Launching a new pharma product in the UK can be a brutal process. It’s expensive, time-consuming and highly competitive. How do you maximise the success of your brand launch?
Every year, numerous new brands and indications enter the marketplace, from biosimilars and generics to innovative medicines. Meanwhile, the medicine purchasing process has become increasingly complex, with decisions often involving a mix of people with different needs and priorities. Each launch clamours for the attention of healthcare professionals (HCPs), payors and commissioners.
Some organisations have sought a more customer-centric way of working – pursuing excellence in Key Account Management to get closer to customers. However, even when this is the case, the traditional organisational set-up often gets in the way. Everything is filtered through the lens of the brand and the realities of customer needs are drowned out by a product-based sell.
The majority of pharma companies continue to rely on tactical, transactional ‘launch excellence’ approaches to promote individual products. This generates huge duplication of effort for the organisation and creates information overload for customers.
A customer-centric approach
At Rubica, we’ve spent two decades helping pharmaceutical companies to evolve new ways of working with their customers. Along the way, we’ve learned a huge amount about how organisations can take a more holistic and integrated organisational-wide approach to being customer-centric, and thereby maximise the success of brand plans and launches.
We call this approach the Key Account Organisation. It’s about moving beyond an individual product focus, regardless of the role you have in the organisation. Instead, it mobilises the whole organisation to understand customers’ needs and priorities within its most important accounts and links this to how the portfolio of products available can best address those accounts’ needs. It means building value-added relationships with strategic customers to create a ready-made environment for portfolio planning and launching aligned brands.
Both the customer and the pharma organisation start to understand where their interests can align, leading to a win-win situation. The new brand can launch faster into an account where there is already a trusted relationship, and there’s a commitment from both sides to improve the quality of care. Equally, it’s easier to spot where not to focus as much resource.
Becoming a Key Account Organisation can produce dramatic results. One pharma company experienced a sales uplift of 25% in prioritised brands. Another witnessed a 600% increase in the number of procedures in a single key account. Meanwhile, by changing focus, another organisation collaboratively unblocked a customer’s pathway – delivering a 300% increase in scripts.
The key account organisation approach
Here’s a quick outline of the main stages of the Key Account Organisation approach and how it impacts brand launches:
- Develop relationships first; keep specific brands out of the equation for now. Identify the key customers who have most to gain from a more in-depth strategic relationship with you. Prioritise accounts and use archetypes to target the customers who have the greatest need for your therapy areas and who have the relevant organisational behaviours for the types of innovation you have to offer.
2. Challenge yourself to hang out in the ‘customer need space’ for longer than you usually would! Ensure you truly understand your customer’s needs, motivations, priorities and pathway blockages. Make sure that your objectives are aligned and offer genuine benefits to both sides. And, critically, establish that the customer is open to change.
3. Design an overall strategy for each strategic account based on their individual needs and how you can support them over time.
4. Mobilise your entire organisation to support the strategy. This goes far beyond a traditional sales, medical or marketing relationship. It means using all the resources at your disposal to get the best possible result for your customer, from setting up strategic conversations between leaders in your organisation and your customer’s organisation, and connecting appropriate intelligence from R&D, to ensuring that
your supply chain can meet demand.
All organisations think that they understand their customers’ needs. However, the reality is that insufficiently specific insights can lead to a generic ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Very few pharma companies have genuinely embraced the Key Account Organisation approach. Therefore, those that take this idea seriously have an opportunity to gain a clear advantage.
We’ve found that pharma organisations can take their brand launches and brand planning to a new level by following the steps outlined here. The whole organisation now has a fundamental reason to work cross-functionally with colleagues in a meaningful way to support the customer’s priorities. Market access is no longer a constrained support function, but plays an intrinsic role in long-term customer satisfaction. And, crucially, your customers find innovative solutions that deliver better patient care and a more sustainable treatment journey for their healthcare economy.