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.
SCORR Marketing recently finalized its second annual 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 2014 Marketing Trends in Drug Development Services, showed that drug development services companies are turning away from relying solely on an internal team to using a combination of an internal team and outsourcing. Only 4 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.
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. An internal marketing team often doesn't have expertise in areas such as public relations, trade show exhibits, Web development, and so on; it is nearly impossible for a company to efficiently retain staff competent in all these services. 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.
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. Sixteen percent said no. 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.
Probably of even more concern is that the survey showed that more than a third 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.
This year, the survey delved into companies' digital marketing practices. Over a third of companies spend at least a quarter of their marketing budget on digital marketing; however, the companies surveyed report being only moderately satisfied at best with their digital marketing strategy. Additionally, only half report having a social media strategy. And, despite the prevalent use of phones and tablets to access information, less than half of these companies report that their company's website is optimized for mobile devices.
These results indicate that companies are not taking advantage of the many opportunities that digital marketing provides. While most companies primarily use digital marketing to create awareness, you should also look for ways to build relationships and develop a dialogue with your target audience. Digital marketing also provides numerous tools that allow you to develop an integrated marketing campaign and repurpose your current and existing materials. For example, if you have a white paper, you could promote it digitally through a press release, email, social media, video, and a webinar.
Additionally, to understand the overall effectiveness of your marketing, you must track analytics. This information is key to help you understand what is working and what is not.
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, 16 percent 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 among drug development services companies toward outsourcing some of the marketing function. 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 2014 Marketing Trends in Drug Development Services for free.