Putting the Life into Life Sciences Marketing
Life sciences marketing certainly poses different challenges than other verticals. Marketers in the field often confront scientific and fragmented customer audience(s), major competition, multiple communication channels, and diminished margins — to name a few. To find success as a marketing team in a life sciences organization, it’s imperative to anticipate these difficulties and factor them into the planning and development process. Today, we’ll take a look at three top marketing challenges in the industry and how to address them.
Three Key Life Sciences Marketing Challenges (And How to Overcome Them)
1. Mega Data
Life sciences companies, both startups and fully integrated Fortune 100 organizations, have lots of data. Clinical data, FDA, CLIA, OSHA, AMA communications, manufacturing, testing, pre/post clinical trials, dosing, and operational ISO—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Having so much data can be both a challenge and opportunity for life sciences companies depending on the organization’s in-house data management enterprise systems, their staff’s tech skillset, and their personnel resources. When any or all of these are lacking, the going gets tough, especially for the marketing team.
Life sciences marketers typically run into trouble with this data overload when they’re striving to create messaging that the data substantiates. If they don’t have quick access to the specific data they need or the resources to analyze that data effectively, their messaging will fall short. Smaller companies have it the toughest when it comes to data storage, retrieval, and ownership since they often lack the necessary resources to adequately store and/or retrieve data.
This lack of data infrastructure leads to “let’s get more data, just in case” syndrome, as I like to call it. Since no one knows where the data they need is located or how to retrieve it, marketers often reinvent the wheel unnecessarily, wasting more company resources in the process. And with so much data on their hands, marketing teams often don’t know what to do with it or how to strategically utilize that data in developing a marketing plan and creating the main messaging.
The Takeaway: Data Organization Should Come First. Your data will have no value if you can’t find it or you don’t even know what data you have. Before collecting any more data, stop and put a clear data organization system in place. Make sure the whole team is trained and on board with the new system so that the data stays organized and easily retrievable as it continues to accumulate.
2. Regulatory Compliance
All industries must deal with their respective regulatory and compliance agencies. Life sciences organizations are often subject to special regulations by the FDA. Any marketing program you develop must be fully FDA compliant to even reach the public eye, let alone be successful. That includes all marketing materials in any media genre.
If any marketing messages or materials fail to comply, the FDA will issue an immediate Cease and Desist Order—and they can and will shut your entire company down. That’s why life sciences organizations must remain nimble and knowledgeable to adapt to cross-border requirements which are constantly changing. For example, product labeling review and approval times vary in every country, so marketing teams must plan accordingly.
The Takeaway: Do Your Homework. Life sciences marketing is all about doing your research and staying up-to-date on regulations. This means coordinating closely with Legal on every new campaign and establishing a clear protocol for review and approval of all messaging.
Most life sciences companies are already global or have plans to go international. This translates into multiple challenges for establishing and executing a marketing plan. Some of the issues are expected, such as translation, and others are more difficult to anticipate, like color.
While translation might seem straightforward, life sciences companies can’t just use Google Translate or another online translation tool. The subtle nuances in regional dialects require translation by local professionals in each region to ensure the clarity and effectiveness of marketing messaging. Color is yet another marketing challenge. In one country, a color may communicate a “happy” tone, while the same color may convey “death” in another country.
What’s even more challenging is the fact that life sciences companies are usually dealing with multiple campaigns per country. This makes it incredibly complex to centralize all marketing activities: dealing with cultural adaptation, managing translation, and handling SEO and success analytics.
Plus, many regions have their own scientific and medical advisory bodies or underwriters which may override endorsements or guidelines included in the original source content. Add to this all the safety standards in the life sciences industry that are being tightened because of the multiple new media vehicles and distribution channels, and there’s a lot to navigate.
The Takeaway: Plan Ahead. Before launching a new campaign in an international market, put a plan in place with the right local partners to help you navigate the particulars of the region. Take the time to get things right the first time around in order to cement your standing in the region.
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