How to Increase Your Odds of a Successful Product Launch Post-Pandemic

5 min read

The stakes have never been higher for life sciences companies to realize a successful product launch.

Along with the severe health and humanitarian crisis caused by the pandemic, life sciences executives are facing enormous business challenges—the collapse of procedures (due to elective surgeries being halted and patient fear), supply chain interruptions, economic recession, and increased uncertainty.

Even in the “good old days” pre-pandemic, product launch failures occurred at alarmingly high rates:

Consider another bleak statistic: Of forecasts that lagged in Year 1, 78% continue to lag in Year 2, and 70% lag in Year 3. So there’s really no such thing as a “slow start.” You never catch up!

The staggering financial investment loss cannot be ignored, but there are other important losses that must be recognized. You also lose credibility with the sales force, customers, and investors, which can be difficult to regain. And if your product launch stumbles out of the gate, you risk losing the first-to-market competitive advantage you would have had if the initial product launch went smoothly.

The truth is...

Having the best product doesn’t matter.

Filling an unmet need doesn’t matter either.

To win, you have to uniquely solve an important problem and get people to change their behavior and embrace the new. Because problems—not product features—move people. And understanding what drives behavior change is the key to unlocking market adoption and leadership.

Most product launches fail because companies routinely fall victim to these three brain science blunders:

Companies Fail To:The Consequence:
Prepare the market for the product (vs. getting the product ready for the market)  Delayed market receptivity to the product
Account for behavior change processes Underestimated timing and effort required to get people to change behavior and adopt something new
Leverage actionable insights Failed to transform market data into actionable insights that take cognitive biases into account and help drive adoption

Leveraging brain science to increase your odds for success

Like the health and humanitarian sides of the crisis, life sciences companies must lay the groundwork to avoid being another product launch failure—and it goes far beyond traditional launch plan elements.

How can you increase your odds of success? Apply these four strategies—grounded in brain science:

  1. Create a new category.
  2. Prime the market for the product.
  3. Account for the time and effort required for behavior change.
  4. Transform market data into actionable insights that take cognitive biases into account.

1. Create a new category.

In the life sciences industry, the vast majority of companies launch new products in existing categories or markets. In almost every category, there is only one true dominant player (a “Category King”) while everyone else is fighting over a slice of the remaining pie. Thus, the real opportunity for companies is not in competing—it’s in creating new categories.

This business strategy (called “Category Design”) can help you rise above the noise and present as a truly differentiated offering. By establishing your own niche and conditioning the market to think about a problem and solution the way you want them to, you can create new demand, dominate your space, and define the buying criteria for the new category which makes it difficult for existing companies to compete.

2. Prime the market for the product (vs. just getting the product ready for the market).

Legendary companies don’t just market their products and their features, hoping the world will “get” why their product is a breakthrough. They educate the market about why they should consider doing things in a new, different way (and why an old solution may be outdated, inefficient, costly, or painful). They use new language to market a new point of view. They intuitively lead their markets by teaching customers how to think about a problem and why they should abandon old solutions in favor of new ones.

If you want to dominate the market, you must spend time and resources educating users about the problem. In other words, don’t market the product, market the problem. And condition your audience to believe that your category solution is the best one. How quickly you can do that will determine how fast your company can grow.

It’s not easy to change how people see the world. This is where leveraging brain science can help. An audience conditioning strategy that targets cognitive biases can help persuade your audience to do things a new way. (We can help with that.)

3. Account for the time and effort required for behavior change.

Companies often underestimate how hard it is to convince people to change behavior and adopt something new. Markets, by their very nature, resist new ideas and products. As such, markets kill most new products and services and begrudgingly accept the rest. TV, for example, took three decades to become a mass medium in the U.S., from the first experimental broadcasts in the late 1920s to widespread acceptance in the 1960s.

When a new product’s adoption by one player depends on its adoption by other participants, there has to be a systemwide switching of behaviors before change can take place. The traditional levers that executives use to launch products—such as targeting unique customer segments or developing compelling value propositions—alone cannot ensure that such a change happens.

That means that innovative companies have two challenges. First, they have to systematically unravel the status quo. Second, they have to create a new status quo, where many players have adopted the innovation and believe they are better off because of it. That takes both time and effort.

4. Transform market data into actionable insights that take cognitive biases into account and help drive adoption.

Most senior executives understand that effective marketing messaging is critical to launching success. But getting it right isn’t easy. While many companies use market research tools, including patient pathways, physician segmentation, and focus groups, only those with successful launches transformed market data into actionable insights to make their product stand out.

These messages are grounded in clinical data and built on efficacy and safety, but also take into account the cognitive shortcuts clinicians and consumers deploy when they learn about new treatments and make decisions (aka "cognitive biases"). Understanding these pathways—the brain science connection—can help companies communicate the value of their products more effectively. It’s imperative to be able to look at the problem and desired solution through your customer’s eyes and build a story in their language with them as the hero. This is 100% about what you can do for them—even if your target audience can’t tell you what they want or need.

A roadmap to product launch success

The stakes have never been higher—and the time never better—to embrace a new product launch framework. One where you can create and prime the market for behavior change and bring forth a whole new future for your customers, new demand, and exponentially greater growth, success, and brand value.

Yes, humans are wired to resist change. That’s why we leverage brain science at Grey Matter Marketing to give you a map to behavior change that drives demand—not resistance—for your solution.

No company, big or small, incumbent or a new entrant, can afford a riverboat gambler when it comes to a product launch.

Want to Increase Your Odds of Winning in 2021?

Grey Matter Marketing is a full-service, award-winning PR and marketing agency working exclusively with healthcare companies. With a knack for storytelling and content marketing that engages and drives action, we can help craft your 2021 revenue growth strategy. Because what you do (or don’t do) matters. For more information, contact us.

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