Open Market Doors: Strategies to Achieve Cross-functional Cooperation to Maximize Market Access

Although brand marketing and payer marketing are driven by different day-to-day business needs, they share the same common goal: Ensuring that patients have access to the medications they need. Each function plays a critical role in increasing product market share, even if their target customers (physicians, health plans, ACOs) are different.

Unfortunately, these functions are not always in sync, which puts your product at a disadvantage in the market. In this article, the leadership team at Health Strategies Group will discuss specific strategies to bridge these functions and maximize access.

Align Leadership

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“The reality is that brand marketers and payer marketers often have different perspectives and outlooks,” says David Rees, principal and vice president of development. “Brand teams typically think in terms of returns this year, while payer teams want to invest in customer relationships that deliver value over the long term.” Sometimes these different perspectives and outlooks can create misunderstandings between the two functions. For example, brand teams may not have a full view of what payer marketers do. Rees explains, “Sometimes, they think customer marketing is about contracting only.”

To foster more cooperation, leaders from both functions should come together annually to agree on access landscape trends and how these trends will affect the portfolio. “Once payer and brand marketing leaders agree on access landscape issues,” says Rees, “their teams can collaborate to develop strategies and plans to address each issue.” For example, the two teams might work together to plan and conduct ad boards on key topics, such as programs and resources or patient education. “These meetings should focus on realizing common objectives,” he advises, “such as how will improving quality at the payer level affect the brand?”

Brand and payer marketers can also work together on translating core brand messages for physicians into messages for payers. “This might be an ideation session with the agency or an ad board,” Rees suggests. “The point is to help brand marketers see that payers have a population-based—and cost-focused—view of a disease, whereas physicians view the same disease at a patient level.” The two functions can collaborate on developing account manager product training. “Account managers need to be able to translate brand value into customer value,” he says. “Collaborating on this training will help brand marketers understand the need for customer-specific product benefits.”

Another strategy to create more understanding and alignment between functions is to include customer/payer marketing in brand marketers’ career paths, which ensures that both teams spend sufficient time with customers, so everyone has a real-world perspective on the market.

Embrace a Common Vision

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Rayna Herman, principal and senior vice president, sales and marketing, blames poor collaboration between teams on disjointed strategies that fail to reflect broader organizational values. “Sometimes, this occurs because brand and payer marketers have different objectives and ideas of what’s needed to be successful in a market,” Herman says. “In some cases, there also may be time pressures or deadlines that make it difficult for these functions to come together and find common ground.” Or, she adds, there may be frequent turnover in a role, personality issues or egos that hamper collaboration.

Fortunately, these issues can be overcome through effective team building, which should be led by a third party to keep the exercise objective, Herman suggests. In addition, biopharmaceutical companies should have a process that allows different functions to share information on goals and strategies. For example, brand and payer marketers might help each other stay in the loop using creative briefs, project management tools, or a stage gate process for product development as, Herman notes, this can help bring different players into the discussions early on and create accountability across functions.

Whenever possible, she advises, look for areas where there is already agreement and alignment, and then build the collaboration from there. As an example, brand and payer marketers should be involved in annual brand planning and agree on which segments and customers matter most to the brand. “Specifically,” Herman notes, “they can map out the product flow to the patient as a team, so there is a common understanding of the influences along the way. She adds that they also should agree on the measures of success—and ideally, these should be no more than three key metrics.

Cross-functional collaboration also can be fostered by setting realistic timelines that include consequences for not meeting performance objectives. Herman states, “If someone on your team fails to meet timelines, be upfront with your colleagues and find a replacement who can be an asset.”

Seek Understanding

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One of the major barriers to effective cross-functional collaboration between brand and payer markers is a general lack of understanding on the value that payer marketing brings to overall brand performance, according to Bob Shewbrooks, principal and practice leader. Fortunately, payer marketers can create more understanding by developing a basic educational piece on the payer marketplace for their peers in brand marketing. Shewbrooks explains, “The piece should highlight the tactics a payer can use to advantage or disadvantage a specific product and quantify the impact of either position so that the brand team has a better perspective on why managed market’s marketing strategies and tactics are critical to a product’s success.”

Different reporting structures can also hamper collaboration because brand and payer marketers may not share the same performance objectives. Shewbrooks believes this obstacle can be overcome by identifying the functional leaders’ performance objectives and pushing for some level of shared accountability within the payer space. “A specific tactic should be to note where a competitive product is outperforming an organization’s brand despite similar net price strategies,” he says. “In other words, what is the competition doing within the account that has them advantaged?”

Another area where collaboration opportunities exist is contract pull-through, Shewbrooks says. “Ideally, this collaboration also should incorporate the account’s perspective to ensure buy-in from the account’s network of physicians.”

Brand and payer marketers can also look for opportunities to improve cross-functional collaboration with account management. Account managers are in the best position to articulate a specific client’s needs. According to Shewbrooks, using that information, brand and payer marketers should develop an integrated program that encompasses the organization’s capabilities within the managed markets function and the “promise” a brand can deliver.

Deliver What Payers Want

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Biopharmaceutical companies want to deliver the resources that payers request, but doing so can sometimes be a challenge. “Payer demands for non-branded resources and programs can be a barrier to collaboration,” explains Rod Cavin, principal and managing director.

These demands are likely to continue, presenting a marketing challenge that brand and payer marketers will need to overcome together. One strategy, according to Cavin, is to collaborate on developing a non-branded program that helps payers improve their performance on a high-priority quality metric, such as pain or diabetes control. Ideally, these programs should align with current products.

Another challenge is the difficulty in measuring the ROI of marketing efforts with payers, Cavin says. Although this will continue to be an issue, marketers should focus on developing population-based programs that have higher value to payers. These include programs targeting high-risk—and high-cost—patients, such as those with multiple chronic conditions.

Sometimes, a little education can go a long way in helping brand marketers understand what payers want. Cavin suggests, “Payer site visits for brand leaders can help brand marketers learn about payer needs and capabilities firsthand. More importantly, it can help brand leaders understand how marketers can work together to maximize access.”

How Ready Are Your Teams for Cross-Functional Collaboration?

Answer the following questions to assess the level of cooperation between your brand and payer marketing teams.

1. Do brand marketers and payer marketers share similar performance objectives?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

2. Do brand and payer marketers agree on access landscape issues?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

3. Do brand leaders make regular payer site visits to learn about payer needs?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

4. Does the payer team help to educate brand marketers on the payer landscape?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

5. Does the biopharmaceutical company use a process to share goals and strategies between functions?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

6. Is customer/payer marketing on the brand marketing career path?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

7. Do brand and payer marketers work together on projects such as messaging, programs and resources, and patient education?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

8. Do collaborative projects have realistic timelines?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

9. Are both functions involved in annual brand planning?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

10. Do brand and payer marketers collaborate on account manager training?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

11. Do both functions agree on which segments and customers matter most to the brand?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

12. Do brand and payer marketers work together on contract pull-through?

Frequently
Occasionally
Never

If you answered “Occasionally” or “Never” to more than three questions, your brand and payer marketing teams need to make collaboration a higher priority.

  • Denise Woltemath

    Denise Woltemath is vice president of custom research at Health Strategies Group, which offers a dedicated team of research leaders committed to dissecting the trends, identifying customer needs, and pinpointing the barriers and opportunities for pharma and biotech within the evolving healthcare environment. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.HealthStrategies.com.

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