Online adverts. Email marketing. Sales brochures. Business pitches. They all need to be relevant to gain the attention of prospects and customers. We talked to Enda Mullaney and David Green at ICON about how the clinical research organisation is transforming its sales and marketing activities.


Clinical research must be a fascinating sector to work in.

It is.  As a global provider of outsourced drug development services to pharmaceutical and medical device organisations, our role is to help our clients in the journey from science to the real world as quickly and as safely as possible. Developing new drugs that save lives and enhance quality of life is a challenging, lengthy and costly process, but new advancements in digital technologies are offering exciting opportunities to help reduce this cost and time.

We conduct clinical trials with thousands of patients every year on behalf of our clients. Digital disruption is impacting everything from presenting new ways to capture real world data from trial participants, to how we can engage with our customers. We are constantly looking for new ways to improve the efficiency of data management and other internal processes. Technologies that we have started to explore include artificial intelligence and quantum computing.


How have you made customer relevance a reality?

For us, the journey began with systems integration and process alignment between our marketing and sales activities, to develop great customer and prospect intelligence. We need to ensure that all of our content and messaging is relevant to our clients and potential clients as they move through their buying journey.

Deploying Salesforce was a key enabler for achieving this. By making CRM central to our business, not just sales and marketing, we can make sure we’re aligned to our customers’ needs at every stage of the buying journey. The resultant integrated intelligence enables better business decisions and to progress new ideas more easily.


Can you share an example of this relevance in action?

Sure. Let’s look at our marketing activities as an example. As with any complex, long-lead time B2B sales process, there are many different stakeholders involved in selecting a clinical research organisation, and we need to have relevancy and appeal to every one of them. We’ve developed a matrix of personas, journeys, and workflows to help make marketing content as relevant as possible throughout the buying cycle. Every time a prospect or customer provides information via a website form, it’s captured in their profile.

Transforming our approach to marketing has involved a lot of internal work on technology tools adoption and process reengineering. It now enables us to have greater external relevancy to each individual stakeholder at clients or prospect organisations, through delivery of targeted content that’s relevant to their role. It will also help to provide us with a richer insight into our customer and prospect base, so we can understand them better.


How do you ensure this customer intelligence is shared across the business?

We took the concept of a 360-degree customer view, and ramped it up to the next level to provide ICON executive sponsors with easy access to internal and external information. We worked with Salesforce partner Pexlify Solutions to build a digital hub on Sales Cloud that brings together public information, such as financial results and news, with internal data, for example current opportunities, account strategies, and pending tasks.

Chatter is an important part of the hub – for each customer we have a dedicated community where business development managers and executive sponsors can keep in touch and share updates. It is transforming how we share information, make decisions, and progress new business opportunities.


How else have you transformed sales?

Our territory plans are a great example. They used to be captured in spreadsheets, but this didn’t easily enable full visibility that we needed at a strategic level. Now we build all our territory plans in Salesforce, which means sales reps and business development managers can work more effectively together to achieve their targets. We’ve also built a robust outcome analysis engine using Einstein Analytics. It provides us with richer insights into why we win and why we lose certain bids.


These are all great ideas, but how do you make sure people adopt new digital processes?

To maximise adoption, you’ve got to make systems fundamental to how users work, with key processes fully integrated. But successful adoption isn’t just about having great technology, it’s also about the softer elements – culture, process, and behavioural change. Never underestimate the importance of change management! One of the advantages of Salesforce is that, as a cloud solution, we can focus on behavioural, process and cultural change, and not worry about IT infrastructure and scalability.


With better insights, organisations can ensure their services, skills, and processes remain relevant to their customers and maximise competitive advantage. Read the full success story to find out more about how ICON is boosting efficiency and agility with Salesforce.

Have a dig in to our e-book on AI for CRM, to find out everything you need to know to start marketing more intelligently.