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Posted by Bill Gadless on April 11, 2023


In recent years, the Contract Research Organization (CRO) industry has undergone significant consolidation through M&A. As a result, smaller independent CROs face fierce competition from the larger conglomerates, truly creating a “David vs. Goliath” environment.

In this era of consolidation, it’s more essential than ever to differentiate from the competition. Here we provide guidance for both smaller independent CROs and larger conglomerates on how to differentiate in the marketplace.

Emphasizing Specialization in Hot Therapeutic Areas

Smaller independent Contract Research Organizations must emphasize their specialization and focus on hot, emerging therapeutic areas and modalities. For example, cell and gene therapy is a rapidly growing area in the biopharma industry, and CROs that specialize in this area should amplify this message in order to differentiate. Similarly, CROs that specialize in AI-driven drug development and offer decentralized clinical trials should differentiate by demonstrating expertise in these areas.

To emphasize such specialization, CROs can create long-form written content such as eBooks and whitepapers that demonstrate expertise in specific therapeutic areas. This content can be hosted on your website and shared through social media, email marketing, and paid digital media (Paid Search, Display/Video and Paid Social Media) and other digital marketing, to reach potential customers.

In addition, you should leverage video, animations, and infographics to explain complex, scientific concepts in an engaging and easily digestible way. These types of content can be shared on social media platforms such as YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and can be used to drive traffic to the your website.

Large CROs Must Emphasize Personalized Service

Large CROs must demonstrate that their size will not negatively impact the personalized service they provide to their customers. You can achieve this by showcasing a customer-centric approach, highlighting project management capabilities, and demonstrating your commitment to customer satisfaction.

To do this, you can create case studies and testimonials (including on video) that demonstrate your firm’s ability to deliver customized solutions to clients. These case studies should not only be hosted on your website, but shared regularly through social media, email marketing, and paid digital media to reach potential customers.

CROs can also leverage blogging to demonstrate thought leadership in the industry and a commitment to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices.

The Importance of Company Culture, Remote Work, and DEI

Recruiting employees is essential for CROs, and you must emphasize the meaningfulness of working on therapies that will ultimately impact patients’ lives. In addition, you must demonstrate a commitment to company culture, remote work, and diversity, equity, and inclusion to appeal to career seekers.

To do this, create career pages on your website that showcase company culture and highlight your company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Also create content that demonstrates efforts towards sustainability to appeal to career seekers who are passionate about environmental issues.

Demonstrate Your Efforts In Sustainability

Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability is becoming increasingly important for businesses across all industries, including Contract Research Organizations. By taking steps to reduce their environmental impact and promote sustainability, CROs can not only appeal to potential customers who prioritize sustainability, but also demonstrate their corporate social responsibility and contribute to a healthier planet.

One way that CROs can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability is by implementing green initiatives within their offices and facilities. This can include reducing energy consumption through the use of energy-efficient lighting and appliances, implementing recycling programs, and promoting the use of reusable products such as water bottles and coffee cups.

CROs can also reduce their environmental impact by encouraging employees to telecommute, reducing the need for daily commutes and lowering carbon emissions.

In addition to implementing green initiatives, CROs can also prioritize sustainability in their operations. For example, they can work to reduce waste by minimizing the use of paper and other non-renewable resources, and by using digital platforms and tools to manage their operations. They can also prioritize sustainable sourcing of materials and supplies, such as using eco-friendly packaging for shipments and using sustainable products in their labs and research facilities.

CROs can also demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by partnering with organizations that promote environmental sustainability and conservation. This can include sponsoring or participating in sustainability-focused events, supporting local conservation efforts, and donating a portion of their profits to environmental causes.

Showcase Key Team Members

Another effective way for CROs to differentiate themselves in the marketplace is by featuring key scientific leaders within their organization as thought leaders and influencers on social media. By doing so, CROs can establish themselves as experts in their field and build trust with potential customers.

To feature key scientific leaders as thought leaders, you can create a blog on your website and encourage scientists to contribute posts about their area of expertise. Also share these blog posts on social media and other digital channels. This not only showcases the expertise of the scientific leaders within the organization, but also drives traffic to the website and helps improve search engine rankings.

In addition to blog posts, you should also create long-form written content such as ebooks and whitepapers authored by your team’s scientific leaders. These pieces of content can provide in-depth insights into industry trends and advancements, further establishing your CRO as a thought leader in your field.

CROs can also leverage social media to feature their scientific leaders as influencers. By creating social media profiles for scientists and encouraging them to share insights and commentary on industry news and events, CROs can build a following and establish a strong social media presence. This not only helps to establish the CRO as a thought leader, but also helps to attract potential customers who are interested in their specific areas of expertise.

Be a Strategic Partner, not a Vendor

Biopharma clients are increasingly looking for CROs that can serve as strategic partners throughout the drug pipeline lifecycle, rather than just vendors offering a list of services to choose from. This means that CROs must be able to understand the unique needs of each client, provide customized solutions to meet those needs, and be flexible enough to adapt to changing requirements throughout the drug development process. By becoming true strategic partners to their biopharma clients, CROs can build long-lasting relationships that are built on trust, collaboration, and a shared commitment to bringing new therapies to market.

It’s critical to refine this message and roll it out across all media – again, especially in the era of consolidation when clients are particularly worried about being lost in the shuffle.

Bringing It All Together Through Proven Digital Tactics

For a CRO, digital marketing tactics can be incredibly effective in attracting new clients, establishing thought leadership in the industry, and building a strong brand presence. Here are some of the most effective digital marketing tactics for CROs:

  1. Website: A CRO’s website is often the first impression that potential clients will have of the company. Therefore, it is essential to have a well-designed, user-friendly website that highlights the company’s expertise and services. The website should also be optimized for search engines (SEO) to ensure that it ranks well in search results.
  2. Content marketing: Long-form written content such as eBooks, whitepapers, and blog posts are a great way for CROs to showcase their expertise and establish thought leadership. This content should be educational, informative, and relevant to the target audience.
  3. Social media: Social media is an effective way for CROs to build brand awareness, engage with potential clients, and share their content. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter are particularly effective for reaching a professional audience.
  4. Video and animations: Video content is becoming increasingly popular and can be a powerful way to communicate complex scientific concepts in an easily digestible format. Animations can also be used to create engaging content that simplifies complex scientific concepts.
  5. Infographics: Infographics are another effective way to communicate complex scientific information in an easily understandable format. They can be used to showcase research data, explain scientific concepts, and summarize key industry trends.
  6. Paid digital media: Paid advertising on social media and search engines can be an effective way to reach a wider audience and drive traffic to the CRO’s website. This includes pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and social media advertising.
  7. Email marketing: Email marketing can be an effective way to nurture leads and stay in touch with current and past clients. CROs can use email marketing to share new research findings, promote events, and announce new services.

Overall, these digital marketing tactics can be effective in attracting new clients, building brand awareness, and establishing thought leadership in the industry. It is important for CROs to develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that incorporates multiple tactics and channels to reach their target audience effectively.

emagineHealth has worked with 5 of the top 10 global CROs. For more information about Branding, Website Design, Content Marketing, SEO, Paid Digital Media and Social Media for CROs, reach out!

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