Article updated May 2023.
What constitutes a successful drug launch strategy? Success depends on multiple factors, including comprehensive research, a good market access strategy, realistic sales projections, and a dedicated team specializing in launches. There are also unpredictable factors that can compromise launch success – but for the most part, it’s critical to excel in the things your team can control.
Consultancy Bain & Company studied the performance of drug launch strategy among the top 20 pharmaceutical firms and identified several things that companies with successful launches have in common:
- Differentiation through messaging, post-launch data, and services
- Broad customer advocacy via good customer experience
- Organizing each launch as a “micro-battle” with a dedicated launch team
- Ensuring continuous frontline feedback
- Comprehensive market research, effectively communicated to payers and providers
Of these, the top three were identified as factors that more closely correlate with outperforming competitive products; some, like insights-based messaging, are recognized differentiators, while others, such as KOL advocacy and feedback from the field force, may be overlooked and therefore undervalued.
How can pharmaceutical companies work to improve their product launch strategies by leaning into these five factors?
We can help you reduce risk to your launch strategy.
Differentiation through messaging
The Bain study found that companies with the most effective messaging follow three fundamental guidelines:
Translate research into actionable insights. While all the companies in the study reported using market research tools, including patient pathways, physician segmentation, and focus groups, only those with successful launches transformed market data into actionable insights to make their new product stand out. “These messages are grounded in clinical data and built on efﬁcacy and safety, but they also consider the cognitive shortcuts doctors deploy when they learn about new treatments and make decisions…Understanding these pathways can help pharma companies communicate the beneﬁts of their medicines more effectively.”
Conduct post-launch studies to close data gaps and ensure data quality. The Bain study found that successful companies put a post-launch evidence-generation plan in place 18 months before the pharmaceutical product launch to generate a steady stream of data after the launch that supports the drug’s efﬁcacy.
Discover, address, and message to patient and physician pain points. Pharma commercial challenges related to reimbursement, compliance, onboarding, and patient identification can cause prescribers and consumers to avoid new drugs. When a pharmaceutical company is aware of these pain points ahead of launch, it can take steps to offer additional support to relieve concerns.
Customer advocacy and customer experience
Clinicians have choices when it comes to prescribing, and a new drug won’t be appealing unless they understand its efficacy, know that patients can reliably obtain it, and a variety of factors that go beyond clinical data. But most pharmaceutical organizations don’t focus their customer advocacy on day-do-day prescribers – a serious misstep when, as the Bain research shows, physicians give pharma companies an average Net Promoter Score of -11%. However, this negative score highlights an opportunity for pharma companies to increase their chances of launch success by offering a more supportive experience to physicians.
Build a team and make battle plans
Rather than relying on ad-hoc cross-functional teams to carry out a launch, successful companies form a “company within a company” to specialize in launch excellence. This approach gives launch teams “the authority and agility to make decisions that are best for the patient or the brand, [and]…to focus on strategic issues for the success of the launch, not for checklists.”
The difference between a traditional launch approach and the “micro-battle” approach is straightforward:
Traditional launch approach
|Head of launch reports to medical marketing||Head of launch team reports to CEO|
|90% of work takes place in functional silos||Launch team empower to work across functions|
|Functions control launch budget||Head of launch team controls budget|
|Team focused on functional checklists||Team focused on strategic issues|
|Linear approach to work||Rapid approach to work: test, adapt, learn, and scale|
Ensuring feedback from the field
Post-launch monitoring is critical in the first months after a product enters the market and begins its journey to patent expiration. Here, the field force can be an essential component of providing feedback based on conversations with physicians and other KOLs. As these observations are collected, an insights management platform can be instrumental in collecting and analyzing feedback in a single place.
Effectively sharing market research
It’s no longer enough for life science companies to point to clinical trial data and hope payers and prescribers see a device’s or drug’s value. By sharing a more dimensional view of a disease landscape and patient population, teams can make a much more compelling case that can influence market access, formulary inclusion, and prescribing habits. When market research is streamlined with the use of an insights management platform, life science teams can reach multiple audiences at a lower cost and within a shorter time frame, gathering evidence about the burden of disease, unmet needs, current treatment pathways, and prescriber preferences.
According to Deloitte, gathering this information “sets the foundation for evidence-backed value discussions with stakeholders down the line.”
Insights management technology for product launch excellence
An insights management platform can serve as a single source of truth for many phases of product development for pharma companies, including elements of a successful launch, an effective pharma marketing strategy, and forming a cohesive cross-functional launch team.
Rather than multiple streams of communication owned by different teams, some life science organizations use the capabilities of an insights management platform to streamline and organize launch plans. This might take the form of an online resource center to eliminate concerns about version control, social media listening before, during, and after a pharma product launch to monitor conversations on public forums, asynchronous discussions for message testing or other forms of insight gathering, and collating and analyzing incoming observations and notes from field teams.