September 2015 Edition Vol.11, Issue 9

Beyond the Peak: Four Levers to Address Quickly Plateauing Oncology Drug Sales

Beyond the Peak: Four Levers to Address Quickly Plateauing Oncology Drug Sales (continued)

Even with a strong positioning and compelling value story, companies must ensure the story reaches oncologists and resonates.

ZS's AffinityMonitor™ report shows non-personal promotion (e.g., digital communication channels) can especially help manufacturers reach traditionally access-restrictive oncologists. Companies that coordinate these communication channels between marketing and field sales see personal and non-personal promotion as complementary, not competitive (Figure 2). 

For example, emails to customers sent by sales representatives are opened two to three times more often than corporate emails. To maximize growth, companies can develop the capability to capture these kinds of insights, and then execute customer engagement models driven by customer-centric, multichannel strategies. 

Essentially, they must become not only “customer-engaged,” but also “customer-led.” Marketing departments plan and leverage support systems to answer the question, “What do customers need from us now, and in what ways, to ensure the next eligible patient gets our product?” Is it engagement with a nurse specialist to help train the practice? A reprint they received in the past, but is timelier now? Discussion of insurance and Medicare coverage? Marketers who have the mindset, systems and tools to orchestrate responses to these questions will enjoy key advantages in future launches (Figure 3).

The commercial model in oncology is shifting from “all oncologists are the same” to “every oncologist is unique.” This requires not only changes in strategy but also improvements in infrastructure to enhance commercial agility and flexibility.

Marketers need new capabilities to capture and act on emotional drivers of customer behavior with a coordinated, flexible and targeted plan to maximize engagement. Thoughtful, coordinated marketing tactics across channels at the speed of launch require access to rich, multidimensional data sets, the ability to integrate diverse sources to gain a holistic perspective on the customer and new ways of modeling to achieve deeper insights.

Success in this arena requires marketers to access “always on” analytics developed with a data science mentality. Insights could come from anywhere, and data proliferation opens a Pandora’s box of possibilities for assessing the situation.

For example, one company segmented customer accounts into three groups based on high, medium and low share. Thinking of the customer base in terms of three segments would have led to three segment-level strategies.

However, the original segmentation misrepresented the reality. By integrating primary research on what drove high, medium and low share, ZS could see that, in fact, there was no true medium-share segment. These accounts were comprised of a mix of doctors with high and low share.

Agility is especially critical as industry continues to consolidate. With more stakeholders influencing protocol, purchasing and contracting decisions with large customers, marketers must adapt quickly to account-level behavior changes and shifting influences on contracting decisions.

This level of agility is especially important in defining and executing a key account management (KAM) program. The KAM role manages a network of stakeholders, determines the impact of decisions at the account level and then manages the account with that in mind – including key account strategy and marketing. Empowering KAMs with tools to support driving complex, multidimensional engagements with customers is critical to ensure products follow a compelling growth path.

Net-Net: Success Driven by Agile Operations, Organic Growth

Faced with the challenge of quickly plateauing drug sales, pharmaceutical companies must continue to evolve their approach to oncology marketing and execution.

Those that continue relying on traditional oncology launch models and strategies will likely stagnate and struggle to grow. But companies that work to gain a detailed understanding of patients and physicians, adapt to non-clinical drivers, integrate sales and marketing tools, and deploy analytics and technology will position themselves to achieve sustained, long-term growth.


About the Contributors


Sean Walter is a Principal with ZS and can be reached at

Maria Whitman is a Managing Principal with ZS and also leads ZS’s Oncology and Specialty Therapeutics Practice. She can be reached at



ZS is the world’s largest firm focused exclusively on improving business performance through sales and marketing solutions, from customer insights and strategy to analytics, operations and technology. More than 4,000 ZS professionals in 22 offices worldwide draw on deep industry and domain expertise to deliver impact where it matters for clients across multiple industries.

ZS’s Oncology Practice combines deep expertise and innovation to tackle growing market complexity. In 2014, ZS completed more than 1,600 engagements in Oncology for more than 60 Oncology manufacturers. This work spanned 65 countries and over 40 issue areas. ZS recently adapted its innovative Customer-Centric Marketing solutions to Oncology. This includes an Orchestrator Representative solution to improve access and enhance the customer experience by enabling coordinated multichannel customer engagement at the intersection of marketing, sales and technology.

To learn more, visit or follow us on Twitter (@ZSAssociates) and LinkedIn.

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