How Independent Talent Fuel Commercial Excellence in the Life Sciences

July 19, 2023 Summer Foote

On-demand life science talent are a fast and flexible source of strategic expertise and hands-on execution support to help top companies address critical commercial priorities, such as increasing patient centricity, adapting to new technologies, integrating more data than ever before, and seizing new growth opportunities at breakneck speed.

Trends and Challenges for Commercial Leaders

Succeeding in today’s fast-changing commercial environment requires agility and rapid response to new market conditions and quickly evolving consumer attitudes and behaviors. Commercial leaders today have several pressing issues to consider, including trends like:

A customer-centric focus in a time of rapidly changing consumer behavior

Patient-centricity is more central than ever before as companies try to figure out how to connect with consumers and healthcare providers (HCPs) in today’s digital world. In a market of empowered consumers, every touchpoint is important.

To keep up with changing consumer behaviors amid a quickly developing digital landscape, organizations are tying digital strategy into commercial strategy. They’re also calling on digital marketers and innovation experts to support analytics-based segmentation, predictive marketing, streamlined customer processes, customer service, and self-service tools. And by incorporating technologies like AI and machine learning, pharma companies are able to increase efficiency and data-driven decision making in R&D and marketing and sales.

A burgeoning digital health toolkit that enables connection

Even before the pandemic, 80% of internet-connected adults were using digital health tools, according to RockHealth. Then in 2020, more than 90,000 digital health apps were introduced, with tremendous growth in apps focused on single health conditions—with mental health, diabetes, and cardiovascular health at the top of the list. And the growth shows no signs of slowing, with revenue in the digital fitness and wellbeing apps segment projected to reach more than US$28B in 2023.

The market is also booming for wearable devices like blood pressure, blood sugar, and ECG monitors, wellness trackers, and biosensors—supporting a connected health model of care in which services and interventions are designed around a patient’s needs. The rapid adoption of digital health technology continues to break down silos in patient care and foster greater transparency.

This rapidly evolving digital landscape requires a future-focused digital talent strategy, as demands grow for innovation and digital transformation on all fronts across the life science industry.

An abundance of data to distill

As a connected model of patient health management gains a stronger foothold in the industry, actionable data is both more accessible and more important than ever before. This includes data about drug success that is increasingly owned by health systems and health plans, as well as data about consumer preferences to enable personalization, multi-channel selling, and relationship-building. Harnessing all of this data requires a variety of data experts—from translators to engineers and information designers to data managers.

Fluid movement of resources

To keep pace and stay competitive amid the immediate challenge of rapid changes in consumer behavior, new marketing and sales trends, digital transformation and R&D demands, increasing interest in operationalizing AI, and other data science developments, new mindsets and skills are in high demand. Meanwhile, growth opportunities abound, and leadership teams need talent to link business strategy, organizational design, and operational delivery in order to foster long-term growth while protecting immediate revenues and profit. With accelerated expansion plans in place, companies are rapidly shifting talent within the organization, as well as working to attract in-demand talent in a tight labor market.

With both internal and external resources limited, more companies are realizing the value of on-demand independent talent—a fluid and agile source of skills that can be deployed precisely as needed for projects ranging from early-stage product development through (re)launch and established products, as well as innovation, analytics, and global commercial excellence initiatives.

5 Key Project Types for Independent Commercial Experts

Independent life science consultants, subject matter experts, and project managers are helping top companies drive growth, streamline operations, and deliver more targeted messages across the product development and launch cycle. Life science leaders are tapping on-demand talent to provide strategic and tactical support for five key commercial capacities:

1. Early-stage products

To support “go/no go” decisions and path-to-market processes, independent commercial talent are stepping in to help with projects such as go-to-market strategy; HCP segmentation, targeting, and messaging; TPP development; portfolio strategy and optimization; resource allocation; forecasting and market landscape; and brand planning.

Example project:

A Fortune 200 pharmaceutical company needed to develop a resource plan for the launch of a rare disease product with an upcoming phase III readout. To align stakeholders, the VP, Commercial for Rare Disease also needed help creating an executive-level presentation and storyboarding launch activities.

