Mastering commercial launch excellence in a human-centric, hybrid world

This article was first published in Pharma Marketing Europe in May

by Mike Ballas Global CEO of Axiom, Madelaine Allen Head of Axiom Europe and Dan Masquelier MD of Cormis

Faster, more complex launches are on the rise. 

Digital technologies have transformed the healthcare environment and employees as well as HCPs and patients are all choosing to consume information differently. Given this environment, the key ingredients to master a commercial launch need to evolve.

That’s not to say that the traditional launch model is redundant. Despite the rapidly evolving landscape, launch fundamentals very much apply.

Building a structured roadmap, identifying key points based on actionable insights, prioritising customer segments according to potential value and activating an effective strategy – all of these remain vital to an effective launch.

Medical and commercial teams still need the mindset, capabilities, tools and processes to engage and act, whether planning from T-60 months or T-6.

But to truly master and deliver launch excellence in today’s challenging, hybrid world, two key ingredients are necessary: human-centricity and agility.



Engage the humans behind the launch

‘Of course,’ we hear you say, ‘patient- centricity is something we’ve been focusing on for years.’ But in a world where healthcare professionals (HCPs) have distinct channel preferences for receiving content and when people everywhere are experiencing virtual format fatigue, this is no longer enough.

We need to shift from a task-centric approach to a people-centric one. In other words, engage the humans behind the launch: patients, patient care-givers and influencers, HCPs and your clients’ internal teams.

This is no easy task – we are only just beginning to emerge from the crux of the pandemic, adapting to changes at breakneck speed, with human behaviours yet to be established.


This is why any human-centric approach to launch requires teams to engage with each other and react quickly to change. Indubitably, saying we need to be more agile and human-centric is one thing – but putting this into practice is another. It’s vital, therefore, to focus on three strategic priorities:


  • Equipped and empowered teams
  • Rapid feedback loops
  • Proactive personalisation.



Equip and empower internal teams to embrace the new landscape

The landscape has changed, and so the capabilities of your people must change too. Take for example sales representatives and MSLs – with a high percentage of virtual calls predicted for the foreseeable future, they need to effectively use virtual tools as well as apply these to the new landscape.

They need the necessary skills for a successful launch within a hybrid environment, which must be aligned to HCPs’ needs. This includes camera etiquette, virtual detail aid implementation and critical listening skills to uncover insights.

Teams also need to embrace a mindset that empowers motivation and resilience, inspiring them with the confidence to deliver. Look at challenges as an opportunity to learn, use lateral thinking to drive personalised approaches and have the foresight to react with speed.

And beyond all of this is the need for a system that can provide instant, in- the-moment feedback, and one that can turn such insights into action.

Rapid internal and external feedback loops

To successfully achieve ‘launch excellence’, we need to tailor and adapt our approach to each launch based on these learnings and insights.



Gone are the days of rigid brand plans – developed, filed away and not looked at until a year later. In today’s fast-paced, hybrid environment, no plans are set in stone. Successful launches rely on regularly updated plans, using real-time feedback from the humans behind the launch.

To become truly agile, processes and technology must foster collaboration between internal and external parties. Host regular, virtual focus groups via ThinkTank, ‘Ask me anything’ assemblies and monthly brand check-ins, as well as implement systems for rapid feedback that support an approach based on applicable learnings, such as brand plans fuelled by objectives and key results (OKRs), real-time workshops and hackathons.

Proactive personalisation

But being responsive is not enough – we need to know what, when, where and how people want to engage – and update these findings regularly.

It’s about proactively personalising our approach. To better align HCPs’ preferences and tailor interactions to their needs, it’s now vital to arm commercial and medical teams with expertise in critical listening and questioning, in order to uncover key insights and application- based skills.

These can be supplemented with behavioural science that challenges established practices and improves performance. Regardless of the audience, we need to communicate to engage and learn, not to tell or sell.

The traditional launch model is still there, it has just evolved to become a more agile, human-centric one.

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