Since medical and pharmaceutical industries can generate billions of dollars in revenue with successful introductions, clinical trials are a crucial component in bringing new products to market. Positive results are used as a springboard for nationwide marketing campaigns and polished sales presentations. These aspirations may remain unfulfilled however if the clinical trial fails to attract a sufficient amount of qualified candidates. Unreliable results can doom a product or extend the introduction timeframe, no matter how good the product may be.
With so much riding on their results, clinical trials are now looked at as more of a business venture than just a research necessity. They require as much strategic planning, sophisticated timetables, and testing analytics as the product introduction itself. If some aspects of running a successful clinical trial can be compared to running a successful business, then certainly business marketing techniques can also prove helpful in participant recruitment. Instead of looking at recruitment as a purely scientific venture, trial managers need to think in terms of effective business marketing strategies:
- Build a Brand: Think of the clinical trial as a new product being brought to market. What are the benefits of participating in the trial? Will it make participants feel better in some way? What philanthropic goals for humanity can be advanced - longer life, better health - that make participation feel worthwhile? These are brand statements that need to be built into a marketing strategy. Responding to a clinical trial that promises to help reduce pain associated with cancer is far more appealing than a trial that is attempting to verify the efficacy of product “x” in reducing the incidences of severe inflammation.
- Develop a Marketing Plan: Decide on a target demographic and determine the most effective ways of communicating with that particular group. Most strategies today require a strong component of online marketing to be effective. This may include website development, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media communications to get the brand message across to potential recruits.
- Ask for the Business: In business, the top salespeople are adept at actually asking for the business. Clinical trial marketers must develop the same skills by utilizing online marketing channels to make contact, build up the brand, stress the benefits, and ask for the business in the form of an application to the trial.
- Maintain Engagement: Similar to product introductions where interest wanes after an initial rush, clinical trials may encounter difficulties encouraging participants to remain involved throughout the entire period of the trial. A separate communication strategy through social media or online resources can be developed to keep participants engaged and involved. They need to be continuously reminded of why they applied to this trial in the first place, and the good they are accomplishing.
It may be difficult to think in terms of “selling” a clinical trial, but the companies that are able to seamlessly incorporate relevant business marketing strategies will be the ones that see increased trial success.