These days, when just surviving the downturn seems to be a prevalent mindset, agency execs often face clients' urge to batten down the proverbial hatches. “The challenge to the entire industry is to broaden capabilities and the way you approach business for your clients,” says agency EVP Geoff Melick. “Fresh thinking is what our clients need.”
This Chicago agency, part of Corbett Accel Healthcare Group, continues to provide clients with innovative thinking despite the economy.
“We've seen some pullback from some top clients in terms of budgets, not necessarily in a big way, but there seem to be a lot of new business activities and opportunities,” says Melick.
Most of the new opportunities this past year have been in Kinect's sweet spot—using relationship marketing to help clients engage with target physicians. (Melick declined to name product wins or specific areas of work.) There have been no client defections of late, and Melick says the firm's organic growth has helped make up for some of the budget reductions.
The level of such activity across the industry is encouraging, says Melick. “I've been in this pharma business for 23 years, and on the interactive side since 1989,” he says. “Our clients, and the industry in general, are embracing e-communications at a level of sophistication I've not seen in the past. To me, that demonstrates the value clients ascribe to digital marketing and encourages us to continue reshaping and expanding our services.”
He believes online can foster more sustainable relationships for pharma. Last year Kinect launched a website for a new Merck HIV drug and redesigned the healthcare provider portion of Vytorin.com for the Merck/Schering-Plough joint venture, incorporating such features as the ability to order samples. To support the work, Kinect has increased staff size a bit.
Other clients on the roster include AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Daiichi Sankyo, Merck Vaccines, Merck global, Otsuka, Procter & Gamble, Sanofi-Aventis, Schering-Plough and Merck/Schering-Plough.
As overall marketing spend comes down, and sales forces shrink, Kinect is creating new processes and tools to drive efficient communication. One area of relationship marketing that's picking up steam for the agency is closed-loop marketing (CLM).
“As much as sales forces are diminishing, they're still a very important part of the pharma industry,” says Melick. In fact, the trend of reduced sales forces has worked well for Kinect's value proposition—smarter tools to drive message—which is why Kinect has seen its tablet PC and CLM work expanding.
Global business seems to be burgeoning, too. Kinect opened a satellite office in Instanbul. He says the Turkish megacity has a strong clinical and physician base. With its proximity to other developing countries in Europe and Asia, Instanbul “gives us a better understanding of how to reach those emerging markets.”
Melick foresees continued growth in the need for technology to assist in healthcare relationship-building, including leveraging wireless handheld technology and other ways to communicate with busy physicians. He predicts the ruling by the FDA involving Google SEM probably won't have a major effect on budgets.
Global business will also take on extreme importance to clients, prompting agencies to up their international-marketing chops. Says Melick: “I can't stress the global-marketing aspect enough.”