Thought Leadership

Five Ways for Life Sciences Marketers to Get Ahead in the Highly Competitive Biopharma Industry

April 24, 2023

Customer Centricity Presents Opportunities to Differentiate in Biopharma

The January 2023 FDA approval of Amgen‘s Amjevita, a biosimilar to AbbVie’s Humira, is a reminder of the many biosimilars to be launched over the next few years. For marketers, there is more competition than ever, meaning that biopharma companies will be challenged to differentiate themselves in this disruptive era. Couple that with innovation in Oncology, Neurology, Orphan & Rare Disease, Vaccines, Devices, and Connected Care, and the need for manufacturers to understand customers and influencers has never been more critical.

Brand teams will be challenged in the coming years to more clearly identify the target patient earlier in the pipeline, evolve communications, and support services in these crowded spaces. Both clinical research and commercial brand teams are working in a more complex global environment than ever. With each challenge comes opportunity.

Here are five opportunities we believe should be top of mind for health and life sciences marketers this year:

1. The Need For Speed Without Compromising Outcomes

Traditional drug development timelines are undergoing their own transformation. Agile clinical trials in order to speed innovation to the market are continuing to evolve. At the same time, home-based trials are gaining traction as are DEI efforts. Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) is more important than ever to provide Real World Evidence (RWE) to justify the price of innovative medicines. For newly launched therapeutics, speed to therapy is a challenge and an opportunity in obtaining access and providing patient support on an individual level.

2. Differentiating in Biosimilars and Oncology Medications

This year an explosion of biosimilars is expected to hit the market. No one is certain how doctors will behave, although it has been predicted that the prices for the biosimilars won’t be reduced as much as desired by doctors or patients. What is certain though, is any biosimilar hitting the market will need to provide a good customer experience to doctors, their office staff, and their patients. Branded medicines have done a good job in these areas setting expectations for the market; therefore, the bar is high for biosimilars entering this space.

Meanwhile, oncology continues to evolve, innovate and become more personalized at great speed. To support this need, the FDA issued guidance for the industry to support accelerated approval of oncology medicines in March of 2023.

This is happening as patients themselves are becoming more complex—with greater comorbidities and mental health challenges—ushering in a new era of complexity in treatment. Patients are also influenced at a greater level through social media influencers and digital content, creating a whole other set of considerations.

The number of complex therapeutics and devices coming to market will mean marketers need to understand the patient holistically earlier in development. This includes behaviors and emotions, drivers of behavior, and how to best influence positive behaviors. Manufacturers have the opportunity to reframe launch insights from a holistic approach, which will result in a much more precise target patient while ensuring a more precise launch and higher satisfaction with specialists.

3. Taking Patient Centricity to Heart

Marketers have opportunities to fine tune the target to include emotional and behavioral factors earlier in the pipeline. For therapeutics, consider that while a label may be very broad, not all patients in the label will necessarily be targets. Understanding which patients may be willing to try your medicine will set you apart from the competition. In many cases, that means exploration of patient targets as a whole person and understanding their drivers, their emotions and behaviors more thoroughly, and as early as possible.

By targeting patients, clinical trials can be informed earlier in the process to create outcomes that will impact success. Better forecasting, positioning, segmentation, and messaging are byproducts of this approach. Supporting HCPs in their prescribing of medicines to the target patient and with appropriate support services for HCP and patient will also move the needle on patient centricity. Incorporating behavioral sciences (BeSci) during the insights and strategy development and subsequently through tactical rollout is another consideration to produce better launch results.

4. Improving Customer Experience To HCPs And Patients Amid Staffing Shortages

Gaining access is becoming increasingly complicated, not only in a global access-to-products context, but also considering doctor offices that don’t have the staff or bandwidth to best service patients. Doctor offices and hospital staff are stretched more than ever, with nurses and other support staff doing office work not normally handled. This has resulted in burnout and staff departures, which exacerbates existing staff shortages, impacting speed to therapy.

As biopharma continues to become more of a product plus service industry, the need for understanding the doctor and office worker journey and customer experience will be more important than ever. Today’s winners will not only have a highly effective and safe product, along with good access and acceptability by HCPs and their office staff, they also must provide best-in-class patient support services to offices and patients. Not surprisingly, technology will play a role in easing office and healthcare system administrative burdens, and progressive life sciences companies will provide solutions.

To provide an exceptional experience, manufacturers turned servicers now have an opportunity to dig into every important touchpoint to determine if HCPs, office staff and patients have had a satisfying experience. They can continually reinvent themselves to improve. It will be up to the manufacturer to guide the HCP, not only to get their buy in, but to provide more robust support. As millennials and Gen Z patients age into more healthcare, the idea of service on demand and customization will be an expectation for both patient and HCP.

5. Leveraging Technology To Gain Efficiency In Brand Development

Life Sciences companies have a great opportunity to connect with customers now that technology is available to provide a personalized experience around the customer journey. AI can play a role in everything from identifying target segments to developing personalized content. The pandemic imposed the need for tech-infused personal promotion (and doctors liked it!) and omnichannel approaches are now making their way to life sciences brands.

Speaking of omnichannel, it’s a buzzword that has been tossed around for several years and differs from a customer experience or digital marketing. Omnichannel marketing is focused on how companies best reach customers with the right messages and support or product across channels in a seamless and most efficient approach and can be applied to patients and HCPs in different ways. No doubt, personalization is an area of opportunity when thinking about each patient’s unique healthcare journey. However, measurement and strategy around omnichannel will be key not only to help drugs in highly competitive marketplaces succeed, but also to ensure efficiency on marketing spend. While evolving technology will support this evolution within the complex healthcare environment, the bigger challenge for biopharma companies will be reorganizing processes to best support this effort.

What customer-centric approaches are on your mind? Reframing insights to identify the best target patients? Developing highly actionable segmentations? Uncovering patient journeys? Applying science to deep dive into behaviors? Using customer experience insights to differentiate around touchpoints? Our life sciences market research team can help you build a successful foundation for winning in competitive drug categories.


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Kathleen Relias
Vice President

Kathy Relias is a former vice president in Escalent’s Health & Life Sciences practice.