Written by: Walter Ruckes, VP, Life Sciences Division
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For pharma and med device organizations, launching a new product reached a whole new level of sophistication just as the world stopped traveling and moved to a virtual environment.
What once was centered around a significant, in-person event quickly changed as companies shuttered their doors and took to the virtual world. Lost in that unexpected disruption was the dimensional experience of real human connection.
Today, it should come as no surprise that we’re seeing not only a resurgence of in-person product launches – but also a new degree of sophistication with tools and tactics learned from virtual experiences.
This new model takes the best of both worlds, boldly creates hybrid events and produces messaging more meaningful, learning more lasting and results more immediate.
What hasn’t changed? The launch of a new product or service can fail or flourish because of the people who influence its success:
First-hand experience has resulted in a set of guidelines and ideas that will help turn your next product launch into a people launch, ensuring those most important to you have what they need to succeed.
Knowledge is power. And actions speak louder than words. But there is a human connection between these two truisms – and that is if you are not feeling it, it’s not going to happen. An emotional connection to your new product is a must for it to be successful. The behavioral science research bears this out. Each audience, from the first meeting of your launch team to a successful physician/patient interaction, is filled with biases that each of us bring into the situation.
And the biggest challenge facing new products is a status-quo bias. Reps like products they already know and are already successfully selling. Physicians need more than just data to make a change. Deep down we all want to make changes for the better, but we need to feel good about them. Think people-first and ensure you are backing up each data point with the emotional reasons to believe.
Nothing can replace being face-to-face when creating meaningful connections, building relationships and establishing trust to attract and retain customers. That’s why most launches are returning to some form of in-person meetings whenever possible. This is perhaps most important with your sales teams. Before they can sell your new product, they need to be “sold” on it. Then they can create those meaningful connections with customers and physicians. A recent HBR article on product launches confirms that reps selling new products spend 32% more face-to-face time with customers.
Successful people launches don’t rely on someone explaining it – they need to experience it. This answers the challenge posed in our first point: What do you want people to Know? To Feel? And to Do? Creating purposeful experiences to help people explore a new product or service ignites more engagement and interest.
Look for opportunities to offer more experiential or “immersive” learning before, during and after your launch date. These moments provide an opportunity to demonstrate and solve a need, building on necessary tools like spec sheets, brochures and sales aids.
According to the recent research we are seeing, meeting participants value human interaction more than ever before. This is only natural after a two-year break from most group travel and large meetings and events. But if the human interaction at your event isn’t meaningful, doesn’t support growth or doesn’t produce actionable results, you may find yourself having a harder time getting the same group together for the next event.
One solution may be to mix up in-person and virtual events. This allows you to start your pre-launch learning in a virtual environment. Get everyone on the same page when they are in person. And then reinforce your messages on an ongoing basis either virtually or in smaller in-person regional events. Testing different approaches will determine what is most effective to your audiences.
A people-focused approach starts with asking yourself and your audience what matters. As market complexities and competition grow, it is vital to tailor training and messaging around needs. People don’t want to be sold to. They want to feel supported. All consumers of products are also consumers of messaging – and segmentation has never been more sophisticated.
For a successful people launch, it is important to personalize the experience by creating targeted content that not only solves a problem, but also makes an emotional connection before, during and after the launch.
How can you help the right people with the right information at the right time? Give them easy, anytime access to valuable information, data, tools and resources to support their needs. Whenever we study the effects of relevant, frequent and meaningful program communications, we see the potential of increasing audience participation by 2x – 5x more than programs that rely on an email or posting to a website.
Salespeople prefer to sell what they know. But they can’t sell what they don’t know about. An effective strategy focuses not only on facts, but feelings:
Collaboration with colleagues is critical to success. The best launch efforts involve early and ongoing alignment between teams across the entire organization, including executives, sales leadership, the field, customer service, marketing, operations, training, events and more.
Technology is making the drive to integration easier than ever. Whether you are meeting in-person or virtually, apps and launch platforms can create a sense of community for all of those involved in a launch. Messaging, learning and progress-to-goal can all be reported consistently if everyone is getting their information from the same place. Even a small amount of fragmentation up front can lead to confusion down the road.
Different learning styles will appreciate and activate when given a preference. People launch learning tactics include interactive apps, digital classrooms, webinars, self-study modules and quizzes. When your audience has multiple ways to hear your message and respond to learning, you greatly increase the possibility that messages will be retained.
The only tactic that doesn’t belong is an overwhelming data-dump of information. Most learners respond best to some level of gamification to make the training journey come to life. A recent large-scale gamification program targeted at sales reps proved this out:
The old carpenter cliché that says “measure twice, cut once” is popular for a reason. Too many costly mistakes and do-overs teach us the importance of determining measurements up front. And with the millions at stake for most drug or device launches, determining your success metrics up front is even more important.
Use these categories to ensure you are on-target:
Whether you are building a new house, or building a business case for your new product, determining the right measurements up front is key to your success.
Over the last few years, it has become clear that if your primary focus of a product launch is the product itself, you’ll miss connecting with what we believe is the most important part of a launch: the people. Your goal should be to create an experience for everyone involved, from your launch team to the patient. People launches are successful because they: