Time your marketing budget to the NIH grants schedule

Get the most out of the newly approved budget for biomedical research.

The Senate has just approved a budget bill to increase spending for biomedical research by 5.4% – $2 billion – for the 2019 fiscal year. With this change, total NIH spending for biomedical research will reach $39.1 billion. More money than last year is going to Alzheimer’s research, neuroscience, and genomics.

This means scientists will have more money to spend on equipment, services, and manpower. A big chunk of it will be distributed in the form of NIH grants. These grants run on a schedule you can adjust your marketing plan to. In this post, we’d like to provide you with this timeline to consider for your ad budgets in Q4 2018, and for 2019.

A few of the biggest NIH grants (P, U, and R Series) run on the same timeline. We’ll concentrate on those for this post. Their submission deadlines are every year on January 25, May 25, and?September 25.

These grants are all awarded for periods up to five years, and their process can be roughly broken down into three stages that follow the life science marketer’s funnel:

Raise awareness during the four-month application preparation stage

The NIH recommends scientists spend up to four months preparing their grant application before they hand it in. This preparation includes planning their budgets. Their applications need to list all items they’ll need to buy, down to the shipping costs.

Items like reagents, small pieces of equipment or other items that scientists usually not share with others in a lab are mostly unproblematic and will be paid for without further question. That’s not the case for more expensive equipment, however. For that, scientists will need to convince reviewers why certain items need to be bought.

The NIH guidelines suggest that if scientists will be using the equipment at least half-time, the reviewer will likely feel the request is justified. Scientists should explain why they can’t get it any other way.

It makes sense to provide researchers with these arguments when you reach out to them in awareness campaigns. This should happen during the four months prior to their university’s submission deadline, which is likely to be a few weeks before the NIH’s deadline. When applications include over 500K in direct costs, the expense must be flagged and discussed with their institute or center staff which will support them at least six weeks before the application deadline. The higher the?expense, the more time is required.

Build interest and commitment during the waiting period

It takes anywhere from eight weeks to 20 months for scientists to learn whether grant applications were successful, and even longer before scientists see money.

Of course not all applications go through: In the fiscal year 2017, 18% of applications for R01-equivalent grants (the big ones you’ll want to be in on) were successful and went to 11,000 principal investigators in the US. For those who got funded, the reward was high: The average size of these grants increased by 5% to $482,395 in FY 2017.

Whether scientists are awarded a big grant or not, this waiting period is the time to nurture your leads and stay on top of scientists’ minds, deepening their understanding of your products and services. If they’re awarded the grant, they’ll make a purchase in the upcoming months. In that case, you don’t want them to change their mind and buy another product than they had included in their original application. If they aren’t awarded the grant, they’ll reapply for a grant soon and will need to plan their next budget.

Convert now, or repeat and nurture for the duration of the grant period

At this point, scientists have money in-hand and will be able to make the long-awaited purchase. This means it’s time for conversions. Deepen your prospective customers’ understanding of your products and services by offering trials and demos now to help them make their purchasing decision.

If scientists don’t buy this time, you’ll likely get a second, and maybe even a third or fourth chance. That’s because scientists need to hand in a report every year for the duration of the grant. Performance reports follow the same deadline as the initial application. For example, applicants who initially applied in January will also hand in their progress report in January.

In these reports, scientists need to outline their budget and purchases for the next year. For instance, they need to ask the NIH for approval for all purchases over $25,000. Only once their progress report passes the review do they get paid out the next batch of their grant. For many grants, this means you get up to five years to nurture your leads and four periods to convert them.

What’s more, carrying over money from one budget period to the next can be complicated. In many cases, scientists will need to apply to the NIH in a separate application to carry over money from one year to the next. That’s why you’ll likely see more spending at the end of the grant year (in December, April or August) when they invest left-over funds.

... Back to the beginning:

If all goes well, one grant’s end is another grant’s beginning. To never run out of money, the NIH advises scientists to plan ahead and hand in their next grant’s application at least 20 months before the end of their current one. That’s why, whatever timeline you’re running on, it makes sense to keep in touch with prospective customers continuously.

We’re here to help you plan your marketing budget for Q4 and next year. ResearchGate is the most visited site in science with more than 120 monthly million visits according to SimilarWeb. Our advertising solutions allow you to target scientists based on contextual and behavioral data, their research and research interests, as well as skills, expertise and location. We help you to nurture and retarget leads, following prospective customers through the grant process to conversion.

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  • To get in on the $2 billion biomedical research budget increase in FY2019, you should start awareness campaigns now if you haven’t yet. Scientists eyeing the January 25, 2019 deadline are starting research on what to buy with future grant money now.

  • Get in on end-of-the-year spending before January’s deadline now. Scientists will be spending the money they have left over from grants that are running out or going into the next year now.

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