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How to Build a Better Pharma Marketing Readiness Strategy

By Mike Knapp 11.20.20 Workers conducting a pharma marketing strategy planning session

Bringing new treatments to patients in dire need of additional options is why those of us who work in life sciences do what we do. Whether it’s a desperately needed vaccine for a contagious disease, new research on side effects or success of treatments, or a life-saving treatment using new technology, pharmaceutical marketers must be ready for whatever new developments arise.

Whether it’s bringing the voice of the patient and physicians into how to design Phase III and IV trials or learning about new breakthroughs in patient outcomes for pervasive diseases like cancer or ALS, innovation and new indications create great new excitement. A successful vaccine, treatment, or new medical device brings forth both new opportunities as well as challenges given a new group of patients with unique needs to be met. To be ready for anything, you need to create a readiness plan. Here’s how.

4 questions to help build your pharma marketing readiness strategy 

To be ready for anything, you have to know everything about your potential customers, especially because this isn’t like a typical treatment that’s for a specific subset of patients. You may know something is coming, but not yet when or what. To build a readiness plan, you’ll need to answer these questions:

Do you understand customers’ social, emotional and functional needs? 

The most important step in any pharma marketing readiness plan is understanding your customer. Readiness plans hinge on being able to pivot and work in an agile manner, and the more you know about your customers’ social, emotional, and functional needs, the more easily you’ll be able to respond. 

Most people interacting with healthcare aren’t at their best. Cultivate empathy for what your customer is going through and why they’re using your products in the first place — it’s because they want to get better, or manage their symptoms in whatever way they can. Start with a deep understanding of what your patients are going through physically, and from there, you can identify what their needs are socially and emotionally.

Market research only tells part of the story. To better understand your customers, leverage technology to:

  • Listen in on social media conversations around the disease, drug, or side effects 
  • Watch for patient behavior in their interactions with you or with their doctor — where are they dropping off in the patient journey? What pages on your site do they engage with?
  • Track keywords and other leading indicators of interest through engagement on digital advertising, articles, and other content
  • Survey existing customers to determine fulfillment and education expectations and what misconceptions you’ll need to diffuse

How will new patients be brought into a patient support program? 

Having a patient support program is a great first step. It needs to be robust enough and with enough training that your staff can handle an influx of new patients with something new on the market.

But an existing patient support program should still be re-evaluated as part of your readiness plan. It’s not as easy as snapping your fingers and new patients or new use cases can be easily folded in. While you’re not starting from scratch, any new developments will create a whole new journey.

You’ll need to evaluate:

  • Opt-in, patient data, and consent management
  • Call center staffing and expertise
  • Level of assistance and training for support specialists
  • Specialty pharmacy integration and shipping vendors
  • Notification approach and communications with patients
  • Tracking and reporting patient data to adjust the customer experience

Have you considered the operational implications of this expansion?

Your patient support program is the most urgent element of your pharma marketing readiness plan, but what about the rest of your operations? Once you understand your patient needs and how to support them, it’s time to consider scalability. Consider new education or training you’ll need, FDA-required risk mitigation strategy, and how dosage impacts fulfillment.

To be fully ready for something new, you’ll need to determine how medication will be delivered and how questions will be answered. Any new treatment will impact not only on your operations, but the larger healthcare ecosystem a patient goes through to receive treatment, whether that’s requiring tests and screenings before being eligible, speaking with doctors or specialists, and insurance coverage. 

A truly effective readiness program ensures connectivity to internal and external stakeholders like manufacturing, fulfillment, payers, providers, and specialty pharmacies. This will ensure there are no interruptions to the patient experience.

How does the customer experience need to change? 

While competing for price, access, and part of the patient experience, you also have to meet rising expectations in an increasingly consumer-centric ecosystem. Once you understand those customer needs and the impact on your overall strategy, it’s time to put them in action. Now, it’s about creating what content they need and how they want it delivered to build an ideal customer experience. 

That’s because an ideal customer experience isn’t just delivering the right message at the right time. It’s also looking at how they want to be engaged with, and through what channel. Take a look at your current patient journeys and map out your moments of truth. Which touchpoints make sense, and which need to be adjusted? 

Sometimes, those answers are easy and clear. Other times, they are complex and require taking a step back to assess the critical insights before taking actions. In either case, there will be changes needed to your marketing tech stack or approach. 

Build a technical foundation to be ready for whatever comes next

The right technical foundation will give you the flexibility to respond to higher than expected volume, label changes, or formulary expansion.

Successful companies will embrace the chance to transform their business while keeping the patient front and center in a completely compliant manner. Our industry knowledge and technical expertise can help companies navigate the opportunities before them. I am honored to be able to continue working across pharma companies to help them navigate what marketing can look like as the industry adapts to COVID-19 and beyond. 

At Silverline, our deep subject matter knowledge in the life sciences space, combined with certified technical expertise, can help you make sure your team is ready for what comes next with any new treatment to market. When you’re ready to build a successful pharma marketing readiness strategy, reach out and let’s talk it through.

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