How to Launch Successfully in Today’s Digital World

Launching a new product was never easy. But in recent years, we’ve witnessed it become progressively more complex, with increased competition, heightened development risk, and demand for more real-world evidence.

Then COVID-19 hit. Suddenly the world went quiet. A study of 86 launches between February and August 2020—the height of the first wave of the pandemic—found every single one “disrupted” through delays, lost revenues, or both.

Swiftly, digital became the only channel through which companies could communicate with potential customers. In fact, in-person meetings between pharma reps and with healthcare professionals (HCPs) dropped so low (by 70%), that most pharma companies simply pulled their reps out of the field.

But the good news is that the industry has learned a lot about digital engagement since then—especially when it comes to planning and executing a digital-first launch. Based on our experience working with customers, here’s what we believe are the critical success factors for ensuring launch success moving forward.

A 4-step framework for launch excellence

The key to a successful digital launch is to start early—24 months prior—so that you can put all the pieces in place on a timed basis. Execution starts three months prior to launch (when your sales reps make their first contacts with HCP), but other components need to be put into place well before that for execution to go smoothly.

We’ve created a launch framework that breaks down the launch process into the following key milestones:

  1. Build your “launchpad”: This step encompasses three core elements: first, you’ll need to create the frameworks to integrate plans and prioritize actions; second, you’ll want to establish the analytics and performance insight functions to integrate multiple data sources; and finally, you’ll use that data to better understand your customer, and drive agile and empowered decision-making using intuitive tracking tools to focus on the right indicators to demonstrate launch progress.
  2. Prepare your market: During this step, the focus is on how best to coordinate with and align around scientific experts to uncover new opportunities, adapt plans, respond to customers faster, and orchestrate meaningful interactions. Key actions include identifying key opinion leaders (KOLs), getting HCP feedback on the product, and organizing your clinical content to ensure its compliant and easily managed throughout production and distribution.
  3. Demonstrate your value: Three months prior to launch is when you move into action and mobilize the field to establish the foundation for customer relationships. You’ll want to make sure to reorient your account plans for digital engagement, create content that supports your key value propositions, and promote digital services for patients to change behaviors and achieve desired outcomes. To simplify the process of getting more information to HCPs faster, consider using digital channels not just for outbound engagement, but for inbound as well.
  4. Go to market: At this point, you should have received market authorization and the initial phase of market access. Now you have to focus on driving awareness with HCPs and understand where your product may serve as the best option to treat their patients. In addition to designing your go-to-market model, make sure to optimize your remote engagement channels, deploy AI-based call planning, leverage marketing automation, and host digital events to build momentum around your product.

For a deeper dive into the steps above, read our ebook, 4 Steps to Achieving Launch Excellence in Today’s Digital World.

How to Launch Successfully in Today’s Digital World

Ultimately, success will depend upon the fact that your data and insights are swift, all players engage with digital channels, and you have integrated platforms and information. A customer-centric approach is also important—you want to make sure you can improve HCP targeting and continuously increase your knowledge of their engagement preferences.

The benefits of a digital launch

As the industry is quickly learning, having a digital strategy is not only important to sustaining quality interactions with HCPs, but to further strengthen them as a complement to in-person visits moving forward.

According to recent Veeva Pulse data, which provides a global and local view of field rep activities captured in Veeva CRM across the industry, digital engagement has led to longer discussions and more frequent rep-to-HCP interactions. When combined with the personal relationship, they offer new opportunities—and value—for HCPs in launches moving forward.

Among the key benefits include:

  • More time with HCPs: At the global level, the duration of virtual sales calls in 2020 since COVID was 19 minutes on average, compared to less than three minutes, on average, for in-person meetings. Moreover, emails sent from reps to HCPs increased by almost fivefold.
  • Greater engagement: 95% of HCP contact now takes place through virtual channels and 75% of HCPs want to maintain or increase virtual meetings even with a vaccine available. Veeva’s own data revealed a sixfold increase in the duration of remote meeting duration versus face-to-face ones—and rep-sent emails achieved an average open rate of 36%, in contrast to the 3% average open rate of headquarters-sent emails.
  • More content shared: In virtual meetings, content is being used 85% of the time, whereas in face-to-face meetings it is used only one-third of the time, according to recent Veeva Pulse data. Physicians continue to have high levels of interest in clinical data, and more are interested in learning how biopharma companies can support patient care through digital content and engagement.

Digital is not a choice, but the new reality

Companies are under enormous pressure when launching a new product. To succeed, you need to leverage all the in-person and digital channels available to give your company the best chance of reaching its launch projections and driving differentiation in the market.

What’s truly different about digital launches is all the data that becomes available, from channel preference and effectiveness to engagement history and content consumption. Use it to optimize engagement and reach customers at the right time, with the right content, in the right channels.

Finally, it’s important to note that if you do your job well, you are ultimately helping accelerate patient access to critical products that allow them to live healthier, longer lives. Seen in that light, doing the digital launch right is a powerful driver of improved patient care.

To learn more about how to ensure digital launch success:

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