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Marketing execution during the prelaunch phase

Preparation is everything. In a previous blog, my colleague pointed out that 50-66% of pharma brand launches fail to meet expectations. Additionally, more than 25% of brand launches fail to reach 50% of external revenue forecasts1. These are major red flags for an industry expected to derive 25% to 80% of its revenue from new launches by 2021. While there is no surefire formula for success, strategic execution during the prelaunch phase can sometimes mean the difference between a failure and a blockbuster drug.

Do Your Homework

Obtaining insights is expensive, but it’s the one thing that will bring your strategy into focus. Whether that be through market research, surveying, or advising, you’ll want to answer the following questions: Do you know the marketplace? With what products will you be competing? Do you understand the therapeutic area? Will your product meet an unmet need? Do you acutely understand your consumer and HCP target and their preferences? Answering these questions will help develop your value proposition and overall messaging strategy.

Most importantly, the insights you generate need to include hard data. Data on disease patterns, generics, branded competitor products, customer behaviors, and the like, will give you a more detailed picture of the space in which your product is going to compete. You’ll also want to gauge the competitive landscape.

Additionally, the hard data you generate from your market research will allow you to develop customer profiles and probe the beliefs and behaviors you want to change. Will providers see your drug as necessary? Are there already 15 different drugs in your target HCP’s formulary? How hard are you going to have to fight to get your message out there?

Lead the Way

Developing a pool of key opinion leaders (KOLs) is the next step in executing during prelaunch. Do you already have advocates in your portfolio? Or is this drug in a totally new space for you? If the latter, you’ll have to create a network of relationships from scratch that will be pivotal to the success of your product. This will require a robust profiling strategy to ensure you’re bringing in the right KOLs at the right time.

Once you have your KOL pool developed, you’ll want to segment them by channel. Some KOLs will be great advisors, and other speakers, while others will be digital opinion influencers (DOIs). Not all KOLs are DOLs (and not all DOLs are KOLs), so you’ll need to be careful as you segment your messengers and deploy them to each channel. Leveraging DOIs will be especially important if your product treats an undertreated disease and requires more disease-state awareness efforts at the outset. You’ll then want to train these KOLs on your content and what to say and what to not to say. This becomes especially important once your product’s indication becomes approved and you can start educating HCPs on the specifics of the product. Most importantly, you’ll want to ensure messaging is consistent and that all of your KOLs are on the same page, ensuring HCPs and ultimately patients receive a unified message on the benefits and use of your product.


Map It Out

Finally, you’ll want to map out your tactical approach—how exactly will you deliver your message? Immersive experiences are a hot trend right now and will most likely become the status quo going forward, but they require a lot of investment and planning to get right. You’ll also want to consider advisory boards to get feedback from KOLs on your strategic direction. Additionally, you’ll need to equip your sales force with all the guides and supplemental materials they’ll need to make an effective case for your product—participant guides, head-to-head trials, etc.

Ultimately, multiple factors drive your strategic direction—previous experience in the disease space, the number of competitors, and the current state of your KOL pool. However, regardless of the conditions, executing your strategy requires detailed planning. Before you even have approval, you need to be thinking about the specifics of your launch and postlaunch execution strategy. You’ll need to start developing your brand story, position your brand toward an identified target patient, and begin identifying the sources of authority that will lend your product credibility. After segmenting your KOLs and customers, targeting them, measuring their performance, and integrating with the sales force out in the field, you’ll then ensure alignment and integration across channels and the brand team. Balancing all of these will give your product the best chance at avoiding being part of that 25%.

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