Part 1: Launching a new medicine without a field force

… Mr Khatri and his steering committee had been analysing the proposal brought to the table by the European Business Development team, but they haven´t reached a conclusion yet. It was obvious that were it successful, it would be ground-breaking. It could open the door to new paths of speeding the growth of the company.

However, there were many risks linked to this proposal:

  • The operating cost of promotion would be much lower down the road, but the strategical job to define the positioning of the product should be faced with no previous experience in this pathology. It was a very well-known marketplace and forecasting the total demand of the category wouldn´t be very difficult. Nevertheless, to look for a differentiated positioning would definitively be.
  • There could be a problem of accountability if sales targets weren’t met. At the end of the day, field sales teams are measured by sales, and they’re the first one to look at if reality is not meeting expectations.
  • Success in business and people go hand in hand. The best business strategy will unavoidably fail if it’s not flawlessly implemented. To bring this plan to light, they would need to hire new staff with skills not common in Pharma. It wasn’t a matter of optimising processes but to make new ones up.


They proposed to create a centralised team at the European Headquarters near Amsterdam. It was a mix of “centre of excellence” and traditional commercial department.

Four functional areas were defined reporting to the European Commercial Lead: (1) Outbound Communications, (2) Inbound Communications, (3) Customer Engagement, (4) Business Intelligence.

1-    Outbound communication

Push communication would be critical in the organisation since no field-force was part of this equation. Losing the strength of face-face interaction should come with a genuinely personalised communication to every customer. If every interaction with HCPs isn’t highly relevant and delivered timely, it will be hardly possible to create customer relationship.

Three areas of responsibilities have been assigned to this area:

  • E-mail engagement would play a central role. It would likely be the most complex channel due to the breadth of communications to be sent to customers. Not only would excellent project management skills be needed to manage this channel, but also in-depth knowledge of the business and customers to critically determine what kind of messages could be meaningful.
  • The teledetailing team would be very relevant at the early stage of launching Darkia. Skilled telemarketing people mastering the local language should be recruited. It was evident in their minds that this channel shouldn´t play an essential role in the long run. They asserted that trying to substitute face-to-face touch by phone touch was a mainstream mistake.
  • Display advertising. It would be the least relevant activity, but a flawless implementation was required to create brand awareness as soon as possible.

2-    Inbound communication

Pull activities are incredibly relevant in the medium and long run. Inbound channels should provide a two-way conversation, appropriate services for prescribers and valuable information regarding Darkia and psoriasis.

They have emphasised three channels:

  • Websites. Not only was valuable information to attract users needed, but also meaningful services such as eCME or prescribing support programmes. They were aware that they had to avoid some common mistakes to be successful:
    • Publishers and Pharma companies aren´t alike. To commission some “content” to a marketing agency and think it could be appealing to HCP is a far cry from reality.
    • Services should be built around the core interaction between the company and the prescriber: Darkia. If a specific service could be top-rated, but it wouldn´t support the prescription of Darkia, it would be deprioritised.

SEM, SEA and SEO would be the responsibility of this team.

  • Apps. It’s widely known that there’re loads of Apps, but most of them are hardly used. However, they have put forward a proposal using apps to support some online services. Mr Khadri was pleased to read there was a thoroughly designed plan to link all platforms and build an ecosystem focused on delivering best-in-class customer experience.
  • Social media platforms. Despite the many restrictions in Pharma regarding social media, it could still very useful supporting the inbound strategy and engaging HCPs. For that reason, there would be two teams sharing responsibilities. The inbound communications teams would be responsible for managing all platforms and the content strategy.

3-    Customer Engagement

Customer Engagement Managers would have the responsibility at a country level, and they would be the glue of all bits. There would be a common strategy for all countries, but they would be accountable for adjusting the tactical plans to customers’ needs.

Their main activities were defined as per below:

  • Customer journey. Design a journey from “awareness” to “adoption” and define some actions according to every stage was the starting point. However, to categorise customers could be very ambiguous if data from every touchpoint were not correctly interpreted. Customer Engagement and Business intelligence should work hand in hand to accurately model information from customers.
  • Segmentation. The secret recipe of success was to customise communication and services to customers’ need. It could only be done if HCPs were segmented on a continuous basis. There could be many possibilities to segment and target customers; thus, this task was critical. Again, both the customer journey and BI departments should work very closely to be successful.
  • Voice of the customer. Customer Engagement Managers would be focused on customer needs, expectations and understandings and they would provide feedback to the inbound and outbound communication teams to create the best possible content and services for the customer.
  • Social Media Engagement. Social Media Channels are only useful if two-ways communication is allowed. Therefore, this team would be responsible for listening and for interacting with the community.

4-    Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence is widely used to provide data and insights to discover opportunities and implement effective strategies. Additionally, monitoring is vital to point out what is working and what should be improved.

However, they emphasised the necessity of focusing on analysing every single activity and every individual customer. The word “customer-orientation” is usually overused, and this is only possible if individual customers’ needs are identified.


HCPs could be ready to evolve in their relationship with Pharma companies, but it may take some time to build the capabilities to deliver excellent results. Digitalisation had been in buzz word in Pharma for a long time, but no many companies had invested seriously on it. There were three key bits in this equation of success: good market knowledge, strong customer orientation and digital savviness.

Mr Khatri was a sharp executive, and he felt there was an opportunity of trailblazing in here. Some of the best prospects in business come out of necessity, and he could be facing one of those opportunities. However, he wasn’t sure they were ready for it.