CDMOs – and life sciences suppliers in general – have slowly lost insight into purchasing decisions. Vendor evaluation has moved to independent, hidden, and digitally-enabled buying journeys. This was especially true when a global pandemic prevented almost all in-person trade shows, conferences, events, and face-to-face sales meetings.
Despite these challenging circumstances surrounding B2B marketing, many Life Science Connect partners have successfully used a content marketing strategy to increase brand awareness and grow revenue.
A shining example of this is a CDMO partner with a 350,000 square-foot facility on the east coast, including 70 manufacturing rooms plus containment suites for high potency compounds/hormones, oral products, and injectables. Despite having grown to approximately $50M in annual revenue, the company had been mostly stagnant for the past 20 years.
Comfort with a status quo approach to marketing and sales became problematic as their prospects and customers transformed their buyer's journey. Their commercial strategy depended on trade shows, sales team members' contacts, and one-off promotional content. Collaboration between the sales and marketing teams was limited.
New leadership set a short-term goal to triple in size. These aspirations went beyond revenue. This CDMO wants to help the entire healthcare supply chain: For CDMOs to play a much larger role in alleviating drug shortages, to help more patients, and to have a positive impact on society.
Challenges & Opportunities
This CDMO first started working with Life Science Connect in 2019 via an Outsourced Pharma event sponsorship and syndicated content on Pharmaceutical Online. Heading into 2020, this CDMO sought to expand the partnership to address two key challenges.
- Expand name recognition/brand awareness. According to ISR Reports, this CDMO ranked below the industry average in familiarity (51% of respondents had never heard of the company). According to the same ISR research study, companies with stronger familiarity among respondents receive a higher percentage of proposal requests than their lesser-known competitors, which restates the significance of brand awareness for CMOs in the drug product manufacturing space.
- Establish a process to continually generate high-quality leads. The new head of marketing described previous lead generation efforts as "random acts of marketing." They had previously relied on trade shows as their primary source of lead generation. An existing database of about 17,000 names was not generating new business opportunities for the sales team. Their existing content library was highly promotional and geared toward the late stages of the buyer's journey. Even when new leads were generated, the CDMO did not have a nurturing process to further qualify opportunities.
Life Science Connect designed a customized program to address these challenges that would build off the changes made to this CDMO's sales and marketing processes. These changes would help transform marketing in a measurable way – a way that could be evaluated on the number of meetings, pipeline opportunities, and closed deals.
The first task in their initiative was to evaluate and audit the existing database of contacts. A third-party email verification and an engagement analysis narrowed the list, and an in-depth review of the rest was enough to get the list to 6,000 viable contacts within the pharma market. What was left was an engaged audience that received a series of nurture emails containing unique and high-quality thought leadership content.
The switch to engaging prospects with thought leadership was an essential element in this CDMO's success. "We kept drilling into the team that content cannot be a sales pitch," says the director of marketing. "It can't be about selling parental fill-finish. Instead, it has to be about what we want to tell these pharma companies to help them with that."
After the data cleanliness hurdle was overcome and better content was developed, our client implemented new processes to walk engaged prospects through the client journey. This begins with the introduction of a responsive prospect to an SME with deep subject knowledge to focus on how they could help solve the prospect's problems. After the SME validated the lead, they were passed along to the sales team.
Their new process focused on helping – and not on selling – has only been successful because it has the right quality and quantity of leads. Life Science Connect is the primary source of lead generation feeding this CDMO's entire marketing strategy. This CDMO wanted to target biopharma companies with a therapeutic focus in oncology, mental health, or controlled substances, as well as biopharma consultants. The next steps also include a stack approach to content, delving deeper into areas of interest with sequels to original articles.
