How to cap­i­talise on a lean launch

For start-up biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies and re­source stretched phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions, launch­ing a nov­el prod­uct can be chal­leng­ing. Lean teams can make set­ting a launch strat­e­gy and achiev­ing your com­mer­cial goals seem like a colos­sal un­der­tak­ing, but can these bar­ri­ers be trans­formed in­to op­por­tu­ni­ties that work to your brand’s ad­van­tage?

We spoke to Man­ag­ing Con­sul­tant Frances Hendry to find out how Blue Lat­i­tude Health part­nered with a fledg­ling sub­sidiary of a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion to launch an in­no­v­a­tive prod­uct in a
com­plex mar­ket.

What does the launch en­vi­ron­ment look like for this prod­uct?

FH: We start­ed work­ing on the prod­uct at Phase II and now we’re go­ing in­to Phase III tri­als. There is a sig­nif­i­cant un­met need in this dis­ease area, and every­one is ex­cit­ed about the launch. How­ev­er, the or­gan­i­sa­tion is still evolv­ing and the team is quite small – nat­u­ral­ly this caus­es a lit­tle tur­bu­lence.

The com­pa­ny is still siz­ing up the launch op­por­tu­ni­ty in the dif­fer­ent coun­tries and some do not have teams in place yet. It’s a com­plex ther­a­py area and many ex­ter­nal dri­vers will in­flu­ence which pop­u­la­tions the team tar­gets first and the coun­tries they launch in. It’s a huge hur­dle be­cause we’re de­vel­op­ing the strate­gic plan while si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly da­ta con­tin­ues to be re­leased – all at pace.

To solve this, we have de­signed the cus­tomer re­search with very spe­cif­ic ques­tions in mind. This en­sures we not on­ly un­der­stand how de­ci­sions are made in the here and the now, we al­so un­der­stand how these de­ci­sions are like­ly to change in the fu­ture.

This has re­al­ly al­lowed us to cre­ate a flex­i­ble strat­e­gy that en­ables us to re­spond to any change.

How does launch­ing in this en­vi­ron­ment com­pare to launch­ing a prod­uct with a larg­er phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny?

A lot of the same prin­ci­ples ap­ply, but you have to be much more fo­cussed be­cause every op­por­tu­ni­ty counts. You can set your po­si­tion­ing and strat­e­gy and you can put the build­ing blocks in place for en­gag­ing with physi­cians, but with a lean launch you al­so have to be pre­pared for change.
Every­thing you do has that ex­tra lev­el of fo­cus and has to be high­ly tar­get­ed.

There will not be large teams be­hind this par­tic­u­lar prod­uct, so we al­so have to think dif­fer­ent­ly about how we want to com­mu­ni­cate with cus­tomers. For ex­am­ple, we know that we need to en­gage with up to three dif­fer­ent key cus­tomers who all have dif­fer­ent roles to play in its up­take. Our over­all tone of voice has to be adapt­ed for each, but al­so where we in­ter­act and en­gage with them will be quite dif­fer­ent.

We’ve delved deep in­to our tar­get cus­tomers’ jour­ney to un­der­stand what lies be­hind their de­ci­sion-mak­ing process­es. This has en­abled us to un­der­stand our cus­tomers’ be­hav­iour cur­rent­ly and the ra­tio­nale be­hind their choic­es. The jour­ney has been in­valu­able for pri­ori­tis­ing and de­vel­op­ing a tar­get­ed launch and un­der­stand­ing how we can ‘shift the nee­dle’ with our cus­tomers. It’s al­so en­abled us to think about fu­ture sce­nar­ios and how our cus­tomers could make de­ci­sions when they are pre­sent­ed with an ad­di­tion­al treat­ment op­tion.

The launch is op­er­at­ing at two phas­es. Why have you tak­en this ap­proach?

FH: Tak­ing a phased ap­proach gives us an op­por­tu­ni­ty to test the strat­e­gy and re­fine
it. As this is a lean­er launch, we’re start­ing in a cou­ple of coun­tries where the com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ty is small­er. Then, 18-months to two years lat­er, we’re car­ry­ing out a sec­ond launch phase in coun­tries where we know
the com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ty is huge. We can see what works and gath­er met­rics, which will help us to un­der­stand the re­turn on in­vest­ment. We can see which chan­nels are work­ing, which mes­sages are res­onat­ing and ad­just the strat­e­gy based on this in­for­ma­tion.

How­ev­er, cul­tur­al­ly these coun­tries are quite dif­fer­ent. They treat the dis­ease dif­fer­ent­ly and their prob­lems are dif­fer­ent. While we can use the first phase of the launch
as a test­ing ground, we know that we will need to piv­ot for the sec­ond phase.

By phas­ing the launch, we can per­fect the things that work for both ar­eas and then we can fo­cus on solv­ing the chal­lenges that are spe­cif­ic to the coun­tries with the high­er com­mer­cial val­ue, but al­so in this in­stance, the great­est pa­tient need.

What chal­lenges are you fac­ing to en­sure up­take in health­care sys­tems?

FH: We know that if this prod­uct is used, it can pre­vent hos­pi­tals from spend­ing sig­nif­i­cant sums of mon­ey on treat­ing dis­ease lat­er down the line. A huge part of our val­ue sto­ry is based on ex­plain­ing
what will hap­pen if the drug is not used and then look­ing at the val­ue in the long run for health­care sys­tems and hos­pi­tal trusts.

Par­al­lels can be drawn here with oth­er in­no­v­a­tive med­i­cines, such as chimeric anti­gen re­cep­tor T-cell ther­a­py (CAR-T), which promis­es to be an in­di­vid­u­alised sin­gle dose cure for can­cer. There is a mas­sive up­front cost for CAR-T, but the val­ue in terms of pa­tient out­comes could be enor­mous.

That’s sim­i­lar to our ex­pe­ri­ence – we know that if doc­tors do not use the ther­a­py, the cost for the hos­pi­tal could be as much as £400,000 ($500,000). We need that val­ue to come across.

Are you work­ing with the com­pa­ny to solve some of their in­ter­nal chal­lenges?

FH: We have de­vel­oped a huge work­stream on or­gan­i­sa­tion­al readi­ness, which stems from de­vel­op­ing af­fil­i­ate work­shops on com­mer­cial en­gage­ment. This in­cludes both the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of how to dri­ve lo­cal en­gage­ment, as well as pro­duc­ing a learn­ing por­tal and a brand por­tal.

These ini­tia­tives en­sure the first ex­pe­ri­ences of the new teams are pos­i­tive and the strat­e­gy is clear. The sales reps and from large phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies. We want to en­sure mov­ing to a small­er or­gan­i­sa­tion is not go­ing to feel like a cul­ture shock for them. We al­so want to show that the or­gan­i­sa­tion is es­tab­lished, so we’re stream­lin­ing the process­es to en­sure ef­fi­cien­cy and ef­fec­tive­ness.

To help fa­cil­i­tate this on the ground, we’re de­vel­op­ing a jour­ney and an in­ter­nal brand iden­ti­ty. At the end of the day, we know that if the com­pa­ny is not set up well and the cul­ture is not good it will im­pact every­one’s work and their abil­i­ty to sell the prod­uct.

If you had one piece of ad­vice for a phar­ma or a biotech com­pa­ny launch­ing a nov­el ther­a­py with lim­it­ed re­sources, what would it be?

FH: You re­al­ly need to know what you want to achieve from the out­set and then work back­wards from there. If you have the end-point in mind and main­tain fo­cus, you are much more like­ly to have a suc­cess­ful launch.

Down­load the full re­port

This is just one ar­ti­cle from Blue Lat­i­tude Health’s ‘Launch Ex­cel­lence 2020’ pack.
Down­load the full re­port to learn:

  • 5 tips for a mul­ti-in­di­ca­tion launch
  • Nav­i­gat­ing the evolv­ing CAR-T land­scape
  • Launch readi­ness check­list and coach­ing guide
  • How to lever­age in­sights to dri­ve be­hav­iour change

Down­load the re­port to­day

To find out how Blue Lat­i­tude Health can help you nav­i­gate your launch chal­lenges, get in touch with si­mon.young@blue­lat­i­