The contract research organisation (CRO) market is an alluring place to be right now. The explosion of biotech and emerging biopharma companies that the industry has seen in recent years presents significant opportunities for collaborations amongst these companies, as outsourcing partners often possess the internal capabilities required to bridge the gap between biotech and biopharma companies. As the number of CROs continues to grow, what does differentiation look like in such a crowded market?

It all starts with getting the right foundations in place. In this blog we look at what makes a sensational CRO website and how this will guide your communications strategy in the right direction.

What’s the state of play?

The CRO market continues to grow and is expected to be in the region of $55-60 billion (USD) by 2025. This is in correlation to advancements in life sciences – patent expirations, generics and biosimilars, alongside a big push into medical devices, health apps and data. The top CROs have the market share and continue to focus on full-service capabilities, offering end-to-end services on a partnership basis. Mid-sized and smaller CROs tend to champion a more ‘boutique’ service, focusing on niche areas, flexibility and a personalised offering. With significant merger and acquisition activity, more consolidations and expansions are on the horizon for 2020 – meaning small to mid-sized CROs will have an uphill battle when it comes to standing out in a crowded marketplace.

Why is the website so important?

Take consumer brands like Nike or Apple. One look and you instantly know who it is. Whilst we don’t have the luxury of million-dollar marketing budgets, it’s clear that two things are important: the brand and the message. Whilst a website is not the only touchpoint in a communications strategy, it’s a great starting point. If you can create a website that’s findable, clearly articulates your services and communicates your brand personality, then you’re heading in the right direction to getting noticed.

Like anything, website design is subjective, but with over 10 years of experience building websites for contract service companies, we’d like to think we know a thing or two when it comes to building and designing websites that generate leads…

1. Be locatable

One of the most frustrating things in the world of modern technology is not being able to find what you are looking for in a search engine. This is very simple, but absolutely critical. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that it’s ok if your website name is 10th on the list in the search results. That isn’t enough! You should utilise search engine optimization to ensure that you are in the top three search engine results for search terms relevant to your business. Consider that 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engines, and the top spot is 10x more likely to receive a click compared to the 10th. Enough said.

2. Blind dates

Another frustration when browsing CRO websites is when articles and blogs aren’t dated. Perhaps some companies feel that by dating an article the content will become ‘outdated’, perhaps they don’t have the capacity to write regular features/articles and would rather have the audience think it was a recent piece. Either way, it can be detrimental to the reader if they do not know when it was written. Data has been referred to as the currency of life sciences; the impact of that statement is huge. If you write an article or blog for your website, please date it, it will likely reflect the data, thoughts or intention that you were trying to convey at that point in time.

The life science world is rapidly evolving, and you cannot anticipate that an article written in 2018 will be current in 2020. If you are concerned about staying on top of your written content, find a like-minded agency who can support you on your journey. Too easy!

3. Embrace videos

We have talked about the phenomenal power of videos on our previous blog “Findings from Frankfurt – 5 pharma marketing trends to watch in 2020”, and as we said then, it really is no secret that video has become an essential tool in every marketer’s toolkit, but it still isn’t widely adopted amongst the pharma industry just yet. A website that has an honest, well-made video on the landing page is far more likely to capture its audience than a page with text and images alone.

The video doesn’t have to be long or fancy, just well-made and interesting. There are many opportunities to implement this as a tool – talking about the technology, the services or the people. Use it as a way to showcase your brand values and culture. It doesn’t need to be complex or expensive, there are even technologies that are super simple to use, require no editing and can be completely branded. So, don’t be put off by the word ‘video’ and think it means you need to come up with some amazing campaign. Just be brave!

4. Toolkits

Every CRO knows the importance of winning new business – preparing for the proposal and bid defence, explaining what the internal capabilities are and how the work would be achieved. Each proposal is personalised and has subtle nuances, but by this stage, there is a huge wealth of experience that has been built up within the business, and it is important to capture that in ways that can be used externally. Many of the large CROs have created toolkits that are available online including blogs, expert insights, webinars and whitepapers – these are great ways to provide resources to those looking to the market leaders.

Another staple for any good toolkit is the use of case studies. We shouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel every time a new project is started – go back through the tried and tested, implement lessons learnt and use these case studies to help establish smarter ways of conducting clinical trials moving forwards. Ultimately, the goal remains the same, to get a new therapeutic or device to market as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, in a safe and high-quality manner. Case studies really are a no-brainer, the work has already been done, just go the extra mile to get it captured in a useful, intelligible way, that means that knowledge will never be lost.

5. Showcase your brand values and culture

Let’s consider how important it is to demonstrate how ‘likeable’ your company is. Yes, you want to be seen as a business made up of highly effective professionals, but ultimately, people buy from people. So, showcasing your brand values and company culture on your website is hugely important. We touched on standing out in a crowded marketplace earlier, and this is how you do it.

A quick look of your competitive landscape will likely reveal the same key messages over and over. Quality. Experts. Reliable. What matters most to you? Where do your corporate values create the most passion? How do you ensure that your culture is palpable, both to the internal team and public perception? And ultimately, what is the impact of that on your clients? It doesn’t have to be extreme or flamboyant, it just needs to be you. Tell the story of your company and wear your heart on your sleeve, it’s a sure-fire way to stand out! Not only will this help you attract B2B customers looking for a great CRO partner to work with, but this will also help you attract the best talent.

So, there you have it, five ways to take your CRO website to the next level. What do you think are the best ways to make a CRO website sensational?