To help ensure that the CDMO's campaign optimized the delivery of newly developed early-stage content to a qualified audience of biopharma readers, Life Science Connect recommended a program of content targeting and delivery solutions. In addition, the Life Science Connect team sought to act as an extension of our client's sales team. The customized program included the following elements:
- Monthly Audience Access to PharmaceuticalOnline.com and OutsourcedPharma.com
- 2 Custom Newsletters sent to the OutsourcedPharma.com audience
- 3 premier Newsletter Sponsorships each for PharmaceuticalOnline.com and OutsourcedPharma.com
- Banner retargeting
- Targeted E-blasts
- Sourcing center listing on OutsourcedPharma.com
- Weekly call with a Life Science Connect business development manager to review engagements and program elements
The average investment in the first six months of this revitalized program with Life Science Connect ranged from $10,000 to $15,000 per month. This was in line with the leadership team's commitment to approve marketing's request for a total digital marketing budget of 1.5% of revenue (excluding salaries and events).
In addition to their investment with Life Science Connect, our client invested in content creation services, website design, and social media optimization. Although their marketing department is a team of one, their partnership with Life Science Connect and these other consultants allows them to compete with larger CDMOs like Catalent and Patheon. Ongoing communication helps to streamline efforts and share best practices. For example, the CDMO openly shares which accounts are actively engaged in a buyer's journey conversation, allowing all third-party collaborators to understand where the CDMO is finding success. Plus, it helps the Life Science Connect team identify trends in content engagements from target accounts.
"Yes, I do have to feed more new names into our funnel," says the CDMO's director of marketing. "But what I really want to do is get to the bottom of our prospect ecosystem. To follow these people, engage with them, and really understand what kind of content we should be serving them. That's where we really get value from the data and intelligence Life Science Connect delivers."
Life Science Connect has a unique ability to provide engagement data that goes beyond basic lead generation. The program allows this CDMO to capture and analyze reader-level and organizational-level content behavior. The combination of contact information, demographic data, and behavioral data gives partners a clearer vision of the buyer’s journey. Custom reporting fields were added as a program upgrade, which allows this CDMO to see each biopharma lead’s therapeutic area, route of administration, molecule type, and company size.
When a typical outsourcing decision takes several months to several years, content engagements rarely reveal ready-to-buy leads. However, the CDMO's program drastically exceeded expectations in a relatively short amount of time:
- Within six months, 130 one-to-one virtual meetings were secured for the sales team.
- These virtual meetings resulted in 84 CDAs.
- The CDAs generated $28 million+ in quotes.
- The CDMO won $6.2 million+ in new business by securing 10 partnerships, a number that continues to grow.
The revenue generation is far from the only part of this success story. This CDMO also saw a boost in brand awareness metrics. Website traffic, social media impressions, and email campaign performance rates all increased. As a result, this CDMO is now averaging 11.5 qualified inquiries per week and an average of four or more one-on-one meetings per week for their sales team.
"Nobody believes in thought leadership until you show them the numbers," says the director of marketing. "That's why you have to be metric-driven and data-driven. It helps to have data that simplifies it for your team by showing them, 'The people you want to reach are engaging with these articles.’"
This CDMO's success with the initial Life Science Connect program far exceeds the original investment. In the coming year, they are increasing their marketing activities by adding more custom newsletters, an analytics program that includes custom reporting fields, and a package of Enhanced Lead Intelligence reports to help zero in on target accounts. This commitment level is part of their total marketing budget, increasing towards 2% of total company revenue.
The director of marketing says, "This is a much more cost-effective and targeted way to 'do' sales and marketing. You'll start to gain some traction quickly because your efforts will attract the right customer. You can do that with the right content on the right digital platform."
The first six months of this program were largely overseen by a few members of the CDMO's team. Thanks to its success, the marketing team was able to expand, and the new hire will help qualify leads, build direct outreach campaigns, work closely with SMEs, and transition qualified opportunities to the sales team. They now have more inquiries than the current sales team can handle, so they are working on building an inside sales team to help build relationships early in the buyer's journey.
"I think the desire to go back to trade shows is from the CDMO side," says the director of marketing. "What I'm seeing from clients and prospects is they really appreciate these digital content and meeting opportunities because they are busy. Finding the right CDMO is a small part of their day-to-day work. Digitizing the buyer's journey makes it quick and easy."
 This data comes from ISR's "Small Molecule Drug Product Contract Manufacturing Quality Benchmarking (3rd Edition)" report, published in January 2020.
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