Thought partnerships: The new frontier of client-agency partnerships

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Thought partnerships: The new frontier of client-agency partnerships


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Much has been said about how to maximize client-agency relationships, particularly in biopharma. Beyond offering helpful tips and advice for managing these relationships (i.e., be transparent, flexible, empathetic, etc.), a broader conversation is asking to be had.

The landscape we find ourselves in has changed—not just for the healthcare practitioners and patients we aim to serve—but has also altered the dynamics of client-agent relationships. Understanding the significance of these changes speaks to why more biopharma companies should be taking an alliance management approach to supporting these partnerships so that goals are reached—not just for tomorrow, but for the long term as well.

Historically, agencies grow in two ways. First, organically, by providing value and maintaining existing relationships. As clients move from company to company (something we’re seeing a lot of these days), they tend to bring agencies with them. Secondly, successful agencies are always pushing the envelope in terms of offering clients new technologies, best practices, trends, data, and solutions.

In today’s dynamic environment, there’s a new kind of growth. Uncertainty brings increased demand, at least from an agency and consulting services perspective—whether it’s due to the pandemic, market fluctuations, or other global events. Agencies are experiencing a period of unprecedented growth that is not expected to decline any time soon. This, combined with an ever-growing number of biotech companies, is creating a competitive environment that allows agencies to be more selective in choosing the clients they work with. It’s not about exclusivity; it’s about what works best for both parties—and even the industry as a whole.

For emerging biopharma companies, the current landscape is rife with scientific advancements coupled with a huge injection of capital, which has led to a rapid rise in the number of biotechs. Additionally, these companies traditionally focused first on research and maybe early development. More recently, there is increased focus on later-stage development, but rarely has commercialization been prioritized, with companies instead preferring to partner around development. Today, these companies are more likely to be working all the way through the value chain, which is resulting in increased competition for agency partners. As with other elements of start-up biotech growth, the primary focus is on building a core team followed by building out virtually. But unlike larger companies, a smaller biotech would use partners instead of FTEs for this expansion. As more and more biotechs have the ambition to self-commercialize, the competition for good agency partners has also increased exponentially. In this landscape, managing these partnerships successfully is not a nice thing to do—it is a necessary thing to do if you’re looking to execute successfully from the clinical stage through commercialization.

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The result of this competitive and dynamic landscape is that both parties need to work together to create and sustain a meaningful partnership (with a good amount of that responsibility in the client’s hands). Clients need to foster healthy partnerships using the same investment of time and care that they use for their internal partners; it’s no longer a one-way street. It’s a relationship that prioritizes not only communication, motivation, and engagement but also provides tangible value for both sides. Clients should recognize that agencies want to feel invested in their success and outcomes and appreciate the effort it takes to develop this partnership; it’s beyond the transactional. This is how clients can differentiate themselves to the agencies they want to work with.

And yes, agencies are in the business of client services, but the high-value agency goes far beyond that offering. They are, in the best sense of the word, a thought partner—and as such, there should be a good amount of healthy debate and conversation. Successful agencies are on the front lines; they’re seeing what companies are bringing to trial, what’s working, and what’s not. Tapping into this wealth of experience with the vantage point that you are mutually engaged and motivated partners will serve clients’ long- and short-term goals. The opposite of this is having an agency acquiesce to every client demand, which serves no one—especially not the client. Nurturing and caring for the relationship with candor and trust allows for the buy-in, passion, and impact needed for success.

Some agencies are building upon this ability to provide their clients with sustained value of expertise by offering (and cultivating) preferred partnerships. Given their breadth of vantage point across companies, they partner by bringing new ideas about commercialization and helping the industry adapt and move forward. Preferred partnerships capitalize on successful alliance management and existing synergies (i.e., leveraging data, resources, or insights across projects) so that often a centralized vendor can offer support in multiple areas. The result is increased streamlining, which ultimately benefits the bottom line. With emerging biotech needing help with a little bit of everything, these preferred partnerships can deliver a type of one-stop shopping leveraging an agency’s best practices, current trends, and data.

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As with many things affected by today’s dynamic environment, traditional partnerships are outmoded, and as such, are under-functioning. Biotech companies that take the time to think about and cultivate their key relationships with agencies will emerge as the winners. They do this by prioritizing and maintaining successful alliance management that nurtures the synergy necessary for a successful client-agency partnership to flourish and your goals of successful commercialization to be reached.

Photo: alphaspirit, Getty Images



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