Praxis uses qualitative research to launch CRO rebranding campaign

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Praxis Communications helps pharmaceutical companies recruit patients for clinical drug trials. It's considered a contract research organization (CRO) within the industry. "What we do for pharmaceutical companies is critical, considering the cost associated with bringing a new drug to market is exorbitant," said Dave Buck, president-creative director at Crowley Webb & Associates, a marketing agency used by Praxis.

Praxis is a relatively new player in the CRO field, and Crowley Webb decided to do a thorough analysis of the decision-making process of pharma companies when it came to choosing CROs, and, even more specifically, patient recruitment services.

Crowley Webb conducted qualitative research that included in-depth interviews with pharma CRO decision-makers, which turned out to be a diverse mix of titles and responsibilities. In setting up these interviews, Crowley Webb discovered that this target audience from both large and small pharma and bio-tech companies had unique psychographics: They tend to be affable, but not very outgoing; they are detail-oriented and think analytically; they are devoted to their areas of expertise; they work odd hours; and they are paranoid that their work won't be successful.

Interviews with this target audience revealed some very important insights into their decision-making processes, Buck said. They perceived the selection of a CRO to be an extremely high-risk decision. "Decision-makers often feel their jobs are on the line when turning over a project to a CRO," Buck said. Another insight confirmed a well-known industry fact: Pharma companies tend to stick with preferred providers with which they've worked before and can trust.

The target audience also confided their perceptions of Praxis' competitors in the patient-recruitment arena. "They gave large CROs poor marks for flexibility, relationship building and service," Buck said.

These insights were critical to helping Crowley Webb differentiate Praxis from its patient-recruitment competitors. "We used this information to set a unique and relevant position for the Praxis brand to maximize ROI associated with a limited marketing communications budget," Buck said.

"The Praxis brand was relaunched in 2005 using a mix of paid and nonpaid media, sales execution support materials (collateral and trade show), as well as direct response and interactive media," Buck said. "A lead generation program, highlighting their new proprietary PraxisDirect technology, was introduced through Praxis' Web site to maximize ROI."

The first communication used to reach decision-makers was a series of posters, asking, "Isn't it wiser for people to spend their time on the jobs they're good at?" Following was a series of dimensional mailers sent to reinforce the brand position, answering the question "Why Praxis?"

Once they got a lead, several pieces were created to help with the sale, Buck said. "A dimensional `check presenter' mailer was produced and sent to warm leads to initiate a meeting," he said. "The Praxis sales team would then follow up to schedule a lunch. A capabilities sales kit—containing a company overview, biographies and key case studies—was also produced as a leave-behind after a meeting."

The campaign garnered international acclaim, winning several top awards in the health care field, Buck said. "But more important, Praxis won new client engagements with five of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. market," he added. "Praxis is now considered one of the fastest-growing niche CROs in the category."

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