By Raman Sehgal

I remember the days when I used to have to persuade the CEOs of CDMOs that they needed a website. God, I’m getting old.

Listen, sonny, I’ll see everyone I need to see at CPhI. Our website just needs to have our contact details on so people know where to find us and how to call us.

How times have changed. I suppose that’s not surprising – in the time I’ve been involved in CDMO marketing, I could have had a child who would now be about to start college.

It’s fair to say that I have seen the good, the bad and the very ugly over that time. But what am I seeing today? 

Well, I am seeing better than good these days. This is truly the golden era for CDMOs, and it’s exciting to see modern marketing take centre stage.

Things were changing pre-2020, but things morphed rapidly after the pandemic hit.

Who would have thought it… Business development professionals leaning on their marketing colleagues for help? Commercial teams questioning whether spending 70% of their budget on events was ever sensible budgeting? CDMO CEOs inviting marketing leads to the board table?

Times have changed.

I suspect a lot of this resonates with you… or perhaps it hits a nerve.

Since the pandemic hit, I have seen CDMOs step-up and evolve at a speed that I can only recall ever seeing once before. It was back in 2013-2015, as pharma buyers were getting younger and the explosion of biotechs truly got underway, when we saw the first real shift towards digital.

So, now the fog of the pandemic has started to lift, what does all that’s happened mean for the next generation of CDMOs?

A need for bolder identities

CDMOs care more than ever about how they look and feel to the outside world. Historically, how CDMOs presented themselves was driven predominantly by client perception; a technical look and feel was deemed to be dandy. Now, however, there is so much more that your brand may need to achieve, such as talent acquisition or investor interest, and this has shifted the sands. 

I can almost guarantee that your business is struggling to attract talent at the minute, and that’s likely because you are relying solely on a name and logo when, in reality, your brand needs to be so much more than that. You need to be bolder in who you are and realise that brand isn’t purely visual – it’s the personality of your business coming to life. I know of an unnamed CDMO in the US that has lost nearly half its team over the last few months, most likely because they operate like they are from the 1980s. Their brand was not attractive to their people. It’s also worth remembering that there is a lot of money sloshing about in the outsourcing space. Eager investors are looking for the next big thing, and being one of the crowd will do you no favours when positioning yourself for a top-end multiple.

Be bolder in your identity. Don’t melt into the background. Show who you are.

Embracing client experience

As consumers, we are spoilt rotten. We now have streamlined online communications, next-day deliveries, instant chat to resolve a complaint and no questions asked refunds, to name just a few modern consumer perks. And what do you think that means for our little industry? Well, customer expectations are only going to increase in line with experiences outside of the sector. Why are you using paper documentation? Why can’t I get a meeting tomorrow? Why can’t I contact you about your service 24/7? 

More work is being done than ever before to truly understand what customers need to ensure they have a smooth journey to conversion. Invest in this and see its worth, but don’t forget that not all customers are created equally. The expectations of a bright, 38 year-old biotech CSO will be very different from that of a 60 year-old big pharma sourcing guy and, as such, one size won’t fit all. You’ll need to consider the journeys, touchpoints and preferences of multiple audiences. 

Your website is for life, not just a DCAT launch

I bet when you invested in your CDMO facility you spent months sourcing and selecting cleanrooms, equipment and systems to make it ideal. Right? I’m also pretty sure it didn’t stop there. My guess is you’re always tinkering with your facility to make it work better for your clients, your people and your business. Your website should be no different. 

Designing, building and launching a website can often feel like a milestone ‘end of project’ moment. But it’s not. I am seeing more and more folks recognise that you should be constantly analysing, tinkering with and improving your website so it works better and better for the users that visit. It’s a living, breathing work in progress – just like your facility.

This blog is not a fear-mongering sales pitch, and nor is this a drill… this is already happening, people! It’s important to start thinking differently so you don’t get left behind.

And, for goodness sake, don’t be the throwback CEO I met 12 years ago.