Recent economic turbulence has obviously not escaped the notice of the medical marketing community. With record high inflation, stocks entering a bear market and a potential recession on the horizon, organizations nationwide are considering next steps amid an uncertain future. 

For some, there are lessons to be learned from the economic downturn that took place at the start of the pandemic. Others are looking to the 2007-2009 Great Recession for guidance.

Either way, Bill Abramovitz, partner and creative director at Biotica Health, advised marketers to avoid panicking even as they brace for budget cuts. 

“You want to keep advertising because you’ve already invested a lot in obtaining mindshare and brand awareness. You don’t want to lose that momentum during a recession,” Abramovitz explained.

Similarly, he urged marketers to reevaluate their offerings and focus on efforts that support top-performing clients.

Since some agencies won’t have the bandwidth to carry a host of under-performing clients, Abramovitz suggested being upfront with client-side leaders about challenges related to profitability.

With cash-flow issues at hand, marketers should also start strategizing with their brand counterparts on navigating an imminent recession. Agencies should remain as flexible as possible and recalibrate based on the financial resources a brand has at its disposal. 

“You need to start with empathy and say something like, ‘We know this is coming up and it’s going to put you under stress. How can we help?’” Abramovitz said.  

DeepIntent CMO Marcella Milliet Sciorra noted that the pharmaceutical sector has historically been a strong performer during economic downturns. Patients, after all, still need their medications. That said, she noted that a deep, prolonged recession could boost the need for generic drugs and biosimilars due to patients losing their jobs and subsequently, their healthcare coverage.

Reflecting on the economic downturn that coincided with the pandemic’s start, Sciorra said that pharma orgs mostly avoided sustaining significant damage. What it means for medical marketers, she believes, is that the belt may tighten as it relates to investments in R&D and clinical trials. 

While agencies that oversee those specific business lines for a pharma company may deal with smaller budgets, there should be plenty of opportunities for proactive brands. Sciorra pointed to companies that have embraced a data-first approach and work with agencies that understand how to use data to drive efficiencies.

“If you have a strong data-driven strategy to ensure that you educate the right patient at the right time with the right message for the right stage of the disease, as well as a coordinated approach for educating their respective HCPs on the benefit of the drugs in the path to journey, that’s where the brands will win,” she said.

Looking ahead, Sciorra advised agencies to seek out reliable partners to navigate the difficult situations they’ll face as a result of financial turbulence.

“Spend the time finding the right partners, like reliable data and media partners, and don’t be afraid of taking risks to make sure that brands’ marketing is optimized to be recession-proof,” she continued. “Now’s the time to move so that when the recession comes, they are well versed in the different platforms and technology that can help continue to move their business forward.”