Blog / Jumpstart Your Brand Launch: Build a Pre-Approval Network of Patients

Jumpstart Your Brand Launch: Build a Pre-Approval Network of Patients

Scott Lerman  -  6/29/2021

Launching a new product is daunting, no question about it. But it’s also an exciting time when Marketing teams can innovate and bring potentially life-changing treatments to those who need it. The biggest hurdle that many new brands must overcome? Creating awareness.

Whether it’s a new therapy or a new indication, awareness among both patients and health care providers is crucial to a successful launch. Unfortunately, making an impression can be difficult. Perhaps the market for the therapeutic area is underserved and needs to be developed or maybe competitors have had a head start. Either way, a key challenge Marketing teams face is how to capture attention, while also informing and inspiring stakeholders to act.

The inclusion of real patient experiences in marketing and communications materials is an optimal way to reach these goals. How can a brand team establish relationships with patients and integrate their experiences before a product is commercially available? By developing a Pre-approval Network.

A Pre-approval Network is exactly what it sounds like: an organized approach to identify and vet patients and caregivers interested in sharing their experiences and training them on how to do so in a relatable and compliant fashion – before a treatment has been approved by the FDA. With a Pre-approval Network in place at launch, brands don’t lose any time tapping into the authentic experiences of real patients to boost the impact of their launch communications, both internally and externally.

But if a product hasn’t launched yet, how can the brand team identify and amplify the experiences of people who have used it? The solution is one of the most frequently under-engaged groups available: clinical trial participants.

Think about it—people who participate in clinical trials not only have treatment experience, but they proactively sought out the opportunity. By participating in a trial, they’ve already demonstrated the kind of self-efficacy that has proven to lead to better health outcomes. So why aren’t more brands building Pre-approval Networks comprised of clinical trial participants? Most often, because they simply don’t know how, don’t think they can, or lack an experienced partner to guide them through the process.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Pre-approval Networks are not complicated or risky, but they do require experience and know how to execute compliantly and efficiently. One key component is ensuring internal buy-in, especially with Clinical Operations teams. Working with an experienced partner who can help you engage clinical colleagues, diagram and share proven process flows, and present case studies from across the industry will inspire confidence amongst clinical colleagues.

Similarly, engaging the right partner who can leverage proven, templated investigator and patient communication materials supports efficient internal and IRB approval. Starting from scratch is a heavy lift, so working with someone who knows what works and what passes review is essential.

Help investigators see the value.

Patients are recruited for Pre-approval Networks through investigators who must themselves be recruited to make trial participants aware of the opportunity. As we all know, trial sites are busy places. In our experience, the best way to secure investigator buy-in is to communicate the value that a Pre-approval Network can provide both trial participants and the broader patient community.

Participating in a Network offers patients the chance to share their unique health journey and treatment experiences and make a positive impact on others—whether that be fellow patients, healthcare providers, or bio-pharma employees. We have heard time and time again that the simple act of sharing can give meaning to an otherwise difficult situation.

Build momentum early and tap into its value.

It’s essential to get clinical investigators invested and motivated to help with outreach as soon as possible to develop a successful Pre-approval Network. Trial sites are more likely to inform patients of the opportunity to participate while they are still under their care, so waiting for trial closure can result in avoidable recruitment challenges. This approach also ensures that the brand team will have the benefit of interacting directly with trial participants prior to launch and can prepare their brand messaging, strategy, and tactics accordingly.

As approval approaches, transitioning a Pre-approval Network to a Branded Network of patients will ensure that patients are available to share their product-specific or disease state experiences in public forums as soon as marketing activities begin. Providing each patient with intensive training and support is necessary to prepare them to share their stories in a compelling and compliant manner with as many people as possible. Stories that focus on treatment decision making, the treatment process, and outcomes—all delivered through the voices of patients and caregivers—can have an enormous impact on how healthcare consumers view new products.

Successful brands are built on trust.

While creating awareness is the top priority for new brands, it needs to be positive awareness.

As we’ve seen with the widespread hesitancy and outright resistance to the COVID-19 vaccines, even high-profile treatments can face a significant trust challenge. Despite the rigors of the FDA approval process, many people are unwilling to try a treatment that hasn’t been on the market for a significant period and developed a positive reputation among healthcare consumers and professionals alike.

Explanations about phases, participants, and controls simply fall flat for some people – to them, the most meaningful and reassuring evidence of a treatment that can help is seeing and hearing from an actual person who has experienced those benefits. This isn’t surprising. We’re social animals, after all, who learn most effectively through storytelling.

Establishing and engaging a Pre-Approval Network is the ideal way to address this challenge because it allows brand teams to preemptively recruit and train people to share their experiences at launch, ensuring that brand communications integrate the kind of real, authentic experiences that help establish trust from day one.

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