A major pharmaceutical company had a market leading brand late in its life cycle. The brand was considered a success, but had stalled in growth an profitability. Despite an increase in sales promotion, the brand’s revenue remained flat and the market share had been on the decline for several years. With still a few years left before generic entry, appropriate brand goals had to be redefined in order to maximize the potential of its remaining years.
Not Being Satisfied with Norms
Leisa Dennehy, now a principal of BioPharma Consultants, Ltd., was given leadership of this brand while an employee of the Company. She undertook a complete revamping of the brand strategy and objectives. Dissatisfied because customer behavior was not well understood, Leisa began with sales analysis and market research. Layer upon layer of "averages" and "norms" were peeled back to uncover some fundamental new customer insights. Although the brand’s market share had declined in the overall disease category, it was steadily increasing its dominance in its own sub-category of the therapy area.Primary market research showed that the brand had a rock-solid position as the best drug its class. Analysis confirmed the brand was promotionally sensitive amongst brand loyalists, but customers who "left the fold" left for good, despite sales promotion. Clearly sales promotion ROI was highly dependent on customer type.
A pharmaceutical sales rule of thumb is to detail the top two deciles of physicians at least every two to six weeks. But did this practice actually effect sales of the brand and provide an acceptable ROI? Was this the right allocation of precious sales resource? The answer, Leisa saw clearly, was a definitive no. Looking beyond the first set of numbers takes a trained analytical mind guided by a strong gut knowledge of market place dynamics and customer behavior. The obvious answer may not be the real answer.
Further analysis revealed that 80% + of sales came from a very small percentage of the customers and that only a reasonable threshold of first-line detailing was needed to keep loyal prescribers. This analysis led to what Leisa calls"the riskiest decision of my career." She made what was considered a completely heretical recommendation – to significantly reduce sales detailing effort and re-focus promotions at a very small audience at an increased frequency. "What marketing director asks to hugely cut detailing efforts while promising to keep revenues steady?" asks Leisa. "But I felt confident that I understood market dynamics and had enough factual evidence to back up my gut belief."
Less Can Be More, When You Find the Pivot Point to Leverage a Brand
The new strategy was adopted. Day by day, the brand continued to perform as normal levels, and in fact, prescribing increased among some loyalists as a result of the increased detailing frequency. The brand’s product contribution profit margin increased by a third, while revenue declined by only 1%. In addition, the Company reaped an untold benefit because other brands, which received the reallocated details,experienced strong increases in revenues. A win-win on all fronts!