Lifecycle Optimization: The Path to Commercial Success
An Interview with Emma Wrigley and Giulia Valsecchi
Pharmaceutical and biotech companies constantly focus on product innovation. But how can you also increase your effectiveness in order to be as commercially competitive and efficient as possible? In today’s rapidly changing and highly competitive marketplace, your product innovation alone won’t be sufficient to gain an advantage. The difference can be your commercial and go-to-market strategies; not only how you develop and implement them, but also how you adjust them throughout the product lifecycle.
We spoke with two Alira Health experts on the global pharmaceutical market today, Emma Wrigley, Partner of Commercial Access, and Giulia Valsecchi, Principal, about how companies can optimize their product lifecycle for commercial success.
In the marketplace today, is product innovation enough for a company to achieve competitive advantage and commercial success?
For many years in the pharmaceutical industry, a superior product profile was enough to successfully enter the market and secure market share. Innovation is vital, of course. But is it enough? The speed of change in this arena is phenomenal. Clinical innovation is harder and harder to achieve and so is true differentiation. Entering a competitive market with a real breakthrough product is very difficult.
Your commercial and go-to-market strategies can become the true differentiators – and can make or break a product. Your development phase can be successful, you can launch and get to market, but then if you haven’t thought about what happens next, you may pay a high price.
Why do good products fail?
While it’s hard to believe that a product that brings a benefit can fail, especially if that product is clinically proven and demonstrably needed for patient care, it can happen. When companies create a plan to launch a product, it’s really just a snapshot in time, accurate only in the moment. The plan should be flexible because many aspects may change. The patient’s needs may be different, another company may have launched a similar product, the prevalence of the disease may have changed; a lot can happen that can impact the value of your product in the marketplace. Real strategic foresight is required to ensure successful implementation targeted at the right stakeholders with value propositions that can win at every stage of that journey.
Another critical point for success is that companies need to integrate their strategic thinking throughout their teams. The internal players from the global development, medical, market access, marketing, manufacturing, patient engagement, and finance teams must understand the strategy long before the product launch. Once everyone understands and is invested in the strategy, then the cross-functional engagement can begin, with all teams aligned. As with the strategy itself, the process of integrating internal teams is ongoing, and involves educating, gathering and implementing feedback, and cascading information down to the territory field level. So many decisions involving all these functions are required to ensure that the product reaches the market.
In addition to this internal cross-functional engagement, you also need a comprehensive engagement of all the stakeholders that intersect the product lifecycle once the product is on the market. You have to focus on the downstream commercial effectiveness.
If you do the integration work in the beginning, structure your organization appropriately, and enable your teams with the right strategic understanding and tactical approach, you can achieve success.
What are the questions companies need to answer before building a commercial strategy?
To build a successful commercial strategy, you need to start at least three years before product launch, ideally. These questions have strong business implications across the product lifecycle:
- What is my marketplace?
- What does my integrated strategy plan look like?
- What is my winning competitive strategy?
- How can I drive this through my organization and ensure that we are well aligned for external activities?
Below each of these high-level questions, there are more details you need to gather; for example, questions you need to ask about your marketplace include:
- What’s my clinical and commercial landscape?
- What are the patients’ real unmet needs?
- Where and who are the stakeholders involved in key decision-making?
- What is the pricing and reimbursement landscape?
- What is my quantitative hypothesis for the potential; i.e. how many people need this technology?
- How will my “theoretical” product profile stand up against the competition?
Before the outputs are defined, it is critical to have done both primary and secondary research. More than anything else, know your patients. That can be a game changer for a product. If you begin engaging with patients even before you design your trials and continue to engage with them throughout the product lifecycle, you’ll have a much greater chance of success. You need to intimately connect with the world you want to be in and know all the stakeholders and their needs.
How do companies design the appropriate organizational model for their market?
The right organizational model for you depends on what phase you are in. You may be in a large organization that should be transformed to fit a new therapy area you’re targeting. Or you may be a start-up with no organization. The first thing to do is to map your world. Who are your stakeholders? Who’s making key decisions and where? What is the pathway of the product to each decision maker and what kind of decisions do they make? You also need to benchmark the competitors. How loud are the competitors – meaning not just how much “noise” they’re creating about their products but how they are communicating relevant information to customers?
Modelling your ideal organization is essential for thinking about the kind of people you want to put in roles. Consider:
- Do they need to see customers face-to-face?
- Can they reach customers through different channels?
- Can you operate in a hybrid way?
- What could you do if you had this particular role engaging with this particular customer?
- Do you need a new role that matches a new need?
For example, in the cell therapy arena, there are new types of customers and the need for experts to talk to and collaborate with these types of customers. Your plan for your organization needs to be a tailored response to your customer needs and appropriate for where you are in the lifecycle process.
One piece of advice is to think big but start small. Test your assumptions and evolve them over time.
What are some general tips for best practices in lifecycle optimization?
In broad terms, it’s about the product profile and the market landscape. So, we would look at this on two axes. One is the lifecycle stage of the market your product will enter. For example, is the market already saturated with offerings that cover the relative needs? What kinds of products are there? How mature is the market? Is this a niche market? Is it a new market? On the other axis, where does your product fit? What is the innovation that it brings? How differentiated is it? Is this a paradigm shift?
This is a starting point from which you can dig into the details of all the aspects of market entry and your choice of channels, services, and customer focus that will be required. It will also help you understand your timeline and how accelerated you need to be to get your winning position in the market.
Another tip is to push yourself beyond the point of product launch. You should conduct a risk and opportunity assessment for at least five years out. This may raise questions around the need to look outside your organization for expertise in some areas. How can you increase your commercial power? It may be through operating partners or finding innovative commercial solutions.
Lifecycle optimization must be continuous. You need to review your strategy and positioning, checking your product profile and market profile to see how they’ve changed and adjust accordingly. You should be continuously testing to see if you have the right stakeholders involved, if the segmentation still works, if the profiling still works, the channels still make sense. Remember that nothing is cast in stone. You need to review your strategy, your value proposition, your positioning statement often; you may find that your thinking needs to evolve because the environment has changed.
How can Alira Health help with lifecycle optimization?
Our Lifecycle Optimization team supports clients in bringing their assets to the market and beyond with the mindset of success for patients.
Getting market-ready globally, being fully ready to go-to-market, and then maximizing the product’s value through its lifecycle. Our team provides opportunity assessments, plan design, competitor arena assessment, organizational and launch readiness, marketing and sales strategy, commercial go-to-market modeling, commercial excellence, and more.
A Checklist for Commercial Success
Download this checklist to get started with your successful commercial strategy and optimize the lifecycle of your biotech or pharma product.