By Cinda Orr, President and CEO, SCORR Marketing
To outsource some or all of your marketing function, or not — this appears to be a question on the minds of most drug development services companies lately. It’s a decision not to be taken lightly; a company needs to think strategically about its communication goals, partnership expectations and budget.
In late 2013, SCORR Marketing finalized a survey of more than 100 key decision makers in the drug development services industry. The goal of this survey was to get an inside look at how companies in the drug development services industry are allocating their budgets and meeting their marketing goals.
The survey, titled “Marketing Trends in Drug Development Services,” showed that most drug development services companies rely solely on an internal team, while almost one-third use a combination of an internal team and outsourcing. Only 8.1 percent outsource their entire marketing function. While there is no hard and fast rule about marketing models, for the purpose of this survey, three basic forms were addressed with respondents: in-house marketing teams, mix of in-house and outsourced work and fully outsourced marketing functions.
Partnerships Based on Industry Knowledge and Marketing Savvy
Drug development services companies opting to outsource some or all of their marketing efforts often do so because of cost and because it’s difficult to effectively utilize every marketing domain, especially new and emerging ones like digital and social media. When an internal marketing team doesn’t have expertise in areas such as public relations, trade show exhibits, Web development and so on, it is nearly impossible to efficiently retain all services under one roof. However, companies also see outsourcing as problematic, especially when working with numerous vendors. Outsourced work can yield inconsistencies in branding and the application of the overall marketing strategy, which can end up costing a company substantially more.
Companies considering a marketing partner will gain the most by working with someone with an innate understanding of this industry. Having industry experience shortens the getting acquainted phase. These partners have an immediate understanding of the industry and its specific needs, as well as a track record of proven branding strategies and tactics. Ultimately, strategic marketing partnerships can bring the best of both worlds to a brand: industry expertise and a full-time commitment to understanding and utilizing marketing domains — especially newer options.
With any partnership, establishing common goals and a clear understanding of responsibilities and expectations is imperative. The best way to ensure success is to develop a system for holding internal and external marketing teams accountable. Through reporting, budgeting, benchmarking or a combination of these, the value — or overall effectiveness — of your marketing program becomes clear.
Strong Brands Rise from Strategic Marketing Plans
In order to effectively meet their business goals, drug development services companies need to create an annual marketing plan. This document is an outline of initiatives that will move a company closer to its target position. It’s the actuation of a strategy, and drafting an annual marketing plan requires a lot of coordination and detailed work.
Respondents were asked whether their company had a marketing plan in place. Nearly a quarter said no. From those who have a plan in place, comments were made such as: “We do one each year, but don’t adhere to it strictly,” and “We’re developing one with our business development team. It’s largely happenstance. When someone who is willing to pay contacts you, your focus becomes what they need done.”
Remarks like these indicate many companies view a marketing plan as a task, not a strategy. However, an annual marketing plan really is an asset because it holds a company to its strategy and keeps the marketing team accountable to execute what it sets out to do.
As part of the annual marketing plan, companies should also develop a public relations/communications plan. Again, the survey showed that almost half of the respondents don’t currently have a public relations/communications plan in place. This makes them vulnerable to public relations disasters, and in an age where news is shared in real-time, it’s important to establish control over a company’s image to ensure all communications are portrayed correctly. If a company isn’t prepared to proactively manage the collective dialogue about its image, it will continually be in a reactionary, or defensive, mode.
A communications plan helps to address the who, what, when, where and why of how a company will approach its audience. There are numerous ways to go about designing a plan. Some companies only have a brief section in their plan for online communications, while others may specify best practices for their website, individual social media networks, industry forums and so on.
Transforming Clients into Loyalists
Client satisfaction, which can be measured by loyalty, is a chief driver of any company’s bottom line. Retaining a client is far more cost-efficient than capturing a new one. However, when respondents were asked if their company regularly asks for feedback, nearly a quarter said no.
A cost-effective solution for determining how clients perceive a brand is through client satisfaction surveys. This tool provides real insight into how a company can improve its offerings and operations. Current and past clients can identify shortcomings that often fade into the internal team’s periphery, but still matter. Drug development services companies can use client perception and conduct performance benchmarking, monitoring and reporting to align operations with the voice of clients.
The survey conducted by our market intelligence team demonstrates the shift toward outsourcing some, if not all, of the marketing function among drug development services companies. However, these companies need to have a solid understanding of their goals and their brand position as they choose marketing partners and create plans for implementation. To gain deeper insights, download the full report for “Marketing Trends in Drug Development Services” for free.