Putting customers at the centre of businesses is common practice in many industry sectors. Though the pharmaceutical industry has multiple customers, including healthcare professionals and payors, the ultimate customers are always patients. For many in the industry however, embedding the views of patients across the value chain is stuck at strategic intent rather than a practical reality that guides decision-making. Our experience with a number of pharmaceutical companies highlights a range of approaches to this challenge, and in this paper we explore ways in which some are changing their business models to move from worthy words to Practical Patient Centricity.

Almost all industries are customer centric. They gain a deep insight into what matters to their customers, what they look for in a product or service and what they are prepared to pay to receive it. Companies then invest in sales and marketing to ensure that their product is the one that is purchased ahead of competitors.

In principle, the pharmaceutical industry is no different. Whilst its customers can be considered to be healthcare professionals (HCPs), or even governments, the ultimate true ‘customer’ is the patient and by addressing unmet medical needs, lives are improved and extended. However the practical reality is that for many companies, customer, or patient centricity remains limited to words on mission statements, rather than the day-to-day activity. Through our work across the pharmaceutical value chain, we find that executives almost always agree with the goals of patient centricity, but the daily pressures and processes of their roles constricts them in making it happen. The reality is that the patient is infrequently or never consulted at key points in the development of medicines – as one executive described it:

“The idea of talking to a patient about their medicine is alien to us”.

It is not just company strategy and intent that is the driving force for a more patient centric approach: external pressure is also building for the industry to change. The British Medical Journal requires companies to indicate the level of patient involvement in manuscripts for example. Should the FDA require patient input to be included in trial design, then companies will be forced to adapt rapidly and bring the patient’s perspective into the development of medicines.

Why patient centricity matters

A strong rationale for why patient centricity matters is the foundation from which companies can begin to embed the views of the patients across the value chain. In our experience, companies typically have three key reasons to embrace patient centricity:

1. Patients are more knowledgeable than ever

Healthcare is evolving from being paternalistic to discursive, with patients having greater choice than before. When diagnosed, patients frequently seek information online to enable informed discussion with their healthcare professionals. Companies that understand this ‘choice agenda’ can provide relevant information to patients and engage them early in their treatment options.

2. Companies can develop therapies that have a greater impact on patients

Most patients just want to be better – mode of action, robust clinical trials and health economic models are not relevant to them (but are to payers and HCPs). By understanding what really makes a difference to a patient’s life, companies can explore therapies that meet these needs, rather than developing drugs that are simply different or novel.

3. Drug development costs can be reduced

Patient-derived data drives the development of medicines. Patients frequently are not forthcoming with their experiences of a condition, with the potential loss of valuable data that could improve a development programme. Cost effective wearable technology can gather this data, enabling the ‘silent patient voice’ to be heard – coupled with regulatory changes, clinical trials can be shortened and costs reduced.

Companies such as Merck & Co, Sanofi and UCB have identified the competitive advantage that patient centricity brings and are leading the way in its practical implementation. Given that this is a relatively new area for the industry, there has clearly been a degree of trial and error, but there are already signs of what works and what doesn’t – for one executive:

“Patient centricity is the next market access – and will take 10 years to embed”.

Steps towards Practical Patient Centricity

There are four critical success factors for embedding patient centricity, each with some important ‘watch-outs’ to be aware of.

Practical Patient Centricity requires a systematic, consistent and stepwise approach.

Start internally

Though patient centricity is ultimately externally facing, companies should initially focus internally to achieve gains. Appointing a senior accountable individual, such as a Chief Patient Officer is an example of an important first step. By doing so, commitment and investment is demonstrated. Clearly commitment must start at the very top, but the real work starts at the level of senior management. Combined with strong internal communication, employees can and should be engaged early in the process.

Map the patient journeys

Most employees are not patients for the condition they work on – engaging with them on what it is like to have the condition is critical for patient centricity to stick. Employees from across the value chain can work with patients and patient groups to map the patient journey from being well to getting treatment and beyond, to help understand the impact of the condition. Once completed, both improvement opportunities and points of failure where companies can add value can be identified and explored. These may be outside the current scope of the company’s business, so a robust decision framework needs to be implemented to prioritise appropriate actions.

