passing the baton

Pietro Crovetto, VP Global Inhalation Strategy at Lupin Pharmaceuticals with vast experience from the international pharmaceutical industry at various prominent positions within commerce, marketing, strategy, and business development, for a variety of companies including Novartis, Chiesi, ALK Abelló and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Pietro has been a client to Opticom for over 10 years, both at previous positions and now, working for Lupin. He gives the background to his experiences with Opticom International Research, focusing on the latest Lupin project Opticom conducted, that he was personally involved in.

PietroLupin
Pietro Crovetto VP, Global Inhalation Strategy, Lupin Pharmaceuticals

The main objective was to map the unmet needs of healthcare professionals and patients within asthma and COPD in terms of currently available innovative products’ attributes, in order to develop Lupin’s product so that it would satisfy those unmet needs better than competitor products.

Another aim was to enable Lupin to differentiate its product, including the services and monitoring systems offered, from existing alternatives and competitor products.

In the end, the main goal was to create a product that improves patient quality of life through ease-of-use, thus leading to improved compliance and lower treatment cost, something which would also lead to obvious advantages for healthcare professionals as well as payers.

The targeted markets in this project were the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. The information was gathered in two modules, starting with desk research identifying relevant respondents with whom in-depth telephone interviews were then conducted.

Describing this project, Pietro explains that his idea was to monitor the emerging changes in therapeutic approaches and especially the interest in new combination products within the treatments of asthma and COPD. Basically to get a European overview of the present situation and to identify whether their designed new combination product was going to be successful or not and whether there were any differences across the European markets in this respect.

Pietro continues: I wanted to benchmark, to interview “real” clinicians, not opinion leaders, because there is a critical difference here. Opinion leaders are up to speed with the latest research and treatment options, as they often have done this research themselves, while clinicians might very well have heard about new stuff, after all they are specialists, but they are not necessarily as enthusiastic to adopt something new as the opinion leaders.

Choosing Opticom to supply Lupin with the market research was based on a combination of different factors; first of all good experiences in the past, resulting in a strong sense of reliability. According to Pietro, a key asset of Opticom is the fact that they offer both a very knowledgeable staff who understand the complex medical issues as well as their multilingual skills: “It helps a lot when we do not have to explain so much to a supplier and more time can be spent on the actual research, on the specifics of the projects!”

Sometimes the challenge with international market research, Pietro explains, is that you end up with the “Chinese whisper”, meaning I brief you, you brief somebody else and then that person briefs somebody else in turn, and then at the end of the day, you are not sure what went missing and where. So based on that, the two main points on why to choose Opticom are definitely their knowledge of the field and its multilingual staff based in one office. A third reason, according to Pietro, actually equally important: every time he has worked with Opticom, the adopted strategy has been to do 20-30% of the interviews, then pause for evaluation of the questionnaire, the response and answers so far: simply put: is it working? The Project Managers at Opticom are very flexible here and that is greatly appreciated, to optimize the quality of the output.

Concerning what the market insights provided by Opticom have meant to Lupin and what has been most valuable, Pietro points to the decision to invest in particular combinations of treatments, emphasizing that this is the most critical stage in their R&D and business development without going into specifics.

The results have also influenced their business decision-making, being added into their forecasting, because even if the research was qualitative, it was still very helpful to better understand what direction the market was taking. All in all, the insights have been used on several levels and according to Pietro, further investment decisions within asthma and COPD are definitely going to be based on the results from this research as well.

Asked about the return of investment, Pietro confesses: “To be honest, we didn’t count on ROI, but it was not at all expensive considering the huge amounts that have been spent on this treatment area, so the money we spent with Opticom was definitely worth it, more than worth it!”

According to Pietro, the main benefits of this specific project were that his team at Lupin got an additional level of insights on a practical level: there is a crucial difference between the people who work on the front line with patients and the opinion leaders, the high science: “We need to have a balance of both because we cannot ignore high science but at the end of the day we need to understand nurses on the floor, having issues reconstituting the product, for example. That is really a very valuable difference to us and something that Opticom understands. So I am very satisfied, more than satisfied and very happy with the co-operation with Opticom!”

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Niko Kujala has been working within the product segment of breakers and switches at ABB Protection and Connection in Vaasa, Finland since 2011 and he has held different international positions within both sales and production. He gives the background to his first experience with Opticom International Research: We knew that we wanted to conduct customer satisfaction research on a global level in order to better understand our customers’ needs, basically asking them: What were the needs in different fields and what do we as a supplier need to do better?

