Top 100 Agencies: Healthcare Regional Marketing

A diabetes-awareness piece for Novo Nordisk
A diabetes-awareness piece for Novo Nordisk

Halfway through last year, Healthcare Regional Marketing was enjoying its status as something of an unknown player in the world of pharma agencies. It subscribed to a different model of “regional” marketing than most everyone else, defining markets based on similarities rather than geography. It didn't—and doesn't—reveal anything about its client roster or programs, even as its website notes that it works, or has worked, for six of the world's 10 biggest pharmaceutical concerns. Logos on the “company we keep” page of the HRM web site include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Takeda and Eisai.

Nonetheless, entering its sixth year of existence, HRM saw the need to toot its own horn just a bit, to help bring its analytics-driven approach to more clients in a more diverse range of specialties. At the time, CEO Bill Goldberg admitted the company's approach was freshly minted and that it was incumbent on him and his team to make sure would-be clients understood it.

Twelve months later, then, the obvious question is this: Did it work? While Goldberg still won't disclose names or numbers, he's thrilled with the results. “Our focus as an organization has been heavily on diversification, both in terms of new clients and new brands at existing clients,” he says. “We've had a really good last year in both ways. It was encouraging to see that our value proposition really resonated.”

The agency also did some work under its hood. Hoping to streamline its internal processes, HRM added a handful of staffers with systems and solutions expertise. “We had a defined business-development process and funnel, and we formalized it and added some people,” Goldberg says. For new business, HRM also mixed-and-matched its existing staffers, putting them where they were most likely to succeed.

“If you think of doing a new deal as a baseball analogy—as hitting a home run—you touch first base, second base, third base and then home plate. When you reach home plate, you've got that new client,” Goldberg explains. “After looking back on where we were successful and not successful in the past, we discovered that some people are better suited for the first and second base part of it and others were at their best when we reached third base and headed home.”

Like everyone else, Goldberg says that continued growth is in the cards. As of early May, HRM employed 35 or so full-time staffers, with that number set to rise by the middle of the year. Unlike his peers, however, Goldberg has more than a vague plan about how HRM will achieve it. On one front, further client-base diversification is in the cards. But in terms of size/bodies, growth could be fueled by an acquisition of some kind. While all conversations so far have been preliminary and speculative in nature, HRM has, in Goldberg's words, “a pretty good sense of what we're looking for. The profile is very narrow.”

A small shop with digital and data smarts in equal measure is the best bet. “We're not a holding company, obviously. So if we acquire a company, there are a lot of issues: strategic fit, management fit, financial fit,” Goldberg says. “We don't want to acquire somebody and then see ourselves lose focus. What we're looking for is 1 + 1 = 3.”