Celebrate success and failure

There is no definitive way to embed patient centricity, so new approaches will create both successes and failures – both should be embraced and shared widely. It is highly like that new opportunities will present challenges to existing processes and practices, particularly in legal and regulatory spheres. An open minded, ‘can do’ mind-set enables gains to be achieved, with acceptable levels risk embraced. 

Invest to win

Patient Centricity is like other transformation initiatives, requiring investment to win. Companies should commit time, money and people to patient centricity over a minimum of five years, as genuine change like this requires a medium term horizon to achieve successfully.  Leaders also need to calibrate their definition of success to incremental gains, rather than big leaps forward. Agreeing and tracking measures that are key in the patient journey, rather than traditional ‘return on investment’ metrics mitigates against early termination of relevant initiatives.

Why patient centricity can fail

Though well intentioned at the outset, patient centricity efforts can stall or fail – here are the top three from our experience:

New against old

Patient centricity activities receive greater scrutiny than current programmes and can often be strangled at birth. Leaders must accept that like any other new initiative, patient centricity will take time and requires nurturing in the early days to increase the chance of success.

Limited practical guidance

Companies engage employees on an emotional level (patient centricity is the ‘right’ thing to do) but fail to provide practical guidance on what do to – employees can default to old habits, rather than embracing new approaches. Providing employees with a decision framework and ‘guard rails’ enables choices to be made at all levels. Patient centricity should be emotionally grounded, but rationally led.

Jumping to solutions

Solutions to patient problems that don’t exist or are not well defined can waste time and effort and lead to disengagement. Deeply understanding the patient journey and engaging all employees across the value chain mitigates against this.

The future of patient centricity

Patient centricity is being adopted across the pharmaceutical industry with varying results. Companies that take a structured, rigorous approach that engages employees across the value chain and welcomes both success and failure are seeing the biggest rewards so far. However our experience shows that companies like this are in the minority. For those yet to embrace patient centricity, the greatest barriers are internal, but there are external pressures that are increasingly meaning it is a question of if, not when, patient centricity takes centre stage.

Commercial models in pharma have evolved over the last few decades moving from brand focused to access led and now the future is one of personalisation, where all aspects of an organisation’s commercial approach are tailored to individual patients, HCPs and payors based on their unique needs. To achieve this, companies and commercial teams will need to change.

We consider how:

• Pharma’s future commercial model use machine learning (ML) and agile marketing to make the most of multiple data sources to bring personalised messages to physicians and payors

• Companies need to combine products with ‘beyond the pill’ solutions that support product use such as wearable technology, patient support services and digital adherence programmes

• The threat of complete disruption from other sectors is unlikely due to the highly capital intensive and risky nature of the pharma business

• Achieving personalisation requires substantive change to processes, capabilities and culture – such change is hard, and history teaches us that this can be slow in the pharma industry

• Companies that embrace the opportunity of personalisation are those that will see the greatest results

Download our white paper here or via the button above.

The digital revolution has been transforming and disrupting different industries from media and retail to finance and automotive. It is now the time for the pharmaceutical industry to be disrupted. To stay competitive and bring value to patients, pharmaceutical companies need to have an understanding of what digital means for them, define long-term strategies for the digital era, and commit to implementing the strategies by shifting their mindsets towards more patient-centric approaches.

In this paper we first argue that the time is now for pharmaceutical companies to embrace digital, then help frame what digital means to them by identifying the relevant applications and areas of interest for pharma. Finally we provide a step-by-step approach for the successful implementation of digital initiatives.

