'Be Your Customer': Pharma Execs Offer Tips On Product Launch Strategies

The best thing marketers can do when launching new pharma products is “have a really strong partnership” with their company’s legal, medical and regulatory teams, declared Sayali Kadam, Merck’s director, commercial agility and launch excellence.

Those partners “can really help you figure out the best possible way to compliantly deliver your message…no matter how risk-averse or conservative” your company, she said during a recent Reuters Events webinar on pharma launch strategies. “If you have a good relationship and partnership with those folks, you really can be innovative and creative in how you’re going to deliver your messages, what messages can you deliver, how can you leverage data.”

Olivier Du Ruelle, Novo Nordisk’s senior director commercial excellence, also cautioned against working in silos, calling that the biggest internal challenge in product launches.

Du Ruelle praised cross-functional groups that can easily transition “from one space to the other,” cautioning that “it’s easy to throw certain things over the fence and let the other teams try to figure out how to move forward.”

Commercial success, he said, usually comes some 36 months “after the clinical team or product team has done anything,” and that launch/marketing folks must remember to include those other teams in their celebrations.

The biggest external launch challenge, Du Ruelle said, is reaching healthcare providers (HCPs) who now “are everywhere,” so  pharma companies must “cater to those channels where they want to be met.”

In addition to traditional face-to-face interactions where “we leave behind the leaflet with some information,” he said that HCPs now must be reached through such platforms as social media and HCP-specific portals. “If we just put our eggs in one basket and focus on one channel only, we might miss quite a bit of an opportunity.”

And don’t forget patients!

“Count the patients you’re protecting from a devastating disease,” said Quentin Descat, Bayer’s senior director, global marketing cardiovascular--- commercial launch brands. The number of patients -- rather than market share or other metrics -- is the most important KPI for new launches, he explained.

Descat also advised pharma marketers to develop a “patient-centric,” “emotionally-binding” approach by getting out of the office and actually engaging with patients. Even if this isn’t in a clinical or hospital setting, he explained, the patient “can be a family member, your friend, your grandparents, anyone…We can be patients as well.”

“BYC – Be Your Customer,” advised panel moderator Mira Nebbache, Sanofi’s global digital product owner -- head of digital engagement.

“Even if you’re launching a ground-breaking innovation,” she said, a pharma company must make sure the patient knows that “you can now cure this disease that he’s lived with for years.”

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