Marketing-research budgets on the mend, survey suggests

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Budgets of pharmaceutical marketing research teams are starting to recover, one analyst firm found.

Marketing research (MR) teams, downsized during leaner years to shield marketing and sales forces, had to endure larger staffing cuts than many other groups during the economic downturn. That's because these groups were seen largely as cost centers, says Cutting Edge Information, with no direct connection to increased revenue.

A June survey of 15 pharma companies by Cutting Edge showed both market research budgets and staffing are starting to rebound from their 2008 lows. Among small firms, dedicated MR budgets inched up, from $1.1 million in 2011 to $1.2 million this year, respondents reported. Large firms reduced budgets, from $17.3 in 2011 to $17.0 in 2012, but on average, budgets crept up, from $4.5 million to $4.7 million.

“The growth between last year and this year isn't huge,” said Elio Evangelista, director of research for the analysis firm. “But some companies are increasing their budgets by 50%; others are doubling their market-research investment.”

Overall staffing among 17 firms rose slightly, from 8.2 full-time employees in 2011 to 8.8 this year. Most companies maintained the same size, a sign MR still plays an important role.

Activities drawing more dollars include pricing, pharmacoeconomics and managed markets studies, as well as mapping out opportunities in emerging markets, said Evangelista.

One byproduct of the budget and staffing cuts was that MR teams' activities had become mostly reactive, in response to internal research requests. Dedicated funding allows MR teams to conduct ongoing and proactive research.

Still, “There really is opportunity for companies to be more proactive with their [MR] team,” Evangelista said, “to empower them more to work with key stakeholder groups, like brands teams, so they can conduct research before they're asked.”

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