Marketing Investigative Sites
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Site marketing activities
Marketing of a company or product is an art of its own. However, marketing of a clinical study site is different from other marketing activities since the pricing of the services is quite fixed and because the client characteristics are well defined. Still, there is a competition between sites for clinical trial opportunities, and it is worthwhile for a site to address the kinds of marketing strategies that should be adopted. To stay competitive in the clinical trials arena, a site should be aware of its marketing activities. Just waiting for trial opportunities is not good enough. A site must identify trial opportunities and offer the sponsor its services.
The clinical development of the life-sciences industry is constantly changing – companies are merging, outsourcing policies are changing to contract research organizations, new biotech companies are emerging, therapeutic area focus is changing, and study site locations are drifting from established to emerging countries. In order for a site to stay competitive and understand the industry trends, such changes must be monitored. Useful information can be found on the website, such as therapeutic area focus trends, the number of subjects in clinical trials by certain diseases, and the drift in study site locations. Please read more information under ‘Our Products’ on the site.
In addition, the CTM Weekly newsletter provides in-depth information by reporting on weekly changes for industry-sponsored clinical trials. Many study sites and research organizations have subscribed to the newsletter to follow trial trends—new sponsors, new trials, trials under planning, terminated trials, new results, new sites opened in your country, plans to open sites in your country, etc—because of the newsletter’s efficient and time saving function. Please visit the ‘Newsletter’ page and download a free sample of the newsletter.
There are also other sources to obtain information, such as the sponsor’s website, clinical trial conferences, and websites/newsletters/papers that publish articles about clinical trials.
Marketing plan basics
In general, by researching the market, the competition, and determining the site’s position in the industry, the site will be in a better position to promote and sell its services. Companies need to make a well-structured marketing plan that is based on research and competitor positioning. The marketing plan should cover a certain period, but a site should be willing to enhance or redirect the plan based on what proves successful. The common steps for setting up a marketing plan will be discussed later.
Market research: Collecting data about the market that currently is interested in your site’s services, i.e. market (disease) dynamics and size; clients from large to small companies; number of ongoing trials in the disease of interest with trial phase with samples size and site location. Try to understand and identify the major players and new players entering the site’s disease area.
Target market: The target market for your site’s services is already defined, namely the global and local life-sciences industry.
Site marketing activities (cont.)
Product: Your site’s product / services should be defined and compared with the services provided by other sites, i.e. site location, site size and experience, site organization, subject pool, and specific services offered.
Competition: Identify your site’s selling position—what makes your site stand out as a durable alternative from your competitors? How are your competitors branding their site?
Mission statement: Formulate a few sentences about the site’s clients, services and unique selling position. This differs from the normal operation of a medical clinic, but doing so is a clear indication to the industry that the site ‘means business’.
Market strategies: The site should define potential marketing / promotion strategies that the site wants to use or at least considering using. Strategies include establishing a website; writing articles; educational activities; organizing workshops and conferences; disseminating press releases or holding publicity; direct marketing with letters, sending brochures and flyers; publishing an annual report; advertising in media or directories; networking and social media; and having exhibitions at conferences. To market a site and its services, becoming a member of a site network—academic or health care organization or a site management organization—may serve the purpose.
Pricing, position and branding: Based on the information collected so far, the site should be able to identify where its services are positioned in the market, and whether the site can brand its name and rise above others.
Budget: What is the site’s marketing budget and will the work be performed in-house or outsourced?
Marketing goals: What is the site’s marketing goal? The goal is probably to contract and conduct more trials over a certain period of time.
Monitor the results: Identify the strategies that are meeting the goals.
Note: The above marketing strategies were employed in a real academic Clinical Trials Centre. Over a period of eleven years, we contracted 640 clinical trials with the industry, including the top 20 pharmaceutical companies globally. Our marketing activities had a clear effect and made our Centre and investigators stand out among others. Personally, four marketing activities stood out the most among others – i.e. creating publications and books, holding/taking part in educational activities, organizing conferences and annual reports. However, smaller sites have to make priorities and should focus on undertaking marketing research and direct marketing to potential clients using recent brochure/flyer about the site. The industry appreciates a short, distinct, written description about the site that could be used for internal communication within the sponsor. Annual updates are needed to keep clients interested in the site, and for them to read the brochure/flyer more than once.
THIS WILL MAKE THE SITE STAND OUT.