The time is now

While digital means different things to different people, in the context of this paper we consider the application of information technology in its broadest sense (excluding internal administrative and accounting systems) to the pharmaceutical industry. By this definition, when considering deal flow, only few pharma companies have so far taken the leap to experiment with digital initiatives such as apps, wearables and combinations of smart devices and drugs.  This can be explained partly by the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated, traditionally very protective, and treats IP (Intellectual Property) as its main value-generating asset. By contrast the technology and digital companies are typically less regulated and generate value by moving fast into market rather than capitalising on their IP. This difference in mindsets and ways of working between these industries makes it harder for the pharmaceutical companies to take the leap into digital, or to see their tech counterparts as potential viable partners. Indeed, between 2010 and 2015 only a small percentage of the eHealth deal flow involved pharmaceutical companies, despite total deal volume increasing by 228% in that period according to a report by StartUp Health.

Few pharmaceutical companies have started experimenting with digital

Pharma is therefore clearly behind other industries and faces the challenge of bridging between early adopters and early majority. It must address this chasm if success is to be achieved.

Pharmaceutical companies have yet to cross the chasm with Digital

We can already see early adopters shaping the market. Next, the first movers (i.e. early majority) will contribute to shaping the market and will increase their chances of achieving important market shares. More risk-averse companies (i.e. late majority and laggards) are deciding to wait and see which initiatives are more successful. This positioning may avoid failure but at the expense of market position and competitive edge.

Digital starts with the patient

As the pharmaceutical industry ultimately serves patients, they should form the core of digital initiatives: from enhanced prevention and detection of disease through to R&D that is better focused on patient needs, to the provision of integrated patient services, and ultimately towards pricing drugs and services in a way that is affordable and provides real value outcomes that are approved by payers and reimbursement bodies.

All digital initiatives need to be centred around the patient

Based on Novasecta’s analysis and review, companies approach these four segments in a variety of ways, all of which can stimulate choices and inspiration in other companies:

1. Enhanced Prevention and Detection

Pharmaceutical companies can engage patients early on before their condition progresses and gets complicated. For example, through continuous monitoring using apps and wearable technologies diseases could be prevented and detected.

Furthermore, patients are increasingly willing to engage with their doctors through technology and are looking to monitor their health better. A recent online survey conducted by Ketchum on smartphone owners in the US has found that 58% of this group uses their phones to communicate with a medical professional.

2. Better R&D

So far, data available to clinicians and researchers is typically discrete and only gathered during episodic appointments. This makes it hard for researchers and clinicians to grasp the full picture of disease mechanism and evolution. With continuous monitoring there is a big potential to better understand disease progression and improve the quality of clinical trials or even find better ways to use existing treatments.

A new study presented at DPharm Disruptive Innovations by Validic based on interviews with 166 executives at pharma, biotech companies, and CROs, showed that 64% of executives have used digital technology in clinical trials and that 97% plan to for the next five years.

For Rare Diseases clinical trials, Aparito (a UK based digital start up) aims to capture meaningful patient-data and end-points to make clinical decisions easier, and to improve the outcome and speed of clinical trials. It also gives clinicians access to a source of data that contributes to the natural history of a disease, which is especially valuable where no therapies are currently available.

3. Integrated patient services

With increased generic competition, reduced innovation and limited new blockbusters, pharmaceutical companies can use digital technologies to repurpose their existing drugs or differentiate and add value to otherwise non-differentiated products. This way, patients will benefit from more valuable products and services that fully manage their condition.

This could be through a number of services such as apps to monitor adherence and/or a combination of drugs and smart medical devices

In this area, pharmaceutical companies can do more to develop integrated care services for patients. The initiatives so far are at very early stage and the gap needs to be filled by more innovative approaches for holistic patient care.

4. Value-based outcome pricing

Faced with increasing drug prices, payers and reimbursement bodies are rightly demanding evidence that pharmaceutical products deliver value for money for patients. Payers increasingly want to transition from a “Volume” based reimbursement (i.e. providers receiving a payment for providing a particular service or product, regardless of the outcome) to a “Value” based reimbursement structure. In this context value explicitly incorporates patient, clinical and functional outcomes. This new approach strengthens the incentive to provide care that only has a measurable positive impact on patient outcomes.

