The First Step to Long Term Pharmaceutical Client Retention

By Philippe Leblond, Founder of OpenHuddle. This article is part of a series on best practices ad agencies, especially healthcare agencies, can use in discovering and seizing new opportunities for growth. Don’t miss Philippe’s first article on new business development or his article on winning the pitch process.


As I partner with more and more healthcare agencies, I have realized how vital relationship management is and the drastic impact it can have on their business. Most of us have heard the saying it costs more to acquire a new client than to keep an existing one, but how does it specifically impact the management of healthcare agencies?

For our specific interest, I looked into two important questions:

  1. What is the current satisfaction of pharmaceutical marketers with healthcare agencies?
  2. How is relationship management implemented by healthcare agencies?

A recent survey conducted by OpenHuddle reports that roughly half of pharmaceutical marketers are moderately satisfied or less with their healthcare agencies. They are most commonly looking for accountability and have pinpointed these specific areas:

chart on Openhuddle-Healthcare agencies most important accountability traits and associated satisfaction levels
OpenHuddle, Pharmaceutical Marketing & Healthcare Agency Professional Relationship, 12/2020

Whether these numbers are surprising or considered industry standards, they can be traced back to a low implementation rate of relationship management. 4A’s & ANA reports that only 34% of agencies currently have a formal client/agency relationship management program (with top 5 clients).

As a former pharmaceutical marketer, my experience with new healthcare agencies has been the following:

Looking back, I was as responsible as the healthcare agencies for not giving more attention and structure to my professional relationships. We all say that we never have the time, but I could have saved myself numerous headaches by listening to more experienced individuals within my industry. According to the 4A’s relationship management best practices are:

As mentioned before, it costs more to acquire a new client than to keep an existing one. While industry standard ROI metrics for these programs are tough to come by, it is documented that multiple agencies have benefited from relationship management by:

  • Extending client/agency professional relationship
  • Increasing profit margins on work delivered
  • Increasing opportunities for organic growth
  • Improving industry reputation

Based on its findings, OpenHuddle encourages all healthcare agencies to invest time and effort in relationship management. Showcasing serious and well-structured programs is a tremendous opportunity to extend client retention. Instead of relying on a pipeline of new pharmaceutical clients to grow or even maintain revenue, healthcare agencies should emphasize and even reward client growth. “Relationship Management is how to keep winning after you’ve won.” says 4A’s.

To receive the full report from OpenHuddle, please contact Philippe Leblond at [email protected].


About OpenHuddle
Founded and operated by Philippe Leblond, OpenHuddle is a partnering agency and a proud 4A’s member that helps healthcare agencies discover and take advantage of new opportunities for growth. OpenHuddle firmly believes that it can make a major difference in the business relationships that every healthcare agency needs to thrive. Having worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over a decade, and thereby acquiring a wide range of knowledge and business contacts, the founder was preparing to take on this venture before he even knew what it would be. OpenHuddle holds the insider perspective on understanding your pharmaceutical clients as no one else can. To learn more, visit