are actively involved in the configuring and co-creation of marketing programs, they’re more likely to develop a personal relationship with the brand. Experiential marketing is based on consumers’ entire experience. Whereas traditional marketing sells by focusing on features and benefits, experiential marketing focuses on allowing the consumer to take a configurable and personal journey that is both emotional and functional. Experiential marketers control the environment in which this happens to some degree, but allow consumers to make their own judgments and choices about the product journey.

A successful experiential marketing effort isn’t defined by the different channels we use to communicate our brand features/benefits. It’s defined by the different “ways” we connect with our consumers through:

  • Branded and unbranded messaging
  • Networks and partnerships
  • 1:1 communications
  • Iterative storytelling
  • Customized messaging

In essence, the successful launch of an Rx brand in today’s DTC market requires an enhanced consumer engagement model—one that focuses on experiential marketing and is relevant, authentic and engaging to the target audience.

Jacob Golding
Jacob Golding
Account Director
HCB Health

Manage The Complexity

Delivering new products to market is an exciting, energizing and rewarding journey. As you ready your brand, organization and future patient base for launch, one thing is certain—your world is becoming ever more complex.

The key is to embrace complexity’s dynamic face and shift its burden to become more manageable. Below are three areas to consider based on 17 years of helping brands and marketers manage their business and cultural realities.

1. Influence your company’s “muscle memory”

Athletes’ muscle memory comes from practicing the actions needed to perform. Organizations possess similar muscle memory. When a company is practiced at launching products, the company’s “muscle memory” is set for the tasks. Evaluate your environment with a keen eye to ensure each supporting department understands its role and can deliver value. Where multiple competing directions and priorities arise, value is stifled and your product launch can be compromised.

2. Know who you need to beat

Go beyond analyzing the brands you need to take share from and understand the people behind the brands. As the great Vince Lombardi once said, “You’ve got to win the war with the man in front of you.” Read what competitors are saying about their brands in their blogs, white papers and published slide decks.

Next, do some fun role play. Develop competitive positioning, marketing plans and tactics you would employ to counter your brand’s entrance into the market. Now view the world from your brand’s perspective and define how you would block and tackle the competitors’ potential actions.

3. Think like a CMO, act like a CTO

In today’s data-rich world, it’s not enough to just do your positioning and set your beautiful campaign free. Act like a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and build your marketing “stack,” a technology and service infrastructure that will let you target the right patient and capture valuable data. You will see where your marketing bucket has leaks and where you need to optimize the hell out of your marketing machine to drive value.

Anthony Atanasio
Anthony Atanasio
Associate Director, Media Account Development and Partnerships
Greater Than One Media

Be Ready on Day One

As marketers in pharma, we all know how daunting product launches can be. Developing a mountain of “Day One” assets for any number of brand touch points isn’t easy, even under the best circumstances. But one may wonder: How much difference can a day really make in coordinating all of these diverse efforts? 

In an HCP study completed by Greater Than One Media, we found that it is imperative to have not only a Day One website, but also Day One supporting paid search media (and other traffic drivers) leading specifically to the HCP section of that website. Using multiple data sets on Day One website launches, we found that a website will likely never draw as much high-quality traffic as it does within the first three weeks after launch (the only close comparisons are seen with additional indication approvals). We measured key website actions, too (including prescribing information downloads, medication guide downloads, HCP site registrations, contact a representative actions and patient support material downloads), and found that during the first three weeks post-launch, websites garnered a much higher percentage of these actions than in subsequent weeks. The data clearly show that when we can provide actionable content to HCPs starting on Day One, they will be more receptive to taking advantage of it upfront than at any other time period.

And although in metric terms we may call it “actionable content,” robust website and paid search strategies are important channels on which to focus development—they are not the reason to get out of the gate strong. This reason is driven from the understanding that this time period represents a key moment in capturing the interest of the HCP and provides the means to deliver real value to them. By leveraging these early interactions, we are able to strategically inform both a short- and long-term relationship that provides worth to HCPs, and through them the benefits are recognized in patient outcomes. This brings us full circle in confirming, for Day One brand launches, there’s not a day to lose.


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