Glaxo Wellcome, Inc.
Revamped Sales Strategy Leads to Increased Profitability

Glaxo Wellcome’s CEFTIN (cefuroxime axetil) was the world’s best-selling oral cephalosporin antibiotic, but a problem continued to stymie GW marketers: It was all too obvious that the brand had yet to achieve its full potential. By today’s standards, it did not reach its expected blockbuster level (>$1billion in US sales). Moreover, despite an increase in sales promotion, the brand’s revenue remained flat and the market share had been on the decline for several years. With few years left before likely generic entry, appropriate brand goals had to be redefined in order to maximize the potential of its waning years.

Not Being Satisfied with Norms
Leisa Dennehy, currently a principal of BioPharma Consultants, Ltd., was given leadership of this brand. She undertook a complete revamping of the brand strategy and objectives. Dissatisfied that customer behavior was well understood, Leisa began with sales analysis and market research. Layer upon layer of "averages" and "norms" were peeled back to uncover some fundamental new customer insights. Although CEFTIN’s market share had declined in the overall antibiotic market, it was steadily increasing its dominance of the cephalosporin category of antibiotics. Primary market research showed that the brand had a rock-solid position as the best cephalosporin. Further analysis confirmed the brand was promotionally sensitive, that customers who "left the fold" left for good and that a small but loyal group of users accounted for much more than the 80/20 rule of business.

There is an industry sales rule of thumb to detail the top two deciles of physicians at least every two to six weeks. But did this practice actually effect sales of CEFTIN and provide an acceptable ROI? Was this the right allocation of precious sales resource? The answer, Leisa saw clearly, was a definitive no. "Looking beyond the first set of numbers takes a trained analytical mind guided by a strong gut knowledge of market place dynamics and customer behavior. I just knew the obvious answer was not the real answer."

Further analysis revealed that 80% + of sales came from a very small percentage of the customers and that only a reasonable threshold of first-line detailing was needed to keep loyal prescribers. This analysis led to what Leisa calls "the riskiest decision of my career." She made what was considered a completely heretical recommendation – to significantly reduce sales detailing effort and re-focus promotions at a very small audience at an increased frequency. "What marketing director asks to hugely cut detailing efforts while promising to keep revenues steady?" asks Leisa. "But I felt confident that I understood market dynamics and had enough factual evidence to back up my gut belief."

Less Can Be More, When You Find the Pivot Point to Leverage a Brand
The new strategy was adopted. Day by day, the brand continued to perform as normal levels, and in fact, prescribing increased among some loyalists as a result of the increased detailing frequency. CEFTIN’s product contribution profit margin increased by a third, while revenue declined by only 1%. As well, Glaxo Wellcome reaped an untold benefit as other brands receiving the reallocated details experienced increases in revenues.