Learn how customer research uncovered the best way to educate and raise awareness about a pharmaceutical product.
PharmaCo is a leading, global pharmaceutical company with a broad range of top-performing products. PharmaCo wants to ensure that both physicians and patients are aware of the latest facts and findings about its products, so that they can make the best decisions for each patient's individual health situation.
Traditionally, pharmaceutical companies have approached physicians directly to communicate about the benefits and applications of their medications, and they have assumed that the physician alone would advise the patient. However, increasing regulatory restrictions have made it more difficult to gain access to physicians. Also, patients today are learning more about drug options from the Internet and mass media, not just from physicians.
To address patients’ growing role in researching their own drug options, and to better target its discussions with physicians, PharmaCo asked BCG to explore new go-to-market approaches and communication strategies for one specific new product in Europe.
To enhance its understanding of the physician and patient research and decision process, our team used BCG’s unique MindDiscovery tool—consisting of seven to ten people in workshops lasting approximately six hours. Patient interviewees were chosen because they had a medical condition that might be helped by PharmaCo's new product.
We used innovative research techniques—supplementing more formal discussion—to gain a new level of insight. For example, participants were asked to arrange photographs to reflect personal medication preferences. They were also asked to draw a picture to show how they might compare one drug with another. (A respondent might color Drug X green if he felt that drug was a “natural” choice.)
In all, we surveyed almost 1,000 physicians and patients. Physicians were placed into "segments" based on their likelihood to explore a new pharmaceutical product. Patients were placed into "segments" based on their attitudes toward health delivery and whether they were likely to become proactive in researching and choosing their drugs.
Having segmented physician and patient groups independently, we felt it was important to then link these segments. By doing so, PharmaCo was able to design strategies relevant to both segments.
While we discovered that patients are playing a growing role in drug research and selection, we also found that physicians are still four times more involved in the drug-decision process. Therefore, we chose to focus most of our strategy on improved targeting for educational discussions with physicians.
In particular, our findings allowed us to make better use of the data to cluster physicians and to identify two primary segments, representing 40 percent of physicians, that were likely to be involved in 80 percent of future drug decisions related to PharmaCo's new product. By creating these clear target segments, our team was able to develop a detailed and focused strategy for raising awareness and putting helpful, relevant information in the hands of these physician segments.
As a result of this more focused approach, PharmaCo needed fewer sales representatives, which meant it could lower its sales and marketing budget.
We identified four key adjustments to be made to PharmaCo’s overall budget:
Investments should be reallocated to mirror the importance of relevant players in health decisions
The sales force should be refocused on the two key physician segments that were expected to make the bulk of decisions involving PharmaCo's product
Product positioning and communication materials should be adjusted to best address the needs of these two key segments (which had been uncovered during interviews)
Patient communication should be increased and adjusted to match patient needs and to ensure maximum effectiveness
The plan was a clear success. Despite tough external challenges, sales grew well above industry benchmarks and also above PharmaCo’s forecasts. Marketing and sales expenses were significantly reduced—by up to 30 percent. This translated into significant improvements in profitability and the top line as compared with original plans and ensured access to this product for more patients in need.