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
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