In line with these changes in the reimbursement space, digital technologies can help gather real-world data to demonstrate treatment value. Evidence can be gathered during clinical trials to support reimbursement dossiers and commissioning decisions. As an example, the Aparito app has these kinds of capabilities for Rare Diseases.

Set the foundations and secure the capabilities

Given that digital is a growing trend in the industry and that pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to expand their services and footprint, the question facing many is how best to implement digital initiatives. Part of the answer lies in setting strong foundations and thereby enabling capabilities that generate value.

Novasecta’s framework for guiding the adoption of digital initiatives in Pharma

Foundations

Develop a patient-centric mindset: All digital health initiatives should be centred on patients, while keeping the treatment and service outcomes in mind to demonstrate value to patients and payers.

Focus initiatives and set a clear strategy: To succeed companies should be crystal clear about the type of services they want to provide, and how these complement their existing products and thereby integrate into a clear long-term digital strategy. 

Drive investment from leadership: Senior leadership should commit time and money for investments in digital initiatives. They must also ensure that the implementation is integrated across all departments of the pharma company from R&D, to commercial and BD. Companies should even consider having a digital officer seat at the executive table, to enable holistic governance across all departments.

Capabilities

Collaborate and partner: It is important to collaborate and partner with the new players rather than reinvent the wheel and attempt to compete directly with them. As the industry is being disrupted, the competitor landscape is also changing with non-traditional competitors emerging, for example technology and medical devices companies. 

Stay on top of regulation: Companies should be proactive to reflect the regulatory changes related to health and patients data. The latest example is the new General Data Protection Guidance by the EU to strengthen and unify data protection for individuals in the EU with considerations for export of personal data outside of the EU. It will enter into application on May 2018, which will extend the scope of the EU data protection laws to all non-EU companies processing data of EU residents.

Take data protection seriously: Trust should be gained from patients and patient groups by demonstrating high standards of compliance for successful digital initiatives. Patient-related data is even more critical than financial data, which requires best practices and good governance. If not properly protected the risks to patients are high. For example Johnson & Johnson released a warning in October 2016 that their OneTouch Ping pump for diabetes is vulnerable to hacking, and may result in an overdose. However even if no attacks have been reported and the risk is “extremely” low, it may impact negatively on patients’ trust in the product and tarnish the company’s reputation.

In summary, the pharmaceutical industry is being disrupted by digital, and companies need to address this challenge to avoid future irrelevance. Putting the patient at the centre, and understanding the different digital applications and how these will complement their existing R&D and products will be critical for future success. Companies should therefore set their digital strategies, invest funds and build their capabilities now.

One of the pharmaceutical industry’s longest-held mantras is that the first six months of a product launch defines future success. This can lead to too much focus on performance compared to a forecast, rather than building for future success by seeking a deep understanding of why a product is performing.

In this month’s white paper, we argue that while the first six months of a product launch is clearly important, it shouldn’t be the sole determinant of the future. By contrast, leading companies are using it as an opportunity to gain deep insight into how customers perceive the product and act quickly to achieve success. To download our white paper click here or on the button above.

On average in 2018 over 58% of sales for big pharma have come from products over 10 years old. ‘Mature’, ‘Established’ or ‘Diversified’ brands are products that have lost or are approaching loss of patent exclusivity and represent a significant source of revenue for pharmaceutical companies.

In 2000, few in the pharmaceutical industry had heard of mature brands. Yet now the vast majority of pharma companies have either entire portfolios or significant business units dedicated to their commercialisation. This shift in emphasis has been driven by reduced R&D productivity and the realisation that managed well, mature brands can provide strong profits following patent expiry. In this white paper, we explore the importance of mature brands to pharma companies, how best to approach loss of patent exclusivity and how best-in-class teams are commercialising mature brands effectively and redefining traditional life cycle management.

