Content, channel & consent — the 3 C’s of a successful commercial launch in a pandemic and beyond
The COVID pandemic has been proven to slow down the pace of research in the life science industry. While some innovations have emerged, non-COVID-related research suffered from a redirection of resources. This does not mean that there was no product launch during the pandemic. Multiple companies tried to launch in Europe during this time. While the usual complexities of a launch remain, new additional challenges have emerged to succeed in a world where representatives are stuck home. This blog explores three key components of a launch strategy that have been dramatically impacted by the COVID outbreak and that are likely to last.
Content needed, fast.
In April 2020, most companies started to adapt to the national lockdowns imposed in various countries. While each country enforced different rules, generally, Europeans were forced to work from home for at least a couple of months. Companies realized that they needed to get content in front of the physicians and that the physical sales aids were of limited value. To ensure that their commercial team was still maximizing the time they could get out of the HCPs, commercial managers raced into the digitalization of their existing physical.
While this tactic could be questionable, two learnings can be drawn, and it has become apparent that a system must be in place to approve the digital content in a compliant manner at maximum speed. In the case of one BASE client, for a single country, 300 physical sales aids were targeted to be digitalized and approved in less than two weeks to support the teams. This could put an extreme burden on the teams if they are not adequately supported.
The 2nd learning is that companies should plan for the content to be made digital from the beginning. Even in physical interactions, besides the regulatory leave behind, there are limited needs for paper-based material. Planning for digital content for day 1 seems to be much more relevant today and in the foreseeable future. Ideally, the digital component should be split to make it modular, but this may require further thoughts from the company on its content management strategy.
Multichannel — yes, but which one?
Content being tackled, but the distribution mode should also be changed. The willingness of HCPs to be contacted has evolved. More physicians than ever will refuse the visits  made by a pharmaceutical company. In short, there is a need to find a way to show the content that was thoroughly built and approved.
Companies have been rolling out remote engagement technologies, but quickly, companies realized that this could not be enough. HCPs will not simply replace their face-to-face interactions with virtual ones. While technology is one challenge, it seems that the willingness of physicians to get into a reality where all interactions are virtual is limited. They are interested in getting insights from pharmaceutical companies but in a different manner. Identifying the channel of preference of the physicians becomes key. While in the beginning, this may be generic, in a short time, companies should try to figure out what is the preferred channel depending on the message and the time of the day.
For each brand, planning the various channels is essentials now. The message should be appropriate and adequate. A podcast for the morning commute of HCPs can tackle much more profound questions than an email to mention an upcoming webinar during the evening. Capturing the right preferences becomes mandatory both from a process and system perspective. This leads to the last pillar impacted by the pandemic — consent.
Balancing legal and commercial needs, creating a consent strategy
Capturing preferences from HCPs around channels is not a technical challenge but more a process and alignment question around the consent. In fact, before acting upon the channel strategy, the consent approach must be defined. Consent is the first enabler of a companies’ multichannel strategy as you cannot act without it[LM1].
While consent strategies should be well thought out, in the light of a pandemic, it’s critical to be implementable remotely. While this may lead to temporary sub-optimal processes, if the consent requires a physical signature, it would mean not capturing any for a year or two. That would have a dramatic negative impact on a launch. Findings the right compliant manner to capture consent will be the task of the compliance and IT department and commercial & medical need to provide the level of granularity of the required consent.
In a launch mode, the granularity would depend a lot on the size of the company and what the area of focus is. Typically, for small biotech launching its first drug, the consent granularity doesn’t need to be too low. A company-level topic of consent could suffice, while e.g. for a bigger company with multiple therapeutic areas, a more granular consent could be captured. Ultimately, the content itself could drive the consent granularity. Is the company targeting to issue content that is very specific to a single indication? Then it may be worth exploring that capability.
It’s hard, but it’s possible.
In all, the COVID pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way companies launch their product in Europe. Sure, the previous challenges exist, but additional discussion and strategies must be put in place to address the new realities. Nevertheless, multiple companies have successfully hit the market with the new product during those peculiar times. Addressing content, channel, and consent would for sure pave your way in that direction.
About BASE life science
BASE life science is an innovative and forward-thinking technology, product and service consultancy specialized in creating real business value from digital platforms and data. Our experienced teams are ready to help optimize your technology and business processes within Customer Engagement, Quality, Regulatory, Compliance and Clinical data management.
BASE currently operates from our offices in Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, and Germany, where we assist customers across the globe. You can safely choose us as your entrusted partner, as we will make it our goal to bring your vision to life.
About the author — Moses Kløverpris, Senior Manager, Customer Engagement
As an experienced Manager with a demonstrated history of working with Digital Transformation and Sales & Marketing optimization, Moses is highly skilled at helping customers create immediate value from their Business Processes, Digital Strategies, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Information Management.
 McKinsey COVID-19 Survey: EU Physician Experiences, Expectations, and Perspectives on Pharma Engagement; survey in the field in May and September 2020.