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July 21, 2022

What is launch excellence?

What is launch excellence, and how are life science companies building more successful product launches?
what is launch excellence

No matter how much effort you put into launch planning, launching a new drug is never straightforward, and making it to launch is no guarantee of success. From 2009 to 2017, 40% of drug launches failed to meet their two-year sales goals. A successful launch requires a high degree of cross-functional coordination and accuracy under the threat of various complications – including regulatory requirements, patent cliffs, increasing R&D costs, shrinking sales teams, and a complex commercialization stage. As a result, many pharma companies are forming pharma launch excellence teams to anticipate and avoid potential difficulties. This article will explore why launches fail, strategies to avoid problems, and how technology is helping life science teams have more successful launches.

What is launch excellence?

According to McKinsey:

Launch is a critical capability in biopharma and its success hinges not only on good clinical data and a savvy marketing strategy but also on operational excellence. Yet biopharma operations – including production process development and the transfer of such processes to commercial facilities – are very complex and time-consuming. By understanding the complexities and managing them better than rivals do, biopharmaco players can boost the odds of a successful launch – product after product.

How are life science companies working to achieve this? Many organizations are building capabilities to prepare for increasing uncertainty in the world and their operations, leaning on tactics like personalization and digital enablement to increase the chance of success during launch. This is happening for various reasons – chief among them the monumental shifts in how people work and how pharmaceutical companies engage with HCPs.

Handpicked related content: learn the strategy behind a better KOL experience

Why do product launches fail, and how can failure be avoided?

Unforeseen circumstances cause some pharmaceutical launch difficulties, but most can be avoided with diligence and a strong launch strategy. What common problems can often derail a product launch? How can one achieve launch success?

  • Regulatory intervention
  • Overly aggressive sales targets
  • Miscommunication

These threats are common to every product launch – even outside of the life science industry – and cautionary tales abound. Diving into some notable failures, it’s clear that attention to detail and cross-functional coordination is key to avoiding problems that are, well, avoidable.

Product positioning is another vulnerability at launch. This is often down to a company’s failure to segment their potential audience properly and instead going to market with one-size-fits-all messaging for physicians and patients. As most consumers know, “one size fits all” rarely fits all – or even most. Physicians are not a monolith, and while some will be innovators willing to be at the leading edge of new products and treatments, others will wait to gauge a product’s efficacy before they consider prescribing it.

Strategies for a successful pharma launch

While every organization has its internal launch excellence team, some common processes and procedures can reduce mistakes and drive a successful launch campaign and market introduction.

Train the team. Now that technology – including insights management platforms – offers life science teams the capability to deliver training to global audiences, launch training takes less time and is less costly than traditional face-to-face training. Educating the launch team and other stakeholders on responding to potentially negative events can ensure a more coordinated launch effort.

Test the message. Message testing with both physicians and patients can provide helpful information to guide launch strategies.

Include patients. Patients can provide information about how they respond to messaging and their experience of living with a disease. Patient engagement is one area where a medical affairs launch excellence team can add value to a pharmaceutical product launch.

Consult physicians. Physicians are consumers, too – they facilitate a product’s eventual use, and can be influential among other physicians. Life sciences teams can conduct message testing or focus groups to understand how physicians will respond to a product.

Engage KOLs. KOLs are critical as you take a product to market. Experts recommend using virtual engagement to create interactive opportunities for KOLs to share their opinions about different diseases, therapeutic areas, and a pharmaceutical new product launch.

Insights management technology for launch excellence

If a launch plan lacks structure and critical success factors are unmet, it runs the risk of going off track. This risk is even greater with multiple launch teams involved without a central coordination point. 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 and forming a cohesive cross-functional launch team.

Rather than multiple streams of emails, documents, and other disparate forms of communication, 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.

To learn more about how insights management works for life science teams, read our blog series or download our e-book.


Health Advances. Launch Excellence.

McKinsey. Launch excellence: everything depends on flawless operations.

McKinsey. Launch excellence: Everything depends on flawless operations.

McKinsey. Ready for launch: re-shaping pharma’s strategy in the next normal.

Atrivity. Why lack of attention to detail is killing pharma launches.,been%20prevented%20with%20better%20planning.

Oxford. Crossing the Pharma Chasm – Why do Pharma Launches Fail?

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