To find out how we can help with your commercial strategy click here

Successful marketing is based upon a deep understanding of the customer and positioning products to meet their needs. In the mid 1990’s pharmaceutical companies embraced strategic marketing to differentiate their products beyond clinical data and maintain competitive advantage. Though traditionally slower than fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) in adopting new commercial practices, in recent years the pharmaceutical industry has embraced ‘digital marketing’. Done well, this can generate significant benefits – but in the rush to ‘go digital’ many companies have forgotten many of the fundamentals of strategic marketing and are wasting money on initiatives that don’t add value to healthcare professionals (HCPs). To regain their commercial edge, companies must not be overly seduced by digital, and must return to the fundamentals by re-building their strategic marketing muscles.

Pharma has been constantly building on its core marketing strengths

For much of the last 50 years, pharmaceutical commercialisation has been based upon the view that doctors are primarily driven by clinical data and always prescribed rationally. As competition within the industry increased, companies had to challenge this traditional view to ensure they continued to remain commercial successful – with many executives looking to fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies for inspiration. The primacy of marketing and brands in these organisations drove growth and many executives sought to emulate their approach. To build equivalent marketing capabilities, pharmaceutical companies invested in training, processes and teams to create highly effective marketing machines, as illustrated by the ‘statin’ wars of the late 90’s/early 00’s. Though at times some companies broke industry guidelines in pursuit of commercial return, taken as a whole, marketing in the pharmaceutical industry has enabled greater prescriber and patient choice. In more recent years, the industry has had to adapt to healthcare systems that demand greater value for money due to aging populations and healthcare budgets that cannot keep pace with the increased demand from patients and consumers. Nearly all companies have therefore now established market access and health economic capabilities, and have integrated these critical functions into the strategic marketing planning process. With a stronger market access focus, companies can create and implement stronger marketing strategies.

Starting to flex the digital muscles

Like market access, ‘digital’ has caused pharmaceutical companies to re-look at their commercialisation approaches in pursuit of greater marketing effectiveness. As society has ‘gone digital’, so have the ways in which HCPs chosen to acquire information that will support their prescribing decision. With no prior blueprint on how to ‘go digital’ in their marketing, early pioneer companies such as Merck & Co. and Eli Lilly took a ‘commercial R&D’ approach to digital, characterised by ‘fast fail’ approach – invest in new ways of working, learn what works, and kill what doesn’t. The creation of dedicated teams has enabled these companies to build core capabilities that are now the envy of their peers. For many pharmaceutical companies however, the conservative and highly regulated nature of the industry has slowed digital adoption due to a combination of regulatory and confidentiality concerns and issues around promotion of prescription medicines to patients. In parallel with the industry beginning to flex its ‘digital marketing’ muscles, an eco-system of agencies have emerged that promise superior gains if a particular digital channel is used. This combined with the industries limited experience in the area, has meant some pharma companies have unfortunately wasted their shareholders’ money. Having spent years building core marketing strengths, the pharmaceutical industry is now being seduced by unproven ‘supplements’ to continue to grow.

The dangers of allowing strategic marketing to atrophy

At its heart ‘digital marketing’ is marketing. When done well marketing creates a customer experience that drives behavioural change and alters prescribing habits – with digital an increasingly key part of this. However, when ‘digital marketing’ is done poorly, it is little more than a distraction and at worst a waste of time and money that drives little commercial return. Novasecta’s experience is that at some level, all companies are flexing their digital muscles – with some more than others. In the last two years, all of the brand plans we have reviewed have possessed some element of ‘digital marketing’ within them. However, we have observed three key trends that senior commercial leaders tell us are cause for concern:

1. Focus on ‘digital initiatives’
Marketing plans that are anchored on one or two digital tactics e.g. an app or social media campaign

2. Weak marketing capability
Team members unable to answer fundamental marketing questions and/or make the link between tactical choices and marketing strategy

3. Reduced resource in strategic marketing
Teams responsible for delivering strategic marketing reduce budgets in preference for digital activities

These trends are indicative of organisations that are losing their core marketing strengths. While in the short term this may not affect performance, a lack of up-to-date customer insight eventually means products lose relevance to customers and commercial performance is affected. Companies must have a solid strategic marketing base if subsequent ‘digital marketing’ is to be effective.

