Globalization of any given industry may seem inevitable, but for clinical research, it’s crucial. Diversification is critical to bringing a drug to market that will reach the most patients; global expansion offers access to markets, services, and populations that can fill that need. It can also help accelerate standardization and harmonization of global clinical research practices.

As with any journey, though, you need an effective map. Here are some steps to consider:

Conduct due diligence research

Understand what the full impact will be on your company. That means putting in time doing deep dive research, exploring every possible outcome and benefit. Identify what unique benefits and opportunities you’re hoping to achieve and discern your clearest path to them.

But don’t overlook the risks and challenges when assessing globalization. From a business perspective, take a hard look at how large your actual market is, and if you’ll be able to reach your goals within a reasonable growth period. And in the case of clinical research, consider regulatory issues; failing to understand and address these potential hurdles can result in the delay or even outright halt of an overseas clinical trial.

Consider the impact to your brand marketing, too. Differences in culture can skew perception — be sure the meaning your company’s tagline is intended to convey translates precisely into other languages. Some cultures view colors differently, as well — in Western culture, red is perceived as a warning or an alert color, while in Asian culture, it’s one of celebration and happiness. It’s possible your brand may need a bit of adjusting to ensure a seamless translation to an overseas audience.

Develop market strategy

When you’re certain the road ahead looks promising, lay the framework for your market strategy by identifying exactly how you plan to succeed. Identify key nuances unique to pharma and health care, and ensure you’re putting the smartest infrastructure in place — from data collection to laboratory testing, vendors, and shipping.

Just because your strategy has worked in the United States doesn’t mean it will seamlessly translate to other markets, so do a line-by-line assessment of your budget, goals, and success metrics. It is far easier to put in the hard work up front, assessing every possible outcome now, than it would be to extract your company from future problems that could have been avoided if you’d been more diligent during the planning phase.

Develop your tactical plan down to the smallest detail, and then have your advisors vet it until you’re all in agreement that it’s as sound as it can possibly be.

Prepare your team

Your organization is only as strong as its people. Assess the policies and procedures that will need to be addressed in different countries. Different languages, regulations, and customs will impact your employees not only on-site but also as they interact with the rest of the organization in locations across the world. Assemble teams carefully, taking time to ensure they not only have the skills, experience, and expertise required, but that they are able to navigate in a global structure.

Anticipate change management for your existing team; ensure they have the training, support, and technology they require to minimize disruption and encourage a smooth transition.

Reach your expanding audience

Give your marketing approach the same careful consideration and planning as you do the rest of your expansion strategy. Assess the regional and cultural impact of your message — and also how you deploy it. Some areas of the world, for example, use different social media channels than others — and some barely use them for business purposes at all. But don’t segment your marketing completely; instead, focus on adapting. Your best approach is to begin with a solid, overarching marketing strategy for your entire company. Then you can break out into different pathways, keeping the same messaging and intent, but adapting to each global region as needed for the regional, national, and cultural nuances, along with the branding and deployment adjustments for each area.

About the Author

Roger Boutin

Vice President of Communications

With 15 years of CRO/drug development experience, Roger is an authority in the drug development industry who knows how to connect strategy and tactics to improve our clients’ ROI. He directs the delivery of content, public relations, and communications, working collaboratively and strategically to help clients reach their goals. Roger has led two rebrands for a top 10, global CRO, giving him a perspective that drives him to deliver innovative, yet practical solutions for our clients’ marketing challenges.