Niko ABB
Niko Kujala, Global Sales support Specialist, ABB Protection and Connection

In the process of selecting a market research agency, the ABB team had five competing potential suppliers providing quotes to look into. Niko continues: After evaluating the different options, we found that Opticom’s offer was by far the clearest, it was obvious that Opticom had made an effort to get to know our business and therefore understood our needs. In addition to that, the price level was also good.

Niko says that the quick initial response to any question that ABB had concerning the designed project as well as the smooth communication with the Opticom project team overall were further factors that tilted ABB to choose Opticom in the end.

The customer satisfaction survey covered more than 20 countries worldwide, with strong involvement from the local offices to make sure the most important customers per market were interviewed.

We got very valuable insights concerning client needs in in an ever more competitive market: what our clients appreciate about our products and services, how we can help them improve their own business, and also indications on where there is still need for improvement.

Niko explains that a lot of actions have been taken by them at ABB after the results in the final report were presented and statistical files and individual interview transcripts were delivered. Most decisions concern increasing and improving their direct communication with clients. He reveals that their business has grown since the research was completed and that the insights definitely have further supported this growth.

When asked what he would regard as the main benefits with this specific project, Niko points out that it was easy doing business with Opticom, that the communication was always smooth, the offer was prepared really well and that Opticom understood our needs in this kind of research right away. Therefore, wrapping up, he would definitely recommend that ABB would go with Opticom again, whenever the need for market insights arises.

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Francesco De Rosa, with vast experience from the international pharma industry at various prominent positions within sales, brand and business managing, gives the background to one of his first experiences with Opticom International Research: “At the time, I had taken over a very important Pfizer brand with a five-year legacy of declining market shares and I needed to get a 360 degree understanding of the decision-making process within the growth hormone therapy area” he explains and continues: “My scope was clear: bend the trend!”.

To gain this crucial understanding, Francesco turned to Opticom, a company which had previously delivered very good and useful results in projects for another pharmaceutical brand he had worked with. In the project of close co-operation that followed, Opticom conducted about 100 qualitative interviews with parents, paediatricians, and nurses to understand their different needs and reasoning within this therapy area.

The research discovered many “leaks” that delayed children’s access to treatment as well as large regional differences. Based on Opticom’s comprehensive analysis of the patient journey and treatment rationales, Francesco was able to change his company’s strategy, including a relocation of resources, better aligned to the customer landscape, as well as to improve communication around the value of treatment. In addition, the team could optimize its different support tools to physicians, nurses and parents, in order to facilitate earlier diagnose and better compliance.

Furthermore, Francesco and his colleagues came up with an improved treatment device to deal with an issue rated very important among respondents in the survey: Ease-of-use.

He describes the direct impact of this new, very valuable market knowledge: “Thanks to the new insights we designed a new device for the treatment of growth hormones deficiencies among children in order to meet the single most important factor in the choice of treatment: Easy-of-use of the device. This resulted in a patent available in more than 100 countries worldwide”.

As a result of the new strategy, the brand soon turned decline into growth and has been continuing this positive development ever since.

According to Francesco, the generation of updated customer insights is key to their business. Understanding both traditional and non-traditional stakeholders, their needs, as well as the patient journey and the decision-making process is fundamental in forming a successful business strategy.

In these situations you need a consulting company with a strong focus on quality, and with a thorough process for both research as well as analysis that delivers real and actionable results. That is where Opticom comes in as a very valuable partner with the staff’s vast knowledge and experience of the pharma industry:  “They are methodical in their understanding of customer needs and in making sure that the setup of the project, from the very start to result implementation, is consistent and with a great focus on details and delivery” says Francesco, who would definitely engage Opticom again to gain strategic insights and/or to facilitate optimized communication.

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munksjo

Munksjö has the aim to be a global leader in high-quality specialty papers, providing customers with a unique product offering for a large number of industrial applications and consumer-driven products. In developing its strategy and business planning, customers’ experiences and input are extremely important in order to ensure decisions are taken that really are of value to Munksjö’s customers and which will result in a more favourable competitive position for the company.

Jan Åström, President and CEO, Munksjö Oyj

“Customer focus is key to succeed in the process of reshaping ourselves following the merger with Ahlstrom’s Label and Processing business,” says Jan Åström, President and CEO of Munksjö Oyj. “At the end of the day, our customers are those who pay our salaries. Their evolving needs and challenges, as well as our competition, mean that we must continue to improve if we want to stay ahead.”

