For life sciences companies, product launches are pivotal milestones in a product’s lifecycle and set a trajectory for the product’s financial performance over its life. Given the scale and potential impact of a life sciences product launch, getting it right really matters.
These multi-year launch efforts involve cross-functional teams comprised of marketing, sales, manufacturing, market access, public relations, information technology, and others. These teams can sometimes get caught up in the complexities of enormous project plans or be derailed by miscues in product preparation, formulary placement, or marketing preparedness. Applying the four key principles detailed below can prevent these distractions and unlock greater product launch potential.
1. LOOK OUTSIDE OF YOUR PRODUCT CLASS:
In her book The End of Competitive Advantage, Rita Gunther McGrath – author, speaker, consultant, and professor at Columbia Business School – talks about competitive “arenas.” In today’s quickly evolving competitive marketplaces, organizations cannot continue to rest on the traditional premise that a sound longterm strategy based on “finding a favorable position within a well-defined industry” will enable them to achieve sustainable competitive advantages. Instead, McGrath encourages leaders to think outside of their industries:
“Arenas are characterized by particular connections between customers and solutions, not by the conventional description of offerings that are near substitutes for one another. For example, laptop and tablet manufacturers must acknowledge that they compete against each other, but also against the wedding industry when considering the 26 year-old female segment (McGrath – World Business Forum, October 2014).”
Applying this concept to life sciences launches, organizations should not only consider competitive products within a class or therapeutic area, but also any reasonable product that could be competing for customer attention, both inside and outside of healthcare. For instance, patients with Type II diabetes may be choosing between asking their doctor about a new medicine and purchasing a popular healthy eating/fitness app. As consumerism in healthcare continues to expand, more patients may view their healthcare choices in the context of other non-healthcare choices. Leverage competitive insights from outside of the conventional product class to improve chances for a successful launch.
2. PLAY INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS IN SURROUND SOUND:
Brand teams often refer to “surround sound” when devising multichannel commercial strategies; however, long before a new product hits the shelf, surround sound should be utilized internally to align cross-functional launch teams for maximum effect.
First, when onboarding team members, it is important to immerse individuals in both brand strategy and launch approach in order to secure shared goals and accountability. The benefit of this approach is that it promotes an interconnected dynamic made up of well-informed team members who understand that decisions made by each stakeholder frequently will have an impact on at least one other stakeholder.
Second, build a communication process that enables seamless communication between the various stakeholders. Team meetings should be a focal point for all functions to come together and recharge each other in a high-trust environment. Arenas are characterized by particular connections between customers and solutions, not by the conventional description of offerings that are near substitutes for one another. For example, laptop and tablet manufacturers must acknowledge that they compete against each other, but also against the wedding industry when considering the 26 year-old female segment (McGrath – World Business Forum, October 2014).
Teams will want to communicate status clearly and succinctly, while focusing heavily on openly raising and discussing risks and issues as a team. Leveraging the collective group to solve certain problems can result in more creative solutions while building team member rapport in the process. Creating the right meeting cadence, with the right number of players in each, will enable the team to move together efficiently.
Finally, craft a senior leader stakeholder plan at least six months prior to launch. Since launches can have such a material impact on the earnings of a company, many senior leaders will be involved in making decisions. Many of these leaders have tremendous launch expertise, which can be a huge asset to the launch team at key times. For both of these reasons, it is critical to have an established style and rhythm of providing key updates to leadership, while also capturing their advice and opinions.
3. SELL WITH SIMPLICITY:
If one promotional tactic is good, then one hundred tactics are better… right? It is easy to get carried away with trying to solve for every selling interaction by creating a different promotional tactic for each scenario. In reality, sales professionals frequently rely on being a valuable partner to their offices (e.g., answering questions, relationship building, etc.) and only utilize a fraction of the tools available to them, so keep it simple. Focus first on a compelling story, and then create a few pieces that convey that story convincingly.
Often when a new product is approved for use, Health Care Professionals (HCPs) are willing to invest time with a Sales Professional to learn about the product, so you don’t need to bombard them with assets.
Once reps have had an opportunity to share the full product story with the HCP, then it’s time to pulse out additional assets in a metered way to continue to capture HCP attention over time.
4. EMBRACE CHANGE:
As the saying goes, the only thing constant in life is change. That is definitely true in the Life Sciences Industry. Product teams must be prepared to continually adjust approach in the months preceding and the years following a launch. This includes regular review of the competitive landscape, promotional materials, impact of specific tactics, life cycle management, ongoing review of new insights and analytics, and refinement of product differentiators. It is also critical to revisit and update which products are part of your competitive analysis periodically, as these refreshes can yield clues for how the product’s market position may need to evolve. Do this as new products enter the market, aging products exit, and as competitors react to new campaigns and you’ll be rewarded with small yet significant boosts in performance.