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Pharma Marketers’ Blog: Be Prepared!

As we start our launch planning and activities, they can feel a bit like a lengthy expedition!

Authored by Maxine Smith, Managing Director, Uptake for the PME Pharma Marketers’ Blog

In this article, Maxine highlighted the preparatory steps that some teams miss. These steps are understanding what launch excellence or launch success looks like; The next area of focus should be to explore the launch archetype; The final area is to examine the inherent capabilities of your company in the context of the launch. Maxine concludes that these contribute to our pharma equivalent of ‘being prepared’ as we start our launch planning and activities.

Read below or click to access the published version

We are in ‘expedition season’. If you were to venture into the countryside at the moment, you wouldn’t fail to miss the packs of Scouts and Guides, all in hiking boots and rucksacks, studying maps and making decisions on which path to take next. Various colleagues have been overheard discussing loans of bivvy bags and waterproof clothing, as those with now adult children are passing on equipment and knowledge to those with children who are at the ‘expedition season’ stage of life.

What impresses me about these expeditions is the level of preparation that is put in before the teams take a step outside. In some cases there is even a practise run of the full expedition months before the real thing, all to make sure that the teams are prepared.

When we think about launch planning, it is of no surprise to anyone that there is a lot of preparation involved, much of this preparation being activity-based. I would like to suggest that there are certain preparatory steps that some teams miss but successful launch teams invest in and, therefore, when the activity-based preparatory steps are in full swing, these teams are reaping the benefits of their additional preparation.

Defining launch success

The first place to start is to spend some time as a team defining what launch excellence or launch success looks like for this launch. For some this is obvious: ensuring the financial success of the brand. However, for a launch to be deemed successful there are many other factors that should be considered, as success will vary for different key launch stakeholders.

  • What measurable benefit will clinicians and patients see?
  • What value will this launch have delivered, ie in economic terms but also societal value
  • How will this launch enhance the reputation of the company?
  • How will this launch enhance the capability and skill set of the team involved?
  • How will this launch impact the processes and capability of the company to succeed in future launches?

Knowing your launch archetype

The next area of focus should be to explore the launch archetype. This critical step tells us as much about the type of launch we are not planning as it does about the type of launch we are and will be planning, which is a critical senior manager conversation to have. If the overall company expectation is that this launch will be the next blockbuster (ie a highly differentiated/valued brand in a disease area of high unmet need) but the team perceives challenges due to the brand being not well differentiated and there being limited clinical appetite to tackle, then a conversation needs to happen and soon. There are many launch archetype models to choose from with a quick Google search, but you can also create your own using the combination of axes that is reflective of your launch – think differentiation, value, size of potential market, unmet need, method of administration, testing requirements and so on.

Company capability

The final area is to examine the inherent capabilities of your company in the context of launch.

  • Is this a familiar disease area for the company? What learning can be harnessed? Is this launch part of a longer-term disease strategy?
  • What is the company’s attitude to risk? Will this launch challenge those boundaries?
  • What else is being planned that may impact this launch, eg restructures, new system integration, other launches, etc?
  • To what extent is the company heavily process-driven or able to handle last-minute challenges or keen to work collaboratively with partners? Are there aspects of this launch that may be limited by the natural style of the company?

None of these areas of preparatory focus are lengthy discussions by any means, but they are valuable ones as they can guide the team to think broadly about success and value, not merely focusing on financial measures, as they start their planning. They can ensure that all expectations are aligned on the type of launch this will be, which can unlock appropriate resources and investment to drive this type of launch. They can also help teams to harness the natural strengths from within the company type and manage the aspects that will create barriers and slow launch progress.

These contribute to our pharma equivalent of ‘being prepared’ as we start our launch planning and activities which can, at times, feel a bit like a lengthy expedition!

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