Most marketing managers within life science companies are under great pressure in their day-to-day role, managing multiple programs across many channels. Increasingly they’re being tasked with hiring and managing a range of marketing agencies, too. And many managers are often not trained in developing a marketing strategy and associated objectives, nor selecting and onboarding business partners. They will all understand the importance of doing this right — they don’t want the legacy of hiring the wrong agency. And they especially don’t want to be responsible for the lost money — both revenue from missed sales, and the actual cost of the selection process (a rough calculation has this at $15,070, see sidebar 1) if they get this wrong. So how do you begin to select the agency that will provide you with the results you need?
Within the SAMPS website is a valuable list of vendors who support life science companies, including a range of expert marketing suppliers. This is a great resource to identify agencies to which you could outsource your marketing (we’ll address whether you should outsource your marketing at all in the next article in this series). However, how can you tell which group is the best partner for you? All these agencies have worked in life sciences for many years, all will have an impressive list of companies that they’ve worked with, and all will have fantastic case studies.
The traditional approach is to pull together a request for proposal — RFP. This would provide an overview of your needs and require the agencies to present proposals on how they would solve this challenge, along with an estimate of how much they think this would cost you. There are a couple of major issues with this approach — firstly it puts the primary focus of the agency selection on cost. You’re asking the agencies to second-guess your budget, but it also adds an unconscious bias for the agency to provide cheaper solutions than their competitors. This results in a selection based on cost, not quality. For more information on how to select an agency based on qualifications as opposed to price, I suggest you read this post.
Many companies also use the RFP process to develop their marketing strategy — by setting out the challenge that is faced, agencies are then asked to present their ideas on what they would do to help overcome them. This is not only unfair to agencies (asking them to do important work for you free), but when combined with the cost bias mentioned previously, you risk being presented with solutions that are cheaper for the agency to deliver, as opposed to the most appropriate solutions for your needs.
So how do you select the right life science marketing agency for your needs?
Before identifying your short list of agencies to interview, it’s essential that you:
You’re now ready to short-list the agencies that you’d like to meet with.
As you can see, it’s not a short or easy process to get to this point, and you’ve not even started meeting with the potential agencies. Feeling daunted? Rightly so — selecting an agency isn’t easy, and the ramifications from a bad choice are significant, so it’s important that you commit sufficient time and resources to ensure success. But guidance from those experienced in the process can help you apply the principles that transform a daunting task into a productive process.
To that end, the SAMPS is partnering with Covalent Bonds to offer its members a free-of-charge service (as part of your membership) to help with the agency selection process. If you’d like assistance with all the stages discussed above, as well as managing the agency presentation meetings, please register here. Read more about this added benefit of your membership below (see sidebar 2).
The below table shows the calculations for the time cost of hiring an agency. We have used an average rate of $110 per hour for the various salary roles (ranging from an entry-level marcom manager to chief marketing officer). The typical time spent on each stage has been taken from anecdotal discussions with marketing representatives from US-based life sciences companies.
The SAMPS Marketing Success Service:
SAMPS has partnered with Covalent Bonds to offer its supporting members a free marketing success service. Fundamentally, the reason companies use marketing is to generate sales for the company and boost the bottom line. It is therefore essential to lay the foundations for success in a marketing program.
Most companies do not have the time to keep track of the life science marketing agency landscape, nor the skills to develop a powerful brief to help select the right agency from a short list. Designed to help companies navigate the complex world of agency selection and review, this service will help:
Laura Brown is the CEO of Covalent Bonds. Covalent Bonds works with scientific and tech companies FOR FREE, to develop a brief for a marketing program, and to select the right agency, to ensure the partnership is as powerful and long-lasting as possible.