In part 1 of our 4-part series, Leveraging the Email Channel Throughout the Pharma Brand Life Cycle, we explore the digital strategies that are most effective during market development and clinical trials.
Pharmaceutical companies have never had more riding on the successful launches of new drugs. According to research from Bain & Company, brands are expected to derive up to 80 percent of revenue from product launches by 2021. Yet nearly 50 percent of recent launches failed to meet analyst expectations.
At the same time, R&D costs are soaring. In its most recent assessment, the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD) determined the average cost to develop and win market approval for a new drug to be $2.558 billion. When post-approval R&D costs are included, the average rises to $2.870 billion.
Long before a drug launches, brands can use email marketing to prime the industry for its debut.
In some companies, particularly those that develop many drugs, the stakes are even higher. Analysis by a science and medicine journalist at Forbes indicates the average R&D cost per drug at the largest pharma companies is closer to $10 billion.
How can pharma companies protect their prodigious investments in new drugs? Strategic digital marketing provides an answer. Long before a drug launches, brands can prime the healthcare industry for the drug's debut.
Market Development: Identify Influencers Within the Community
Starting 18 months to two years before product launch, begin identifying influential physicians within your target specialty. These influencers, who will shape the drug's market, typically include:
- Key opinion leaders (KOLs). Seek out true thought leaders, such as physicians who have conducted clinical trials or have academic standing.
- Electronic opinion leaders (EOLs). Target those, like bloggers, who are involved in ongoing conversations within the specialty community.
- Clinical trial advocates. Find the highest prescribers in the therapeutic category. Then identify where they practice and what hospital affiliations they have.
- Academicians. Locate influential academics who might be writing course curriculum, textbooks, or guidelines for specific therapeutic areas.
Tailor Your Marketing to Relevant Trends and Events
Staying ahead of the curve is essential at this stage. By following the work of your influencers, you can gain a better understanding of how your target specialty is evolving and adapt your marketing plan to those circumstances. For example, recognizing that a shortage of specialists will affect immediate and long-term care might prompt you to target second-tier prescribers as well.
Determine how you’ll define email marketing success throughout the product life cycle.
Other trends may justify expanding your marketing to different specialists. Because the oncology market includes 15 million cancer survivors, it makes sense to reach out to OBGYNs, internists, and other HCPs who make referrals to cancer specialists or care for patients in remission. You may also want to target professional associations and meetings to reach as many members of the specialty as possible.
Use Email to Position Your Company in the Market
It's never too early in a drug's lifecycle to leverage the power of email. During market development, try using a non-branded campaign to raise awareness of the disease state your brand will treat. Or reach out to key audience members by sending targeted email, such as an invitation to participate in advisory boards, clinical studies, and clinical papers.
Once you’ve identified key influencers, try creating an influence map of the country. This will help you identify geographic areas of influence and referral bases around which you can plan early campaigns. If you recruit a KOL in Los Angeles to run a trial or give a presentation for you, her immediate network is an excellent place to begin a targeted email campaign.
These strategies position your company as an emerging leader in the market long before your brand is available. If you wait until a drug's launch to start marketing, you'll already be behind in what is often an uphill battle for market share.
Clinical Trials: Focus on the Disease State Not Your Brand
To further improve the odds of a successful launch, you’ll want to follow up market development with a strategic market conditioning campaign.
Approximately 12 to 18 months before launch, your product will be moving through the FDA process. You’ve already identified advocates, KOLs, and clinical leaders. Now, with clinical trials underway, it’s time to focus on educating prospective prescribers about the condition your drug treats.
One effective strategy is doing research and publishing materials that focus on the impact the disease has in the marketplace. You might define common pain points or examine the effectiveness of current therapies. For example, how does obesity or insomnia affect the workplace? And what factors—perhaps diet, exercise, or stress management—are known to impact successful treatment?
Define Email Marketing KPIs
As you plan these first email campaigns, it’s important to determine how you’ll define email marketing success throughout the product life cycle.
As a fast, flexible, and cost-effective medium, email enables you to reach a broad, but targeted audience.
Early on, you might focus on how many physicians open and read your email messages. Later, you might be more concerned with driving traffic to your website. Regardless, your specific KPIs will influence many attributes of your email messages, including the length of your content, your CTAs, and your deployment schedule.
When you integrate your email campaign with your website, you also have the opportunity to access online behavior data for identified HCP visitors to your brand website. Combining email metrics with this website data, called audience identity data, provides even greater insight into physician engagement with your brand.
Engage KOLs in Meaningful Dialogue
Your primary pre-launch marketing goal is to set the stage for your product to become the solution to a known medical problem. By initiating a meaningful, ongoing dialogue with thought leaders in the space, you can increase awareness of that problem and begin developing deeper relationships that can be activated when appropriate.
As a fast, flexible, and cost-effective medium, email enables you to reach a broad, but targeted audience. It allows you to communicate consistently through multiple touch points, creating a unified message around disease awareness, clinical trials, and critical product milestones.
This approach to market development and market conditioning paves the way for a successful launch campaign by establishing strong ties to critical thought leaders in your specialty.