With in-person events back on track, it’s time for pharma marketplaces to reimagine themselves

Mindaugas Zagorskis, CEO of PipelinepharmaWith the events circuit in full swing after two years of intermittent lockdowns, many pharma manufacturers and buyers can finally meet in person, discuss business opportunities and refresh their knowledge of the ever-changing field. Having recently visited CPHI in Frankfurt myself, I can attest to all these benefits that the industry missed during the pandemic. But what does this “return to normal” mean for B2B marketplaces that have grown in the last few years?

Travel is becoming a bigger hassle than it was

The conference venues this season in Europe seem packed with participants hungry for ideas, connections and deals, but not everyone who wanted to be there made it. While some parts of the world, like Europe, have relaxed travel restrictions to the bare minimum, intercontinental travel still comes with a degree of uncertainty. Luckily, many conferences have added online matchmaking and virtual seminars to their offering. 

The most significant benefit of B2B marketplaces is that, unlike conferences, they’re open 24/7. Although most still limit themselves to listing manufacturer products and driving a high number of doubtful quality leads or simple matchmaking, a specialized B2B marketplace can provide so much more. I am talking about professional validation of business cases, facilitation of deals, industry expertise, advisory services and other value-creating services.

Being in control

Another barrier to entry eliminated by online marketplaces is the cost of participation. While paying €1000/sq.m. for expo space and tens of thousands in participation fees and travel fares is pocket change for the big players, in the looming recession, many smaller companies will be more careful when planning their budgets. 

Besides, newcomers who have never negotiated location and booth set-up at conferences might not get the best experience the first time around. It is a bit disappointing when you get placed in a section of the venue with minimal foot traffic, whereas your competitor ends up in a much better space. Online marketplaces, on the other hand, level the playing field for all. And while premium listing and sourcing options increase a company’s chances of getting a suitable deal, they are not a prerequisite for success.

Business Development adopts new practices

When it comes to using online channels for marketing and sales, it is clear that the industry still needs to catch up to the trends adopted by other sectors. There is little surprise here, as selling pharmaceuticals is different from selling fast fashion or software services. Besides, Pharma companies still need to be convinced about generating leads online, as some have been disappointed by low-quality services that were prevalent a few years ago. But things are changing.

Talking with Business Development specialists and other Pharma representatives, both online and during live events, it seems that our traditionally conservative industry is becoming more and more open to new ideas. When discussing marketplaces, people ask about things like user experience, traffic channels, customer acquisition, and so on. This shows that Pharma companies are adapting to the rules of online business, and the fact that some have started hiring Business Development and Marketing managers from Tech companies is telling.

Of course, there will always be companies using a big Excel spreadsheet for their CRM, and there is nothing wrong with that. After all, it is not about having access to a series of smart tools, it is about how you use them to grow your business.

Not a substitute but an addition

In the changing business landscapes, solutions that can work in the background, generating leads and potential sales, can make a massive difference. At Pipelinepharma, in addition to providing free listing options for manufacturers and detailed search functions for buyers, we want to offer our own expertise in sourcing products and facilitating deals. Rather than replace the need for conferences and in-person meetings, we hope to provide businesses with an extension to their internal resources. After all, live events are great for catching up with your peers, but a marketplace can open opportunities companies have never even thought of before.

Mindaugas Zagorskis, founder and CEO of Pipelinepharma

Trade show illustration created by Pipelinepharma and DALL·E Human & AI