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Digital Advertising Recommendations for Clinical Research Organizations (CRO)

By Claudio Sperandio, Former Vice President Business Development & Marketing, BioPharma Services Inc.Digital Advertising Blog Claudio Sperandio

Social media advertising is not yet widely used by Clinical Research Organizations. For many years, traditional marketing has dominated sponsor (B2B) and subject (B2C) marketing. Although more than 4.1 billion people worldwide use social media every month, the potential in the clinical research industry is still not fully realized.

Social Media Advertising for B2B & B2C

The interests of sponsors (B2B) and subjects (B2C) in the CRO context could not be more different. On the one hand, we have the research scientist who develops a new chemical entity and needs a clinical research study, such as a First in Human (FIH) or Single Ascending Dose (SAD) study, to further progress their drug development. On the other hand, there are the research volunteers who are interested in supporting sponsors’ drug development of life saving therapies for patients in need. Both stakeholders are essential to the execution of a clinical trial as one does not function without the other.  Therefore, the question arises, are there any differences between B2B & B2C marketing strategies? And what are the right digital platforms to communicate with sponsors from the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, and your research volunteers, which could be anyone?

General recommendations

If a CRO wants to remain competitive in the future, it is imperative that it implements a digital strategy. I would even go one step further and state that there is no digital strategy, just strategy in a digital world. Organizations that do not recognize the digital transformation will find themselves in great difficulties very soon. Digital transformation is real, digital transformation is moving fast and digital transformation is now and the longer one is waiting, the larger is the gap to your competitors. So, wake up and work on your strategy in a digital world!

Considering social media advertising, the focus should be first on the number of users on the platform, second on their geographical awareness and third on the platform relevance for your target audience.

Further, an in depth understanding of each customer journey within a B2B or B2C set up is an essential element of each client interaction. The See-Think-Do-Care framework developed by Avinash Kaushik is a simple tool to define the position of your clients to derive the necessary online marketing measures.

See-think-Do-Care Framework

See-think-Do-Care Framework, morefire GmbH

Social Media Advertising

Considering the top 6 of the world’s most used social platforms, one should consider the following platforms for social media advertisement in 2021.  (Numbers from: we are social, January 2021)

1) Facebook 2,740m Users
2) YouTube 2,291m Users
3) WhatsApp 2,000m Users
4) FB Messenger 1,300m Users
5) Instagram 1,221m Users
6) Weixin / WeChat 1,213m Users

Although there are six different names on the list, they belong to only three different companies – Facebook, Google and Weixin – therefore if one wants to be successful in Social Media Advertising, one needs to collaborate with these players.

Furthermore, geographical social media platform awareness plays a central role in strategic platform selection. Despite the 1,213m Users which are registered on Weixin / WeChat, they are not considered as a leader on the global scale. The userbase outside of China is only around 100 to 200m and most of them use this platform to communicate with their family members, friends or potential business partners based in China. In short, if the target audience it not frequently using the platform, then it’s not the right platform for social media advertisement.

Within the digital world where there are endless possibilities of tools and platforms, the underlining argument of every strategy is to know what not to do. It is advisable to focus on a few platforms with well researched and executed strategies than to try and use all tools and platforms.

Recommendations for Sponsors (B2B) & Subject (B2C) advertisement

While Organic vs paid Social Media are very different, there is no right or wrong. All depends on your strategy, the target audience, and your business model. Organic social media posts are beneficial for brand awareness, customer service, community management and relationship building. While paid social media posts are the best way to reach new audiences, target ideal customers and push lead and conversions.

See think do care framework

Which platforms should be considered for B2B advertising?

Even though LinkedIn with their 727 m userbase is not among the top social media platforms mentioned above, it is certainly the largest business platform in the world and most advanced for lead generation in the B2B area. The matched and lookalike audiences are very useful when looking for similar consumers and/or expanding your network outside of your first line contacts. The cost per lead on LinkedIn is much higher comparable to other social platforms, but the advanced targeting functionalities regarding work experience, education and workplace often make the higher cost per lead worthwhile.

Facebook, including WhatsApp, FB Messenger & Instagram, is currently the largest social media platform in the world and is the dominant player in the social media advertisement world. Facebook has the best and most advanced audience targeting functions in the industry so the Facebook Ads slogan “reach everyone, or just a few” could not be more pointed. Their userbase and the access to the additional platform are so dominant that no marketer can avoid these platforms in their B2B or B2C social media strategy.

What about YouTube and Twitter?

YouTube with 2,291m users is the world’s largest video platform. In addition, YouTube is also the second most visited website in the world after Google. Using targeted video ads allows one to lead users from the see stage through thinking to the do stage. The platform, therefore, is suitable for B2B and B2C lead conversions as long as the videos are meeting the needs of the target audience.

Twitter with 353m users is by far the smallest platform in this selection. With around 22% of their user base in North America and another 15% in Japan, the platform is not widely spread in mainland Europe. Nevertheless, recent research showed that Twitter can be successful in the B2B & B2C area particular in North America. However, due to the limited userbase in Europe, Twitter is likely not the most effective platform for paid marketing campaigns.

Platform selection and expertise

The selected social media platforms have been based on a pre-assessment of the userbase and the platform relevance for the target audience. The advertisement recommendation should be further embedded into a multi-channel marketing approach including a combination of search engine optimization, search engine marketing, e-mail marketing, website/blog and content creation to unfold its full potential.

The Marketing experts at BioPharma Services have a forward-looking mindset and utilize sophisticated strategies in the digital environment to meet the business needs. If you are a Sponsor and you would like to know more about our volunteer recruitment strategies feel free to contact us at anytime.

About BioPharma Services Inc.

BioPharma Services Inc. is a full-service Contract Research Organization (CRO) specializing in the conduct of Phase I/IIa and Bioequivalence clinical trials for international pharmaceutical companies worldwide. BioPharma has clinical facilities both in the USA and Canada with a total capacity of 300 beds with access to healthy volunteers and special populations. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, BioPharma’s comprehensive services also include Bioanalysis at our GLP Certified Laboratory, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Biostatistics and Safety Data Analysis (CDISC), Data Management and Medical Writing.

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