How to Differentiate Your CRO in Today’s Market

Author: Rod McGlashing, Data Science Subject Matter Expert at Medrio

Clinical Research Organizations (CROs) play a key role in drug discovery and development, as sponsors increasingly look outside their organizations to manage clinical trial activities and reduce costs and timelines. However, many CROs struggle to differentiate themselves in the eyes of prospective sponsors or leverage differentiators — such as expertise in key therapeutic areas — that no longer resonate with sponsors today. 

Presenting expertise as educational credentials and/or the number of studies conducted in a therapeutic area may not provide enough information for a customer to differentiate among CROs, today. How does the customer determine if a Ph.D. from one university is better than another? Is there a meaningful difference between conducting 300 or 500 oncology studies?

Successfully differentiating your CRO in today’s market requires taking a more holistic approach — one that looks beyond therapeutic expertise and highlights your ability to meet a more comprehensive range of needs. Supporting our CRO partners’ growth is a key aim at Medrio. Here, I’ll share four strategies and best practices developed alongside Medrio’s CEO Nicole Latimer that you can use to stand out from your competitors and position your CRO for success.

Focus on operational efficiency

In a field where each CRO promises deep expertise in its therapeutic area(s) of interest, operational efficiency has become a key concern for sponsors. As a result, operational efficiency has become table stakes for your CRO — and communicating your work process has become essential to differentiate your CRO from your competitors. 

“Sponsors absolutely want to know that CROs are bringing qualified staff to the project, but they also want to know how the staff intends to conduct the study, how long each step might take, and what they should expect in terms of progress reports,” says Latimer. Centering operational efficiency in your brand messaging provides an opportunity to acknowledge these concerns and give prospects a glimpse into what it’s like to work with your CRO.

Lead with operational efficiency by communicating your CRO’s framework or step-by-step approach to studies, outlining the services you provide at each step and the deliverables the sponsor can expect, advises Latimer. Describe how you adapt your approach to the unique needs of each sponsor — for example, the therapeutic area-specific analyses or reports you produce as part of your approach. Additionally, share your successes in similar studies to showcase your ability to deliver quality results on budget and on deadline.

Embrace innovation

Technology plays an increasingly pivotal role in drug design and development, and it can also serve as a key differentiator for CROs. Deep expertise in emerging technologies can shape your reputation as a forward-looking CRO, as well as help you deliver on the operational efficiency that sponsors expect. 

Make access to real-time data part of your messaging to distinguish yourself from competitors. Most sponsors want real-time reporting on study progress, yet the vast majority report that they receive data that is a week or more old. CROs that provide sponsors with real-time export capabilities or that are expert users of a system and can provide timely data exports have an opportunity to meet sponsors’ needs more comprehensively.

Highlight your expertise in in-demand and emerging technologies to help your CRO stand out. Although many sponsors adopted ePRO and eConsent during the pandemic, a majority of them were dissatisfied with the experience,” says Latimer. “CROs specializing in driving successful use of ePRO and eConsent can differentiate themselves.”

Finally, communicate how your CRO’s deep expertise in specific clinical trial technologies allows the team to work more efficiently, from creating builds more quickly to expediting study close-out activities. This efficiency level can allow your CRO to differentiate through reduced study timelines.

Create a seamless client experience

Differentiation isn’t just about marketing; the client experience can distinguish your CRO. Referrals remain the top method sponsors use to find new CROs, a recent PharmaIntelligence survey reports, so delivering an exceptional experience to your existing clientele can bring additional sponsors your way. 

However, sponsors often struggle with aspects of the client experience when collaborating with CROs. Nearly 1 in 3 sponsors in the survey cited staff turnover as a top challenge to working with a CRO, while 17% identified project management and 9% pointed to communication as their most significant concern. This means that CROs who address these challenges head-on are poised to stand out from their competitors. 

CROs can elevate their client experience by creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) with the appropriate supporting documentation and ensuring staff follows these procedures. They should also consider the benefits of hiring redundant staff for key positions to reduce the impact of turnover, so studies can continue uninterrupted if a staff member becomes unavailable. 

Finally, CROs should create a seamless experience by following a standardized document storage structure, even if it isn’t the eTMF standard.  By ensuring that everyone follows the same standards, staff who are new to the study will immediately know where to find the information they need for the conduct of the study.

Find the right partners

Just as sponsors look to CROs for the expertise and insight they provide, CROs benefit from working with trusted partners who can help them achieve their business objectives.“Most CROs can’t do everything, and many don’t want to. Finding the right partners helps you fill those gaps, so you can build long-lasting relationships with your customers.

The right clinical trial software partner, for example, can provide software and support that helps CROs meet sponsors’ critical needs: high quality data, access to information and efficient clinical trials. They can also work collaboratively with CROs during the bidding process, helping to illustrate how their software will meet the sponsor’s needs. Crucially, the right partners can help emphasize your differentiation through collaborating on co-marketing efforts that build your reputation and set your CRO up to succeed.

Medrio is here to help

Setting your CRO apart calls for finding innovative and intuitive solutions that help you meet sponsors’ needs — and we’ve got you covered. A leader in the eClinical space for more than 15 years, we offer solutions tailored to your clients’ unique needs, from solutions for traditional, virtual, or hybrid trials ready to assist your team every step of the way.

Learn more about our clinical trial solutions and how we can help you differentiate your CRO today.

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