January 8, 2021

Effective Business Development: We Asked Your Prospects the Question for You

The year 2020 has presented more challenges for healthcare agencies seeking to grow their business. In addition to the pandemic, issues such as shrinking budgets, increased project work (vs. retainer), in-house agencies, fewer networking opportunities, and the consolidation of agencies are not making things any easier.

Like many other people, we could qualify last year as one of the worst and continue to endure the financial repercussions in 2021. But what if these new business realities weren’t the only justification for a slower growth rate? What if, instead, they represented a forced realization that proactive business development is essential for healthcare agencies?

The 4A’s estimates, in its latest New Business Activity & Resources Survey Report, that new business will account for 15% of agency revenue in the following year. That means a critical part of agency revenue can no longer be left to market growth and steady requests for proposals (RFPs); thus, healthcare agencies must take specific actions.

With that being said, it’s no easy task. Getting the attention of pharmaceutical marketers is difficult and our virtual world just made it harder. As a former pharmaceutical marketer, I can relate to the pressure of continuing to deliver for patient communities within an obstructed environment. You feel like there’s so much more to do, but are constrained to the same resources, including time.

For that reason, when the time comes for a pharmaceutical marketer to respond to a cold sales outreach, what happens? The answer is probably obvious to many, but I can attest to the fact that these types of prospecting efforts persist. Since I began partnering with healthcare agencies, I have been working to facilitate these connections to ensure that pharmaceutical marketers receive the specific help they desperately need.

I started my work with a simple question: Have we ever stopped and asked pharmaceutical marketers?

A recent survey by OpenHuddle looked at the most successful way for a healthcare agency to introduce itself to pharmaceutical marketers.

By far, the most successful method reported is through a colleague working in the same company (85%). Other successful options include a referral by an external industry connection (45%) and awareness of organizational and industry reputation (48%).

Reversing the roles, when the pharmaceutical marketer initiates a healthcare agency search process, the approach of asking an industry connection or a close colleague is, again, preferred (89%). Note that other healthcare agencies (45%) and internal procurement (45%) may also play a role in the search.

In addition, the qualitative phase of this same study explains the main reason why pharmaceutical marketers rely mostly on colleagues and industry connections to meet new healthcare agencies.

“I have highly benefited from an efficiency perspective by only meeting agencies through people I trust and that have worked with them in the past.”

Pharmaceutical Marketing Director

Based on its findings, OpenHuddle encourages healthcare agencies to leverage industry connections and promote client/agency collaborative work to meet new and interested pharmaceutical marketers. To go a step further, they should initiate a new business program that will provide continuous pertinent leads and promote a safe level of organic growth.

Times are, indeed, challenging for healthcare agencies. However, reports indicate that the needs of pharmaceutical marketers continue to grow. For that reason, healthcare agencies are encouraged to optimize the productivity and efficiency of their business activities.


  • OpenHuddle, Pharmaceutical Marketing & Healthcare Agency Professional Relationship, 12/2020

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