SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHING A PRODUCT CAN BE as simple as knocking down a row of dominoes. Start with a good plan and a strong push in the right direction, and every piece will fall into place, one after another. A vigorous launch encourages and excites sales reps, holds their interest, and prompts them to get out there and sell a drug—which, in turn, leads to higher profits.
A pharmaceutical product launch needs to reinforce the message at every turn. According to Mike McGraw, president of events company Tneve and author of How Do You Spell Customer Service?: CA$H, successful meetings are the ones that integrate the message into all aspects of the week, day, or even hour. "When [sales reps] leave the event, the message has to be clear to them on all levels," McGraw says. "If a sales rep can't relate the product's message in 30 seconds or less, then the company has its mission."
Companies planning meetings mistakenly believe that the more money they spend, the more information sales reps retain from the event. "That's a popular misconception," McGraw says. "It's not the dollar amount spent, but the time spent in making sure every little detail relates to the message. Failure to connect the dots is a death sentence for meeting planners."
Tighter budgets and stricter rules and regulations are forcing meeting planners to think outside the box. Pharma companies need to set themselves apart not only from their competitors, but also from their own product launches, in order to make an impact on their sales reps. For example, just because last year's drug-launch event featured a popular band, it doesn't mean the tactic will be as successful the next year. Meeting planners have to think of something extraordinary that will educate as well as it entertains.
Giddyup Offering team-building activities at a working ranch gives city slickers a chance to bond, let down their guard, and have some fun.
For a large pharmaceutical company's product launch, Tneve put together an event designed to find the winner in everybody. Without informing the participants in advance, the event group coordinated a day of team-building activities with local children from the Special Olympics. In groups of 10 reps and one child, attendees participated in races and challenges that carefully incorporated teamwork into succeeding and winning. "We heard a lot of comments from the sales reps after that event about how much the meeting meant to them," McGraw says. "I think the day fostered a goodwill attitude, and it contributed to the focus of getting out there and succeeding despite any obstacles. A lot of the reps even became pen pals with the Special Olympics kids they spent the day with, and I think ultimately the children were the glue that bound the reps to each other."
Destination Services in Colorado Springs, CO, hosts real-life cattle roundups to help foster teamwork at product-launch events. Attendees work at a ranch and live like cowboys for a day. Activities like stacking hay and rounding up cattle give city slickers a real feel for life on the ranch. But anyone who thinks he'll spend the day roping trees and fake animals should stay home. There is nothing make-believe about this event. Cattle are unleashed on the prairie, and it's up to the reps to bring them home, according to Susan Fort, general manger of Destination Services. With the exception of a few ranch hands on site to assist, the groups are left on their own to figure out how to complete their tasks. They learn to rely on each other for ideas and support. By the end of the day, an initially tentative group leaves the ranch with a renewed sense of confidence and camaraderie.