In part 1 of our 6 part series, Optimizing the Pharma Brand Life Cycle At Every Phase, we examine the pharma product in market development; leveraging the email channel to communicate with key opinion leaders is critical to the success of the brand manager.
Pharmaceutical companies have never had more riding on the successful launches of new drugs. Research and development (R&D) costs are higher than ever and climbing. For several years now, researchers from Eli Lilly and another group from Tufts University have estimated the cost of developing a new drug at $1 billion or more.
Recently, though, the stakes have gotten even higher. A science and medicine journalist at Forbes recently added up the R&D costs of several big pharma companies for the last 15 years. He then divided that sum by the number of new molecular entities (NMEs) the company released in that period to get the average R&D cost per drug. Here are the average costs for several top pharmas:
- Sanofi: $10.13 billion
- AstraZeneca: $9.56 billion
- Hoffmann-La Roche: $8.87 billion
How can pharma companies protect these prodigious investments in new drugs? The answer lies in strategic marketing. Long before a drug launches, brands can engage in market development to prime the healthcare industry for the drug's debut.
Market Development: Focus on the Identification of Influencers within the Community
Beginning 18 months to two years prior to the launch, identify influential players within the target specialty. These influencers, who will shape the drug's market, include:
- Advocates/clinical trial advocates: Identify the highest prescribers in the therapeutic category. Then, find out where they practice and what hospital associations and affiliations they have.
- Key opinion leaders (KOLs): Pay special attention to true thought leaders (e.g., those who have conducted clinical trials and/or have academic standing).
- Electronic opinion leaders (EOLs): Target those who are already involved in the ongoing dialogue within the specialty community, such as bloggers
- Academicians: Seek out influential academics who might be writing course curriculum or textbooks for the specific therapeutic areas.
- Physicians who impact and develop guidelines
Identify Trends and Events within the Specialty and Tailor Your Marketing Efforts to Them
Take a look at where your target specialty is headed so you can stay ahead of the curve. For example, you might recognize that a shortage of primary care physicians will affect immediate and long-term care. Second-tier prescribers will begin to play a more prominent role as a result.
Likewise, the oncology market consists of 15 million cancer survivors. It makes sense, then, to reach out to internists, OBGYNs, and other healthcare professionals (HCPs) who see patients in remission or refer them to cancer specialists. You might also try targeting important associations and medical meetings to reach as many members of the specialty as possible.
Using Email as a Tool to Properly Position Your Company in the Market
It's never too early in a drug's lifecycle to leverage the power of email. At this stage, try using a non-branded email to position your company as an emerging leader in the market. Similarly, you can use targeted email to reach out to key audience members. Sending them an email invitation to participate in clinical studies, advisory boards, and clinical papers.
If you wait until a drug's launch to start marketing, you'll have already missed the boat. With so much at stake with new drugs, strategic market development efforts are a must.