BTG delivered a former McKinsey engagement manager with a PhD, significant commercial and R&D industry experience, and experience leading product launch and GTM initiatives in the US and Europe. The consultant crafted a resource plan for launching the product across four countries, complete with franchise vision, positioning, and an overall narrative.

2. (Re)Launch

In need of critical assistance developing and executing strategies for key product launches and relaunches, companies are calling on independent commercial talent to help with projects like launch strategy, execution, and communications; launch plan development; patient services development; KOL engagement and strategy; agency selection and management; patient, HCP, and payer marketing execution; and digital strategy and execution.

Example project:

A major pharmaceutical company was pursuing an agile launch strategy for a new rare disease therapy, requiring a high level of coordination within the organization. Seeking assistance with developing a launch playbook and identifying outstanding strategic gaps, the company’s Head of Commercial Operations turned to BTG for help.

BTG assembled a team of three consultants with training at McKinsey, Deloitte, and boutique firms, as well as extensive experience within the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Each consultant focused on a distinct workstream—from the overall implementation and field force plan to change management and training to marketing—to develop processes, roles, organizational alignment, and promotions for the product launch.

3. Established products

To help develop and execute lifecycle management strategies for established products, independent commercial talent are helping companies with projects such as disease awareness strategy development; lifecycle management strategy; line extension; generics/end-of-lifecycles strategies; re-growth strategies; HCP marketing, promotional analytics, and data visualization; and customer engagement analyses.

Example project:

A large biotechnology company was seeking to standardize branding and operations across multiple established products to achieve greater consistency and operational efficiencies. In need of a tactical marketing consultant to drive the initiative, collect insights about the patient/HCP experience, and provide the commercial voice for various initiatives, the Global Marketing and Capabilities Director reached out to BTG.

BTG deployed a former Deloitte Manager and Group Marketing Manager of Brand Strategy at Abbott Diabetes Care with deep expertise working with agencies of record and MLR, field, and finance teams to spearhead marketing initiatives. The consultant finalized a demo device analysis and competitive insights, developed new, patient-friendly messaging for the brands, and worked to implement key changes within the client’s organization.

4. Data Analytics, Digital Tools, and innovation

To achieve their goals, commercial organizations must increase their focus on measuring performance and innovating across new and established products. In this area, independent commercial talent can help on projects such as digital therapeutics, digital health strategy, big data analytics, electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic health record (EHR) data analytics, advanced analytics forecasting, KPI and data visualization, data and technology strategy, and real-word data (RWD)/real-word evidence (RWE).

Example project:

To enable its transformation into a best-in-class omnichannel organization, the Omnichannel Customer Engagement & Digital Operations (OCE&DO) team at one of Europe’s largest pharmaceutical companies needed help with developing an end-to-end process for the design, execution, and optimization of omnichannel customer engagement campaigns.

BTG deployed a former Global Digital Manager at Novartis and accomplished project manager with extensive knowledge of analytics, digital strategy, and omnichannel marketing. The consultant collaborated across functions to establish best-in-class standards and efficient processes, drove the implementation of frictionless and dependable patient and customer experiences, and provided hands-on support to help stakeholders successfully execute on select OCE tactics.

5. Global capabilities and commercial excellence

Life science leaders are increasingly focused on building and delivering best-in-class commercial capabilities across all stages. To aid their efforts, independent commercial talent are available to help with projects like therapeutic area (TA) strategy development; commercial optimization and excellence; omnichannel customer experience engagement; voice-of-the-customer strategy; patient centricity; patient support strategy; companion diagnostics strategy; salesforce sizing, mapping, and training; organization transformation and change management; and market research management.

Example project:

A Fortune 200 biotechnology company identified an opportunity to enhance and build its capabilities in commercial marketing. For support, the Commercial Transformation Project Lead contacted BTG to bring in a strategic consultant who could help the organization achieve greater effectiveness and efficiency.

BTG delivered a former Deloitte Monitor consultant with over 35 years of in-house experience at industry leading companies. The consultant developed global commercial excellence transformation plans, standardized project management processes to maximize portfolio delivery efficiencies, provided day-to-day program management support, and enabled the development of key tools.

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