There’s no good in getting a diagnosis of what has already happened
| Jul 24, 2014
It’s no good getting a diagnosis of what has happened in the past. The new reality of brand marketing in the pharma industry is that any diagnostic tool needs to be clearly looking forward toward opportunities in the future – and that’s the main difference between it and all the approaches that have gone before.
Whether you are looking at current or new prescribers – that is, new or existing targets – the focus has to be on the people who are likely to change their habits. This forward-looking view of your customers is important: in traditional brand research, everyone rates performance, but you also have to look into likely future usage, examining current share and identifying who would consider using the product in the future.
By doing this it will be possible to build up a 360-degree perspective based on your experience of how, for example, a hospital-based physician would work; looking at all the environmental, influencing factors – such as distribution, pricing, guidelines, hospital recommendations and accessibility – in that setting. While it’s difficult to predict changes in the reimbursement environment, it is possible to evaluate how much share you are losing based on accessibility. From this you may well find that it is still important to allocate resources to communicating safety and efficacy, but it may also show that you shouldn’t invest in more communications but rather in lobbying. If you simply keep communicating and don’t know about the environmental factors that prevent the physician from prescribing, then you are just repeating the same thing – to no effect.
Instead, pharma needs to isolate which factors would contribute to gaining share and come up with directly actionable means of addressing them. As an industry, we need the ability to predict which physicians are likely to start using a brand in the future. We can ask them whether they intend to, but it is from other market factors such as formulary and hospital recommendations that we will build the clearest picture. Some doctors might want to use the brand but simply can’t because of the environment they are in.
Bringing together data on share, performance and physician influence, including their intention to prescribe and/or switch, as well as what patient profile they would prescribe to as essential. But this must then be analyzed in the context of a broader understanding of different disease areas and products to ascertain the right strategy. Benchmarking is key here: KPIs such as awareness, patient share, likelihood to prescribe and corporate reputation will guide you in how products tend to be adopted in a specific therapy area. A benchmarking database (and they do exist) that will tell you what a good launch looks like in terms of a particular metric in your therapy area is one of the elements that will enable you to see how much more you can do in this space.
Following initial analysis, many factors will feed into developing your strategic brand plan. Pharma needs to focus on a range of contributing factors to improve product share – such as sales reps or other environmental factors – that need to be ranked. The most important might be accessibility, the second might be reps, the third patient advocacy, and so on; you need to be able to break down which aspects require focus to get something tangible from the process.
At this point it would make sense for marketing, communications and sales to come together to discuss the results to ensure you are comfortable with the data. From there it should be a war-gaming process, looking at different scenarios and what might happen in the market. After developing an initial strategy, it is worth revisiting – every two years at a minimum and once a year if possible – to monitor changes and see that everything works, and perhaps even tweaking the metrics if need be.
Above all you need a strategy that makes sense, predicting the behavior of markets and individuals so you are never looking backward. Some doctors will never change their habits – but the key point is to protect your investment, so focus on where you have the potential for a good return. Companies must prioritize their resources: we know there will almost always be some barriers you can’t overcome, so leverage what you can.