When the going gets tough, the tough invest in marketing

Hannah Roe
By Hannah Roe

Cumulative funding numbers in the life science sector for 2022 and 2023 both fell at ~ $120 billion. Although there is cautious optimism about our industry’s future, the impact of a challenging 2023 has meant that many pharma companies are streamlining their spending. 

It’s easy to understand why some might question the value of marketing when budgets are tight. After all, when the future is uncertain, it’s tempting to cut back on non-essential expenses. But as the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get marketing.”

Here are a few of the common misconceptions we hear as a specialist pharma marketing agency.

Misconception #1: Marketing is a luxury that we can’t afford right now.

Marketing is not a luxury; it’s an investment. Cutting back on marketing during a downturn can cost you more in the long run. 

In a study conducted by Ehrenberg Bass Institute, when brands stop advertising for a year or more, sales often decline year-on-year following the stop. Their research indicated on average, sales falll 16% after one year, and 25% after two years.

LinkedIn’s B2B Institute recommends a ‘recency over frequency’ approach, whereby having a consistent presence over a long period instead of sporadic high-volume activity with extended dry spells, you can stay top-of-mind with your customers and maintain your market share. 

This forward-thinking approach mitigates potential losses and primes your organization for growth when the sector rebounds.

Misconception #2: We don’t have the resources to market effectively

There are many cost-effective ways to market your business, even on a lean budget.

Consider scaling back event attendance and bolstering your brand’s awareness through digital channels – the benefit of utilizing social media and email marketing, instead of relying purely on event attendance, is improved lead attribution and nurturing capabilities through tactics like retargeting campaigns. 

It’s also important to note that ceasing paid marketing activities can actually cost more in the long run. Not only does your brand start to lose its share of voice in the marketplace, but it can be more expensive to get back to the same level of brand awareness.

Misconception #3: Marketing won’t make a difference in a tough economy

On the contrary, marketing can be even more effective during a downturn.

When your competitors are cutting back on their marketing efforts, you have an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and gain market share. This strategic approach can also help build brand loyalty; when customers see you’re committed to maintaining a presence and investing in marketing even during challenging times, they are more likely to develop a sense of trust and affinity with your brand.

That is to say that it’s vital to determine realistic competitors for your business – an example from the LinkedIn B2B Institute is the likes of Salesforce and CocaCola. Their astronomical marketing budgets (well into the billions) are no match for a smaller counterpart looking to break into the industry, so matching efforts is often unattainable.

Aspiration is valuable, but delusion is dangerous.

Misconception #4: We’re only doing the bare minimum, brand awareness campaigns are useless

Neglecting brand awareness can lead to a diminished brand share of voice, reduced customer loyalty, missed growth opportunities, and difficulty attracting top talent.

The healthcare sales cycle is far longer than other industries and often involves a broad buying committee, so maintaining brand awareness is key to appealing to the range of target personas across the decision-making journey.

Brand awareness campaigns can be executed effectively with limited resources, even in today’s digital age. A key way this can be achieved is through a stable and consistent organic social presence.

There is nothing more trust-corroding for a potential buyer than to click through from a paid ad to see a company page with no recent updates and missing page information. It can immediately raise alarm bells for the prospect and may leave a lasting impression you want to avoid.

Updating your pages regularly ensures visibility, relevance, and competitiveness, leading to sustainable growth that can push through tumultuous market trends.

So, if you’re tempted to strip your marketing budget whenever there is uncertainty, think again.

Marketing is essential for the long-term success of your life sciences organization and by continuing to invest in marketing, you can weather the storm to come out stronger on the other side.


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