Avant Healthcare | 2017

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Avant Healthcare

Performance

15% uptick in revenue, from $34 million to $39 million

Plans

“We have a targeted growth plan. We will continue to grow our digital presence, creative services, and analytics expertise, and we will look to further diversify our customer portfolio” 
— Deborah Wood

Prediction

“Peer-to-peer ­marketing will give way to medical ­storytelling that blends ­marketing with medical and clinical expertise” 
— Todd Wright

When Avant Healthcare CEO Deborah Wood discusses her agency's performance in 2016, you can almost detect a sense of relief that growth topped out at 15% this time around — as opposed to the 47% explosion experienced in 2015. That, of course, created a high-class problem of finding enough talent to service the influx of business.

“It's a lot easier to stay in front of 15% growth,” Wood says. “We are being deliberate about building our business in a reliable way.” 

Last year's more modest performance saw revenue jump at the Indianapolis-based medical communications agency to $39 million, up from $34 million, while employee count edged up to 310. Avant declines to disclose details of its roster, but 13 new assignments in 2016 took the total number of accounts to 58 across nine different pharmaceutical and biotech clients. 

The lion's share of the 2015 surge came from a single client in the Chicago area, which prompted Avant to take on more than 30 remote employees to service it.

In fact, Avant is becoming adept at making the virtual office model work, with 15 additional employees scattered around New Jersey and the rest of the East Coast. 

"Now we're unleashing them to become a competitor in this space. There is an opportunity to grow this business." - Deborah Wood, CEO

“We make sure they feel the love,” says Wood. “We give them the opportunities to be trained, to share best practices, and to contribute to our overall strategy.”

The bulk of Avant's work is in the peer-to-peer clinical space, and SVP Todd Wright stresses the innovative edge the agency tries to give its clients. “Peer-to-peer marketing is a thing of the past,” he says. “Putting a bunch of clinical or scientific data on a slide deck and having an external expert regurgitate that data isn't the way our customers learn. Instead, we are blending true marketing with our medical and clinical expertise to come up with what we call medical storytelling.”

All of which is underpinned by strong creativity, digital prowess, and increasingly deep analytics — the key areas in which the firm is investing heavily.

“We have more data at our disposal today than we have ever had,” explains Wright. “But instead of just using it in a post-hoc environment to assess impact and ROI, we leverage data and analytics to build a predictive model to help our clients understand exactly who should be receiving what message and at what point in the purchasing process.”

To further bolster these capabilities, Avant hired Lee Altenburg, a 15-year pharma and devices veteran, as VP of analytics. Mike Andrus also recently arrived as executive director of business development, a role in which he'll attempt to further leverage growth in Chicago and on the East Coast — where Avant's virtual team just added its fourth client.

The big news for 2017 is the imminent launch of a sister agency, Avail, which will focus on logistics — specifically meeting planning and speaker bureau services. While Avant has offered these capabilities for many years, Wood says the agency “really only diverted those services to where Avant had clients and customers.”

“Now we're unleashing them to become a competitor in this space. There is an opportunity to grow this business,” she adds.

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