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Consider the HCP Journey to Ensure Successful Product Launches

Launching a new product is hard. Remarkably hard, in fact—according to reports by Bain1 and McKinsey2, 50-66% of brand launches do not meet expectations. In addition, the stakes are high and the cost of errors can be devastating. According to Deloitte3, performance during the first 6 months after a launch correlates to market share over the long term, and less than 50% of brands achieve peak sales estimates after 5 years on the market. 

Why are we so unsuccessful? Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer. However, a key reason for average underperformance is that we continue to launch brands like we always have, with only some incremental improvement. Given the enormous risks, in many instances, we become risk averse and focus almost entirely on the product (efficacy, safety, dosing) without regard for the patients who will be using it and the healthcare providers (HCPs) who will be prescribing it. The stakes are high and the cost of errors can be devastating when it comes to launching a new product.

There is one bright spot, though—patient journey mapping. We now do a fantastic job of mapping out the entire patient journey across a disease state, focusing on those few touchpoints along the journey we can really influence. This map then becomes a guide for our marketing efforts as they relate to the patient.

This presents an opportunity: can we take this similar approach for HCP engagement? Even if we simply think about an HCP journey, from becoming aware of a brand or new clinical data to retention (or adoption) into their treatment algorithm and eventually advocating for the brand (even when they are not paid as speakers), could this provide us more insights and allow us to reconfigure a more successful launch approach?

Defining the HCP Journey Map

By mapping out an HCP journey, pharma companies can identify touchpoints that will provide actionable insights and key current and desired behaviors. We can also begin thinking beyond clinical needs and start addressing the HCP’s individual needs—understand their motivators, both clinical and non-clinical, that are automatic (which are habits) and reflective. We can also ask what additional information, training, peer perspectives, and reframing they need to provide better patient outcomes.

Mapping an HCP customer journey will cause us to think more deeply about our strategic goals that go beyond adopting a brand. This begins with understanding HCPs’ behaviors, defining the desired experiences, and adjusting to the environment the brand is launching. Going beyond just reinforcing messages and, prior to launch, ensuring we have a strong diagnostic plan to be able to assess the complexities of launch. Some of those are traditional measures like exposure to messages and some are more focused on changing habits. We need both leading and lagging indicators to ensure a successful launch, and we need to go beyond just simple awareness.

Moving Beyond Healthcare Professional Awareness—The Challenges

In order to start building beyond awareness, we need to address some of the changes in the marketplace that put pressure on our ability to reach and effectively inform HCPs about new treatment options. One of these challenges is the speed at which treatment landscapes are changing, the increased complexity of new MOAs, and the sheer volume of options in a given therapeutic space.

Take oncology for example. In 2018 alone, there were more than 44 new drugs approved by the FDA—that’s almost an average of one new treatment a week. Facing a flood of information, the average community oncologist is tasked with identifying a more complex, niche patient for targeted therapy. They have to consider multiple lines of therapy at once to ensure correct sequencing that optimizes response and addresses symptomology without risking limiting options in later lines of therapy, and they have to manage all of these decisions with shared decision-making, and effective expectation setting, and overall patient care. While this era of innovation is incredibly exciting for patients and potential outcome improvement, it creates a challenge to break through the noise for an HCP who is already in information overload.

There are also industry challenges to consider as well. Bringing new molecules to market is increasingly more expensive. We are seeing pharma hedging bets and not funding some brands until 6 months pre-launch, a timeline that used to be closer to 2 years, thus shortchanging strategy and message development lead time and leading to a default mentality to previous launch plans.

Another challenge is the potential lack of change when it comes to our industry’s marketing approach. We generate campaigns and messages to focus on the differentiators. Sometimes these differentiators are obvious and meaningful in clinical practice. Other times, and more commonly now, these differentiators require explaining with complex data and require an HCP’s traditional treatment approach to evolve beyond what may be intuitive. This complexity, in both the science and its potential impact on an HCP’s already established behaviors, must be taken into account to successfully drive beyond awareness

Desired Behavior Change and  Driving HCP Engagement Strategies

So how do we plan to address these established behaviors? As you know, “content is king” when planning for customer engagement and education at launch. While advertising might drive awareness through a focus on a singular set of safety and efficacy messages repeated across omnichannel marketing campaigns, strategically designed content focusing on underlying drivers and barriers will change behaviors leading from awareness to trial and eventual adoption.

If adoption is what we are ultimately working toward, and we know the content will help drive toward this goal, how do we approach developing the right content for the right HCP at the right time and ensure it is in the right place? It starts with developing a blueprint of diverse, evolving messages grounded in clinical data and elevated by the ability to tailor based on underlying HCP behaviors, beliefs, and barriers. Taking this approach ensures your content is driving decision-making as it relates to the correct cadence of messaging, tactical solutions, and eventual channel placement.

For more information on understanding behavior, see here.

  1. Social Media Facts Sheet
  2. The Secret of Successful Drug Launches
  3. Pharma-Launch Paradigm

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