Re-build the strategic marketing muscles

Thoughtful senior leaders in the pharmaceutical industry have realised that in many cases the pendulum has swung too far towards ‘digital marketing’, and they must now come back to marketing fundamentals. Novasecta’s experience is that for companies with a heritage in strong strategic marketing, re-building the marketing ‘muscles’ can be achieved relatively quickly by following a five-step process:

Re-build strategic marketing muscles through a five-step improvement process

A key element of embedding great strategic marketing in any organisation is having a framework of key questions that anchors teams and individuals. Though these questions may appear superficially simple, thoughtful and comprehensive answers demonstrate that the organisation has the right core strategic marketing principles in place: The key marketing questions that require insightful answers

1. What is your market?

2. Who are your target customers and patients?

3. What do they currently do and why do they do it?

4. What are your competitors doing and why?

5. What do you want your target customers and patients to do?

6. What is your product positioning?

7. What are your key activities that require investment?

8. How will you know they work?

Though it can be hard and time consuming, the pharmaceutical industry has enormous capacity for change and reinvention. As patients and HCPs have changed, then the industry has adapted to meet their needs, be it by creating strong brands, developing value/outcomes based propositions or engaging with them across multiple channels. Strong strategic marketing is at the heart of all these, as it places the customer at the centre of the organisation and focuses teams on understanding and meeting their needs. Having lost some of their strategic marketing strengths, leading companies are beginning to flex their muscles and see real gains. Time to hit the gym.

The orthodox thinking for commercialising pharmaceuticals is that the sales trend established in the first six months post-launch determines the product’s performance in the long-term. For those accountable for on-market products, this can be dispiriting – what can I do to ‘beat the trend’ if the evidence says that it is impossible? In this paper we first discuss how this ‘Trend Orthodoxy’ stifles innovation and limits thinking. Then we describe how commercial leaders can create the habits that enable their organisations to consistently beat the trend for their products.

A great product launch has many benefits, not least strong revenue in early months. So it not surprising that launching important products typically involves heavy upfront investment, an assignment of top talent, and frequent executive oversight. Yet conventional wisdom suggests that the trend for the product is set after this early post-launch period, so little can be done to change it. Companies can therefore reduce focus after the initial six months post-launch: top talent can move, teams can be re-assigned, and investment can decrease.

The focus on the trend set by the early launch period risks creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Pre-launch there are no facts about future market uptake, only assumptions and forecasts. Yet because the initial forecasts are the numbers that commercial organisations are motivated to hit, the numbers to hit can implicitly drive the actual sales performance. It takes a brave marketer to use the customer insight that is gathered post-launch to change the forecast either upwards or downwards. So the trend can stick simply because of organisational habits rather than because of any particular commercial insight.

Novasecta firmly believes that commercial leaders have the potential to get much more value from their products, but to do so requires first a mindset shift to actively break free from the trend orthodoxy and second new habits in commercialisation.

Management of commercialisation requires attention to strategy, action plans, and the management system

Beating the trend requires a clear view of what success must look like. Developing a dynamic product strategy is the starting point, but it is only when a strategy is translated into action plans with concrete measures and goals that it becomes effective. And such action plans need a coherent management system to move the action plans into reality. It is these three layers of managing commercialisation that ultimately drive performance. The new commercial habits that are created when the three layers are integrated successfully will deliver the best possible performance from products, both post-launch and thereafter. Below we discuss these in turn.