To involve customers in this open dialogue about Munksjö’s current performance and future position, Opticom was engaged to develop a plan and design a model for gathering and analysing customer input and measuring customer satisfaction. A global, company-wide survey was conducted covering all business areas: Decor, Release Liners, Industrial Applications as well as Graphics and Packaging. Customers provided positive feedback and highlighted clear strengths, as well as suggestions on where improvements could be made and how they would like Munksjö to develop.

To further increase internal motivation and commitment, Opticom and Munksjö organized a series of workshops with representatives for the different business areas covering a wide range of functions across the organization in order to make the most of the input customers provided. In total, more than 80 managers from across the globe were involved in reviewing customer feedback and creating ideas on what can be done to ensure customers will be even more satisfied with Munksjö in the future.

“I am impressed with the high level of engagement we have seen from all participants and the impressive list of actions that have come out of all workshops ranging from quick-wins to important long-term strategic initiatives,” Jan Åström concludes. “Our employees have helped us in taking customer suggestions and translating them into specific actions that we can use to make sure customers will continue to see us as a preferred supplier. Opticom’s method has given us insight into which actions would be of greatest value to our customers and which our organization would like to prioritise.”

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caris

Many believe personalised medicine is the future for health care. Caris, a pioneer in this field, specialised in personalised cancer diagnostics, discovered that although many agree that this is the future, it is hard to present the service and discuss how this future would fit today’s practices. To overcome this challenge and discuss the whole issue as a common challenge that needs involvement from different stakeholders in health care, Caris engaged Opticom to conduct Future Labs in a number of cities across Sweden.

Caris Molecular Intelligence provides oncologists with the most relevant, clinically actionable and individualised treatment information to personalise cancer care for all solid tumours. While traditionally in the Nordic countries tumours are checked for about 3 or 4 biomarkers, Caris’ solution routinely checks for 70 biomarkers, including those normally only associated with other solid tumours. By doing so, Caris’ Evidence Engine can suggest the drugs that are most likely to be effective for this particular patient, based on the biology of the tumour as well as its global database of the most recent relevant scientific evidence.

Jonas Nylander, Nordic Sales and Business Development Director, Caris Life Sciences

Valuable that participants let go of their usual role
“We decided to organise these Future Labs with Opticom to be able to discuss in a structured way how a hypothetical introduction of our service, that seems to be so far away in the future, would be done and to get a good dialogue in a good forum where it is allowed to be creative and be future-minded,” Jonas Nylander, Nordic Sales and Business Development Director at Caris Life Sciences, explains.

“I think the most valuable part of the method is that, since it is called Future Lab, you create a think tank. Just the title of the meeting allows participants to let go of their usual roles and all the usual barriers can be set aside for a moment. When we discuss the question with one person at a time, the entire debate gets stuck from all sides because everyone refers to someone else. But when we can agree that this is interesting to look at and considered to be the future, which oncologists and pathologists do agree on, while politicians think it is interesting and the patients ask why can we not have this today already, then we can start to discuss how we can reach this future sooner or how we should adjust so that we can also make this a reality in the future in Sweden. Then we can get a good discussion about questions that are relevant already in today’s situation. When a think tank like this starts to discuss the future, they are actually discussing how we can implement the future already today.”

Companies invest too few resources in researching their markets
“I believe companies invest too few resources in researching their markets, not only quantitatively, but especially qualitatively. Many underestimate the value of having this kind dialogue and discussing with the market in a structured way. They just think that doing research provides us with information we already had before we started. To communicate with different stakeholders in this kind of format where the context is quite different from the usual ways we interact with them also contributes to moving forward on the important questions in a very good way. In the normal context, people may get defensive, but in this situation they are asked to consider the product or the service and become part of developing how this can be implemented. There are many companies who just see this as a given and just say why do I need more market research? But this type of projects do not just have the purpose of getting more information, they also aim at changing the way these issues are discussed.”

Positive feedback from participants
“We also got comments from several participants that they thought it was very interesting to get this time and to set aside time in their busy schedules to sit down and take the opportunity to have a meeting where they can discuss the future for cancer treatment and diagnostics with oncologists, pathologists, politicians and patient representatives. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from participants. The most stressed professors we know, who travel a lot and always have lot going on, they have indicated that they considered it valuable to take this time and sit together with others and discuss these questions even though they took time from their evenings, their personal free time, to do this. They may not have expected it to be this valuable beforehand, but have told us that it really was valuable afterwards.”

“All in all, I would say it was well invested money! Conducting Future Labs like this can contribute to changing the dialogue and discuss solutions from a new angle, as a common problem that we need to solve together. The future in health care is a joint problem or a joint challenge, so it is good to discuss it as a common challenge instead of as a company that is trying to establish a service on a market,” Jonas Nylander concludes.

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