COVID-19 is impacting the healthcare system in a way we’ve never seen before, and pharmaceutical manufacturers are facing new challenges at rapid speeds. To help keep you informed, we’re releasing a special Q&A series with our experts to discuss the virus’s impact on each stage of the development journey.

Today, we spoke with David Ward, Vice President for EHRx Solutions, Sara Stricker, Manager at CEEK Enterprises, a division of Two Labs, Brad Davis, Principal at CEEK, and Jon Klein, Principal at CEEK, about the effect of COVID-19 on launch marketing and promotions in the U.S for emerging manufacturers.

How is COVID-19 impacting marketing and promotion capabilities?

Small and emerging manufacturers face increased barriers to access their customers. They aren’t likely to be established among HCPs yet, and the added barrier COVID-19 creates makes reaching providers even more difficult. For those who are able to connect, there’s concern HCPs may not be willing to prescribe patients a new therapy when careful and frequent monitoring isn’t possible.

Smaller companies have less flexibility in their marketing budgets, so ensuring their investments are impactful in this new environment is critical.

How should manufacturers adjust their marketing efforts?

The appropriate reaction to the virus’s impact on marketing depends both on a manufacturer’s launch timeline and their size.

For manufacturers preparing their efforts (12 months to launch):
Create a flexible plan. One silver lining for smaller manufacturers is a greater ability to be nimble and adapt. Your launch plan must be as flexible as possible and able to be adjusted once more information is available about what the landscape will look like post-coronavirus.

For manufacturers getting ready to execute (3 months to launch):
Scenario plan. What will your strategy look like if you’re able to restart in-person meetings in the summer? What if you can’t resume face-to-face selling until Q4? Outlining the changes required ahead of time will help you adjust quickly when the time comes.

For manufacturers launching right now:
Narrow the focus of the launch. Small and emerging manufacturers will want to prioritize the high value prescribers, rather than seeking out a large number of accounts. Emphasize virtual engagement through calls, emails, and video conference meetings.

For manufacturers that just launched 1-3 months ago:
Reprioritize budget to bolster other marketing efforts. Some physicians, such as those in the dermatology or gastroenterology space, are seeing their daily caseloads drop significantly, meaning they may have more time to research new products and mechanisms of action. Drive target HCPs to digitally-enhanced educational marketing pieces.

COVID-19 is impacting the healthcare system in a way we’ve never seen before, and pharmaceutical manufacturers are facing new challenges at rapid speeds. To help keep you informed, we’re releasing a special Q&A series with our experts to discuss the virus’s impact on each stage of the development journey.

Today, we spoke with David Ward, Vice President for EHRx Solutions, Sara Stricker, Manager at CEEK Enterprises, a division of Two Labs, Brad Davis, Principal at CEEK, and Jon Klein, Principal at CEEK, about the effect of COVID-19 on launch marketing and promotions in the U.S.

How is COVID-19 impacting marketing and promotion capabilities?

Sales forces are unable to connect with healthcare providers (HCPs) in traditional ways due to the elimination of face-to-face meetings. This leaves large manufacturers with massive, and therefore expensive, sales forces that must reassess their priorities. Teams are fearful of becoming an unnecessary distraction during this time and do not want to be insensitive during this pandemic.

Highly promotional, product-focused marketing is expected to be less effective as budgets decrease and as sensitivities rise around messages that aren’t addressing COVID-19 concerns.

How should manufacturers adjust their marketing efforts?

The appropriate reaction to the virus’s impact on marketing depends both on a manufacturer’s launch timeline and their size.

For manufacturers preparing their efforts (12 months to launch):
Consider the “new normal.” The world will likely look different even after we’ve overcome the worst of the pandemic. The shift toward virtual engagement between sales reps and HCPs may become the norm, and these meetings may be limited. Even before the outbreak, reps were getting less access into provider offices, and now that the current state is changing how the world is working, it’s possible that the number of HCPs that close their offices to traditional in-person sales reps could grow exponentially. Large manufactures will need to explore the long-term implications and shifts to virtual meetings spurred by the outbreak.

For manufacturers getting ready to execute (3 months to launch):
Discuss a delay. Some manufacturers, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, are delaying launches all together, taking into consideration the inability to properly promote their product and the barriers preventing patients from seeing their HCPs due to COVID-19.

For manufacturers launching right now:
Focus on enhancing non-personal promotion as much as possible. Sales teams should focus on messaging tailored to providing patient support. Give the healthcare systems space while reminding HCPs that the field teams are there as a resource when needed.

For manufacturers that just launched 1-3 months ago:
Consider a shift in tone with your marketing messages to something softer and more compassionate. Continuing with our Bristol Myers Squibb example, the company expanded its existing patient support program to offer access to their medicine for free to patients in the U.S. who have lost their health insurance due to the pandemic.

Moving forward, there will be geographic challenges for both launches within the U.S. and outside the U.S. for anyone marketing their drugs in the coming months. Blanket marketing for the entire U.S. will not work as each state, county, and even city opens up to varying degrees. Marketing efforts will need to be more locally driven because you’ll need to understand where your customers are and what they are going through. While the same has always been true outside the U.S., locally-driven marketing efforts will prove to be even more vital than ever before.

Do you need help determining the impact of COVID-19 on your marketing efforts and how to navigate forward? Click the button below to get in touch with our expert team.