1. Create dynamic product strategies based on existing strengths

Aligning a commercial organisation behind a new strategy requires a good sales job – the strategy must be clearly understood, credible and realistic – so that relevant employees accept and support the approach. Commercial strategies, therefore, must account for the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation and its products, and leverage the strengths in the pursuit of realistic commercial gains. Simply demanding growth is not a strategy; it is akin to telling Tiger Woods to ‘hit the ball into the hole more often’. Good strategy provides the details of how.  Too often we see organisations that have left their products to be sold without fresh and dynamic strategic consideration: the trend orthodoxy and flat performance have combined to sustain mediocre revenue outcomes and lost opportunities.

An example of how new strategic clarity delivered increased performance for a product that had been flat for a number of years was the transformation of a dermatology treatment for a global pharmaceutical company. By asking fresh questions concerning the product and how it was commercialised, leaders found a summary of sales force activity measures and marketing messages masquerading as strategy, such as ‘The strategy is to see three doctors per day and help them understand our brand messages of efficacy, tolerability and patient preference’.

Following an exploration and deepening of understanding of the business’s strengths, product benefits, and the market context, a new and more focused commercial strategy was then developed: to win share of initiations from the strongest competitor, by establishing faster onset of action and linking this to the suggestion that a patient seeing rapid results would be more likely to make the necessary long term commitment to therapy. This brand strategy was then supported operationally by targeting physicians who were existing heavy users of the strong competitor.

Importantly, this product strategy leveraged underlying capability in the primary care sales force, and within six months enabled the brand to return to growth and sustain double-digit growth through to patent expiry.

2. Develop insightful action plans and commercial models

The consistent habit of customer curiosity that is characteristic of successful commercial organisations is always reflected in clear action plans that enhance the understanding of the market, patients, customers and competitors. These clear action plans are practical sets of activities that the organisation wishes to do differently.

The first requirement for successful action plans is deep commercial insights. With these, teams have the spark necessary to define the practical actions that continually optimise product strategy. The second requirement of great action plans is a sound commercial model that clearly defines how the product will go to market. This often requires new skills and habits, which must be defined and then embedded in the commercial organisation.

The good news is that modifying the go-to-market commercial model in pharma today is becoming increasingly feasible, supported by a broader set of channels and greater operational flexibility. With variable sales forces, dynamic territories, remote detailing, and real-time targeting it is possible to pilot new commercial models and thereby adapt the go-to-market approach to drive great brand performance.

As one example of getting more from an already high performing speciality product, a large pharma company identified a cohort of physicians who became brand loyal after receiving positive feedback from patients and an endorsement from peers. To accelerate product performance beyond the trend, action plans were created to alter the balance between direct physicians detailing in favour of hosting virtual roundtable webinars that allowed physicians to discuss their clinical experience of the brand. These meetings were found to be almost five times more effective than then a product detail in terms of generating new business.

3. Create management systems that drive performance improvement

A clear strategy and a robust set of action plans are in themselves insufficient to deliver performance improvement. The people who make up the organisation must begin to behave and act differently. Strong product leadership is central to the task of motivating an organisation to do things differently, whether through an individual or a collection of leaders. The key leadership habit and skill in this context is a strong capability to explain, convince and cajole the broader organisation to get behind a new strategy and set of action plans.

Fit-for-purpose governance is the second critical feature of the management systems in excellent commercial organisations. The old adage of ‘what gets measured, gets done’ is indeed important here, if managed carefully. Organisations need to define what gets measured in the form of key performance indicators (KPIs), and check frequently that these measures are reinforcing the desired actions and behaviours throughout the organisation. Done the wrong way, measures can sadly drive the opposite behaviour to what is desired. However with fit-for-purpose governance, individuals and teams align behind the activities that bring the strategy and action plans to life.

Beating the trend orthodoxy through new commercial habits

‘Trend Orthodoxy’ in the pharmaceutical industry says that once launched, drugs are set on a sales trend that cannot be exceeded. This creates self-fulfilling prophecies of products for which performance is measured by how closely sales revenue tracks the forecasts rather than whether revenues grow beyond what is expected.

We therefore urge commercial leaders to instil new habits that enable their organisations to ‘beat the trend’ through an integrated combination of dynamic strategies, clear and practical action plans, and great management systems.