Decentralized clinical trials let pharmaceutical companies bring new treatments to the market faster and with a more equitable process that includes patients of all socio-economic backgrounds, which in turn enables more comprehensive findings.
PRA Health Sciences, an ICON plc company since July 2021, is a global contract research organization (CRO) that specializes in decentralized clinical trials; between 2000 and 2021, it directly contributed to the approval of more than 95 drugs by U.S. and international regulatory agencies. By 2021 PRA was a leading global CRO with 75 offices across 7 continents and 19,000+ employees.
By early 2021, PRA faced two main challenges. First, there were newer and more agile players in the market better equipped as B2B SaaS companies with well-mapped customer acquisition strategies. Second, while their reach was global, they needed a more structured business development process — the sales team was driving the acquisition process, identifying prospective customers (pharmaceutical company operations and clinical staff), but there was no content strategy or supporting content.
PRA was a leader in decentralized drug testing, a technology-driven service, but the business development process was still focused on their traditional CRO services. Key questions remained unanswered: For users of decentralized testing, what were their goals? What did they understand about their search process? What were the pain points from their perspective?
eCity’s challenge was twofold: One, to deploy its user research methodology to help PRA learn how their customers moved through the awareness, consideration, and decision-making process. And two, to leverage that user research into guiding documentation and supporting content for the marketing and sales enablement process.
We used our proven three-step methodology to understand PRAs current state, clarify its direction, and understand the pains their customers were experiencing. The findings from this process were critical to the deliverable: a content marketing strategy to enable PRA to retain its position as a market leader.
- Discovery Immersion: eCity conducted a competitive review of other websites for their overall messaging, content, content conversion workflows; and an audit of the PRA website traffic to compare what was learned about competitor strategies.
- Design Thinking Workshops: After gaining insights from traditional third-party research, eCity conducted design thinking workshops with stakeholders to develop customer personas, map the customer journey, and value propositions for each persona. These sessions enabled eCity to bring stakeholders into the process to incorporate their knowledge into and reach consensus around directions for the content strategy.
- Proto-persona workshops: These assumption roundtable discussions focused on understanding and consolidating buyer types and developing the working hypothesis for stakeholder surveys and interviews.
- Team Workshops: These eCity-facilitated workshops ideated on the customer journey for each persona and then discussed the relationship between PRA services and each customer’s value proposition.
- User Survey and Interviews: The next step was to survey customers visiting the site and recruit interview participants to help us validate hypotheses and fill information gaps.
These activities were a valuable learning process for eCity and for PRA, and led to three major discoveries about its customers that had not been previously considered:
- Build Trust: Since these third-stage trials were high stakes – and expensive – for the customer, PRA needed to establish a trust relationship.
- Provide Reassurance: The customer needed reassurance that PRA had the expertise to conduct the specific tests they needed.
- Educate the Customer: They needed to develop content that educated the customer on the risks and rewards of using the decentralized process PRA offered.
“Going through those exercises, we realized we needed content that really educated the potential user on the risks and rewards for using this new technology or using a decentralized process rather than a traditional process,” said Kevin Renton, Principal of eCity Interactive.
eCity’s summary report provided PRA with a cohesive and comprehensive go-to-market strategy: what content to develop, how to produce it, and the technical requirements for effectively delivering that content to customers. Most importantly, the design thinking framework built empathy into the process, and ensured that the end product was customer-centric.