Life Science Marketing is Intense
Most marketing managers within life science companies are under great pressure in their day to day, managing multiple programs across many channels. Increasingly they are being tasked with hiring and managing a range of specialist life science marketing agencies too. They 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 especially not be responsible for the lost money – both revenue from missed sales, and the actual cost of the selection process if they get this wrong. So how do you begin to select the agency that will provide you with the results you need?
How not to choose a life science marketing agency
How can you tell which is the best partner for you? If you enter ‘life science marketing agencies’ into Google a long list appears. All these agencies have worked in the industry for many years, all will have an impressive list of companies they have 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 a couple of major issues with this approach – firstly it puts the primary focus of the agency selection on cost. You are 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 on who is the cheapest, not who is the best. For more information on how to select an agency based on qualifications as opposed to price, I suggest you read this post: Why selecting a marketing agency on price is a recipe for disaster.
Many companies also use the RFP process to develop their marketing strategy – by setting out the challenge that is faced, life science marketing 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 right solutions for your needs.
Choosing the Right Life Science Marketing Agency 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, you must:
- Make sure you have a clear view of what you are trying to achieve with your marketing – and if you don’t know, pay a professional to help you conduct a marketing strategy workshop. It may seem costly, but it will save you money in the long run. There is no point in deploying tactics such as PR, marketing automation or social media, if they do not help you achieve your business goals – this will be just money down the drain
- Develop a realistic budget for the marketing program. Again, if you do not know where to start with this, speak to a specialist consultant. By providing the agencies with a budget at the outset, they can help you to design and deploy the best programs possible for your money
- Identify what success from the marketing programs will look like to you and your key stakeholders in the program. If your CEO wants their name on the front page of the WSJ, it is important you know this up front; and if your VP of Sales and Marketing is looking for measurable leads, make sure this is documented. Once you know what everyone wants, you need to convert them into objectives which have timeframes for their achievement, and a method for proving they have been attained
- Make sure all the stakeholders in the marketing program have provided input on what are important features for them from an agency. Is it essential that your marketing partner is trying new and creative marketing tactics, or that they have a proven methodology that they use repeatedly? Is agency location important? Are you looking for someone to take workload off your team, or are you looking for more strategic support? Once you have a list, you need to compile them into a set of selection criteria, that you can use to objectively assess each agency
- Once you have all this information, it must be pulled together into a comprehensive brief for the agencies. Don’t be tempted to hold back information to test the agencies’ industry knowledge – you are looking to build a partnership not a client-vendor relationship. Partnerships are built on trust and transparency, so give the agencies all the information they need to determine if they are the right partner for you.
- Develop a timeframe for the agency selection process, and then check that all your stakeholders are available to answer agency questions and to attend agency presentations, as well as a debrief session. Make sure you include this timetable in the brief you have developed
- You are now ready to short-list the agencies you would like to meet with.
As you can see, it is not a short nor easy process to get to this point, and you have not even started meeting with the potential agencies. Feeling daunted? Rightly so – selecting an agency is not easy, and the ramifications from getting it wrong are significant, so it is important that you commit the right amount of time and resources to ensure success.
Covalent Bonds works with companies to help with the agency selection process to produce powerful measurable results. If you would like help with all the stages set out here, as well as managing the agency presentation meetings, to ensure that you select the right agency to get your results then please register at http://covalentbonds.net/companies/.
Note: a version of this blog has been published previously on www.acp-ls.org