To develop just one successful medicine involves exploring many novel molecules and requires patient participation in multi-year, multi-phase clinical trials. This means it can take as long as 10 years for an idea in a laboratory to become an available medicine.
As a clinical research organisation, ICON plays a key role in global drug development and has helped to develop 18 of the world’s top 20 best-selling drugs. “Drug and device development is a very intensive and expensive process,” said David Green, VP Global Marketing at ICON. “We help pharmaceutical firms and medical device manufacturers by providing a range of clinical, consulting, and commercial services, and clinical technology platforms.”
Since it was founded in Ireland in 1990, ICON has conducted clinical trials with more than 1.5 million patients across a range of medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Technology is revolutionising how these trials are conducted, as Green explained: “Digital technologies are disrupting patient recruitment and engagement with real world data capture, so there’s a lot of interest and investment in digital health technologies at the moment – for example, wearables have significant potential to greatly improve outcomes assessment and enable more cost-effective remote patient monitoring.”
The healthcare industry as a whole is also undergoing massive change with a shift towards payment by outcomes (known as value-based healthcare) instead of payment by procedure. “The world’s health services are under considerable pressure,” said Green. “Governments and pharmaceutical firms are increasingly looking for drugs to deliver greater value to both patients and providers.”
Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and genetically personalised treatment plans will all be part of this new era in outcome-driven healthcare, according to Green. ICON is already pioneering some of these ideas, for example using artificial intelligence to identify the most relevant patients for different clinical trials, and quantum computing to accurately project outcomes for diverse patient populations.
Pharmaceutical firms are increasingly establishing strategic alliances to address their clinical research needs. “Our customers are expecting a more consultative approach,” said Green.
This means the traditional transactional method of sales is rapidly becoming outdated. “With so much information available online, the balance of power has shifted to the buyer,” said Green. “Research shows that many organisations are typically around two-thirds of the way through their buying cycle by the time they reach out to suppliers.”
To adapt to this new customer-driven landscape, ICON needs both its marketing and sales activities to be more intelligent and more integrated. “We need to ensure we stay relevant to the customer throughout the buying journey,” said Green. “To do this, we need to provide contextually relevant content and to ensure our data sets and processes between marketing and sales are aligned.”
To make its business more seamless, ICON deployed Salesforce globally. “Salesforce is more agile than traditional enterprise systems, and it comes with a ready-made ecosystem,” said Enda Mullaney, Senior Manager Sales Operations at ICON. “We can access great resources through Trailhead to support our training and development efforts.”
To achieve its customer intelligence ambitions, ICON has not only put CRM at the centre of its sales and marketing operations but also its entire business. “CRM has become a source of central intelligence for our business,” said Mullaney. “We can make better decisions and progress new ideas more easily.”
By combining the power of Sales Cloud and Pardot, ICON can also qualify, nurture, track, and convert leads more successfully. “We can now place leads on specific journeys and send tailored content to match different interests and buying stages,”” explained Green.
ICON has developed a matrix of personas and profiles 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.
“There are lots of different stakeholders involved in selecting a clinical research organisation, and we need to appeal to every one of them,” said Green. “With Pardot, we can reach out to thousands of ‘markets’ of one. This would have been impossible without marketing automation.”
To ensure it makes the most of new business opportunities, ICON has established a key customer hub for its executive leaders. Founded on Sales Cloud Lightning, the hub brings together a wealth of information – from news articles and financial results to account strategies and RFPs.
The hub, which was developed in partnership with Pexlify Solutions based in Dublin, provides a 360-degree view of current business development activities as well as upcoming tasks and events. Each customer account has a dedicated Chatter community, which enables business development managers and executive sponsors to collaborate more easily. “Sharing and sourcing information used to involve a string of emails. With the new digital hub, team collaboration is much more dynamic and transparent,” said Mullaney.
With leads, customer accounts, tasks, and territory plans all captured centrally, ICON can tap into new insights and share these via personalised dashboards. “We want to deliver value from our data to both individual sales reps as well as the business as a whole,” explained Mullaney.
With Analytics Cloud, ICON can unlock this value more easily and quickly. “We can interrogate a wealth of data and pose different questions,” said Green. Mullaney continued: “We can see why we are winning or losing business, and feed this back to the teams involved so they can be more successful in the future. Wave Analytics provides invaluable business intelligence and will help strengthen our bids going forward.”