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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

How to lead a successful launch in the future

Some themes and questions that may help the next wave of launch teams and leaders

As we begin 2021 with continued uncertainty in our healthcare, economic and operating environment, I’d like to tackle the question of how to lead a successful launch in the future – across different therapy areas, different types of company and different countries.

There are many articles signalling further waves of the global coronavirus pandemic, new variants, new vaccines and new government regulations on businesses, healthcare professionals and the general public.

It’s difficult to make any firm predictions or specific recommendations on the future ingredients of an excellent launch, but I’d like to present some themes and questions that may help the next wave of launch teams and leaders.

Be people focused, be kind

Here I mean ‘people’ in the context of patients, healthcare professionals, payers, decision-makers, carers and a host of internal stakeholders across the launch team, customer-facing teams and senior management.

2020 has been a tumultuous year for us all and has impacted our daily lives, how we work, how and where we seek medical care and how we feel about our health.

Successful launch leaders will map the ‘new normal’ in their therapy area and local country and will capture these insights in careful patient journey maps, experience maps, conversations and decision- making processes.

Mapping the practical steps and interactions between patients and healthcare professionals will be key, along with the emotional needs, motivations and frustrations.

Being kind will elicit strong listening, empathy, understanding and a team-based approach to planning and problem-solving as a virtual launch team.

Successful launch leaders of the future will need a whole host of softer skills, around a culture based on kindness, in order to be successful – to effectively engage healthcare professionals operating in highly stressful situations and to lead virtual launch teams in a changing and complex environment.

Create a strong launch plan

Launch teams will need to invest more time in creating a really strong launch plan – working through the launch plan structure as a cross-functional team to define and align on key elements: the launch vision, objectives, specific areas of success or focus, the target patient, positioning, key messages, content and story flow as well as a series of flexible tactics pre- and post-launch with the right groups of stakeholders.

There’s so much to think about, including the definition of key assumptions about the external environment and then the creation of alternative scenarios if (or when) the competitor, customer or market situation changes.

These launch-planning skills are not just about mapping the launch critical path and timelines and project managing the key tasks; the ‘new normal’ of launch planning will consist of intense bursts of planning sessions creating a concise but high quality launch plan to support decision-making, internal communication and coordination of activities.

Successful launch teams may need to create concise, flexible plans – consisting of 20 pages or slides rather than 100!

Adopt a ‘challenger mindset’

This is more easily said than done! I’m a big believer in Adam Morgan’s Eating the Big Fish approach, adopting a ‘challenger mindset’ in order to change the norms of a particular market.

This can involve doing something bold, different and consumer-focused to accelerate the growth of a new product or service.

This is an area that really excites me as the pharma/biotech industry has so much opportunity to innovate – across wearables/ devices, digital technology that can track, communicate and alert, new biomarkers, new delivery systems and the creation of digital communities to share and collate data, and much more.

Successful launch leaders will keep asking the questions to help identify potential ways to ‘change the game’ and make a positive impact on their therapy area.

New roles and tactics

In recent months, I’ve seen a number of new roles and tactics emerge across the industry – possibly all part of the new commercial model in pharma – but I prefer to think very practically about how new medical roles are emerging to address changes in care pathways, solicit scientific input and map budgetary implications of a new pharma product or guideline.

New digital customer-facing roles are emerging with flexible and shorter hours to engage with healthcare professionals using digital technology. There are also new hybrid roles to manage congresses and meetings virtually or in person using new technology platforms or working in partnership with professional organisations.

Creating a series of launch tactics that can be flexed to local/regional conditions and priorities will be key. Successful launch leaders will also need to define the key capabilities of their launch team and the roles needed to succeed and may potentially reconfigure the ‘usual’ team.

Check the numbers

And last but not least, a successful launch plan, team and leader will need to have a series of numbers to help guide resource, tactical investment, timings, innovation, market potential, uptake curves and more.

We’re often being asked to do more with less, but I predict that in the near future successful launches will need strong investment recognising the current global environment. Could we do more with more?

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year and looking forward to charting how launch leadership evolves throughout 2021.

Stephanie Hall is MD of the award-winning brand planning healthcare consultancy Uptake Strategies

28th January 2021

From: Marketing

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