On April 11th, 1970 astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigart and Fred Haise launched from earth on Apollo 13 after months of preparation. As the rocket cleared the earth’s atmosphere, everyone at NASA felt the mission would be a success, since the launch was one of the most dangerous portions of the mission. How they wrong were. Two days later an oxygen tank ruptured disabling the control module, aborting the lunar landing and seriously jeopardizing the lives of the crew. Only by carefully evaluating new alternatives could NASA claim Apollo 13 to become their “most successful mission failure.”
Not unlike NASA’s preparatory efforts for Apollo 13, you’ve spent months developing your product launch. You’ve worked with the development team to understand the customer benefits. The product, the regulatory approval and the reimbursement strategy is in place. You’ve developed a positioning statement and derived key messaging for the product. The marketing collateral has been developed, covering both print and on-line materials. The advertising plan is developed and the ads ready for placement.
You feel sure you’re ready. But have you done everything needed to drive a successful launch? You probably won’t know until several months into the future. Consider evaluating nine marketing activities before initiating your launch.
Segmentation and targeting
You can’t excite, interest, engage, and emotionally connect with everyone – even if you technically sell to “everyone.” You must first segregate the primary customer segment (s) that you plan to reach through your campaign. Then focus all of your marketing energy on that primary segment. What are their concerns, the barriers they feel exist, what benefits are likely to trigger interest and what messaging compels purchase behavior. Developing the value proposition and messaging with this frame of reference is key to early success, which keeps the sales team engaged and gives company leadership the confidence to stick to your plan.
Evidence development plan
Most marketing personnel recognize the need to provide evidence of the positive impact your product has for customers, but sometimes the path is less obvious. While peer-reviewed journal articles are the best supporting data, almost always it is not published before the launch. To combat this timing issue, consider asking the principal investigator to submit a presentation or poster abstract to the relevant Society annual meeting. Many accept abstracts without finalized results as long as the results are available in time for the presentation. Since accepted abstracts are often available before the meeting, they can be used to disseminate the clinical results earlier than journal articles. Consider working with study investigators to prepare a company -sponsored webinar on the product’s clinical results.
Therapeutic management plan
Revolutionary products or those that significantly change treatment paradigms or workflow need customer education tools in order for the product to deliver the expected clinical results. The therapeutic management plan identifies the approaches needed to communicate the treatment protocols and tips needed. Of course, this educational content is bounded by the treatment indications approved by the regulatory body. But there is art to achieving optimal clinical benefits and this plan is intended to provide the content needed by clinicians. Subject matter is usually developed by the clinical team based on the experiences of the clinical trial site.
Thought leader engagement plan
Today, customers are skeptical about company marketing messaging and require validation from peers on product effectiveness. Some voices are more highly regarded than others. Developing a thought leader campaign is comprised of two extra steps. First it is important to identify them. Then set up a dialogue and nurture their understanding of the product so they clearly understand the benefits. Then, if called upon to comment with their peers or in online chats, they can accurately relate the benefits, thereby providing the customer validation that so many need.
Customer engagement programs
Just sending sales reps out in the field to identify prospects, nurture them and gain purchase commitments is less effective today than in the past. Many customers have little time for face to face selling appointments. Prospects rely on new communication technologies to gather product and company information. Video sales calls have become a normal part of the selling process. The most effective launch will take these environmental changes into account when developing customer engagement tactics. Before developing this plan, identify how prospects gather information, the engines and terms they use for searching; the sources they trust; and the drivers customers consider before reaching out to companies.
Economic benefit data
For medical products today, providers and payers won’t use a product that fails to deliver economic benefits; you need to demonstrate value. What out-of-pocket savings does your solution provide? Enumerate any supply cost reduction or provider quality reimbursement penalties (like 30-day readmissions). Economic benefit is also achieved by increasing provider revenue. Once these benefits are validated with data develop the economic selling collateral that the sales team can use.
In addition to analyzing the economic benefits you should examine the customer’s budget impact. Which department holds the budget for the purchase of your product? Is it the same department that will receive the clinical or cost savings benefits? If the answer is yes to the second question, then develop a budget impact selling tool that lays out the costs and savings for the budget holder. However, if the answer is no, it becomes more complicated. It may become necessary to help the benefit-receiving department submit a budget exception request or prepare a justification for the next budget cycle.
Competitive management plan
Sometimes Marketing is so focused on its customer message that it neglects to examine the competitor’s message impact. Customer confusion could hamper your company’s ability to close the sale. Examine how is the competitor message content differs from yours, what are the truth elements that you need to sell around, what are the over-promises that you need to refute and what are misrepresentations of your key advantages that you need to correct? From this analysis you need to develop counter-messaging that allows the sales team to best position your product to the customer.
Case Study Evidence
Sometimes customers have difficulty grasping how to use the product. To counter this barrier, work with test sites to develop case studies that demonstrate their product experience and develop collateral for the sales team to distribute.
Sometimes circumstances like those which occurred during Apollo 13 are completely unpredictable. But by accomplishing these 9 activities you’ll be in a position to ensure that most known launch barriers are addressed and your launch can be successful.