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Post-Launch Birthday: The Time to Refine


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-09-01-2019
Volume 39
Issue 9

Following a new product’s first year on the market, there are four key ways companies can refine commercial strategies to maximize product sales.

Celebrate a new product’s first birthday by examining post-launch commercial issues


Life sciences companies can spend years creating a commercial strategy that brings a new product to market. But once that therapy gains a foothold with physicians, how can the company continue to improve the product’s commercial performance and grow the number of prescribers and prescriptions? The product’s first birthday serves as an ideal time to analyze sales and optimize commercial operations.

Now armed with a year’s worth of sales data and proper computing power, the commercial team can take a hard look at sales and marketing tactics to see what’s working and what’s not-and then take appropriate action. Analysis should include sales force feedback on physician accessibility, desire for additional product-related materials, and response to future marketing efforts.

The commercial team can deploy a mix of advanced and traditional analytical techniques to glean from data insights that improve the post-launch commercialization strategy and enhance sales force effectiveness. To do so, the team will reevaluate assumptions and address shortcomings, then make changes. One common change is to switch the incentive compensation payout structure from commission-based to quota-based. But there are four other ways life sciences companies can refine commercial strategies to maximize product sales, post-launch.


1. Enhance targeting. One year after launch, the commercial operations team further understands customer behavior and their interactions with the product. That means the company is better equipped to fully account for the customer perspective in its marketing strategies. First, the commercial team can review sales data to identify which physicians-known as “early adopters”-prescribe the drug as compared to its competitors. Second, using primary and secondary data, the company can analyze indicator behaviors and attitudes prior to product sales. Finally, the commercial team can use these insights to enhance targeting and optimize its customer base.

If data shows that early adopters share certain attributes, including demographics, geography, prescribing behavior, or accessibility, the commercial team can identify physicians with those same attributes who may see value in the product as well. The company would then update any field-facing tools to communicate new targets to the sales force.

2. Refine messaging. Commercial teams should also revisit product messaging one year after launch. They can survey physicians on the product and its competitors, and measure message recall and attribute importance. Sales force feedback can help analyze messaging effectiveness. The commercial team then combines all these insights to update the product’s communications strategy.

3. Follow the patient journey. One year in, the commercial team should merge various data sources and examine the patient journey for any opportunities or obstacles in the treatment plan. For example, if a product experiences an unusually high number of unfilled prescriptions, the company should investigate any barriers and work toward a solution. Perhaps physicians prescribed the product, but high copays or other issues with payers discouraged patients from filling it. The commercial team could then consider working with payers on strategies to increase product sales.

As another example, we surveyed physicians and patients and reviewed claims data to map a patient journey for a product that the commercial team positioned as a second-line therapy. The map indicated, however, that physicians began prescribing it as a first-line therapy due to its superior safety profile. This insight allowed the company to update its marketing and messaging strategies.

4. Prepare for the lifecycle ahead. Data collection and analysis are essential and continuous components of lifecycle management. A product’s first birthday is the perfect occasion to look to improve performance by examining data and fine-tuning the commercial plan. To do this effectively, though, companies need to deploy rigorous techniques such as machine learning, sales analytics, and primary marketing research. Those that examine their commercial operations each year using a data-driven strategy will differentiate themselves from competitors and enjoy many more birthdays to come. 


Jon Hesby is a partner; Melissa McDevitt is an associate partner; and Esin Izat is a manager; all with Beghou Consulting


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