Wednesday, October 5, 2016

It All Comes Down to Marketing

As a marketing professional I have long theorized that in life, it all comes down to… marketing. Think about it – from getting accepted into college, getting a date, finding a job – it (mostly) has to do with how one positions oneself (think “personal brand”) along with place (being in the right one) and promotion (the offer). Earlier today I sat in on the Patient Recruitment & Identification track at Partnerships in Clinical Trials US and couldn’t help but think… recruitment sounds a lot like marketing.

Listening to Melanie Goodwin from ICON, her message was clear, that when it comes to leveraging technology to engage patients for research... know thy audience. Technology is but one of the tools available to investigators and researchers, and it can pay dividends if applied to the right target. When talking about identifying attributes of the “right target," Melanie referred to this as a Patient Profile – she also suggested a term I’d never heard before, social listening, as a strategy to understand where and how potential patients gather information.
As this part of her talk was unfolding, my mind went back to the basics of marketing. While I may have evidence (data) to support the usage of Twitter, as an example, for patient recruitment based on the fact that a certain demographic has been documented as high adopters of the app, it’s not enough. There has to be market research around the why of Twitter. If I primarily use Twitter for celebrity gossip, I may find it jarring to see a promotion around a medical issue that I’m applying escapism from. I know this one firsthand. And it is a reason some people have multiple Twitter accounts: compartmentalization.

In addition to aspects of positioning, there is also the desired behavior that I, as the promoter, want my target to take. So in recruiting for (marketing) a clinical trial, I need to know who I am seeking, where they are (virtual and physical), how they process information and what is the action I want them to take. For clinical trial professionals, this is typically a big ask – “I want you to enroll in my trial” – and as I heard from Lisa Berdan, Duke Clinical Research Institute, increasingly, recruitment professionals are learning that baby steps can help with the desired effect. Maybe the ask is initially, “Will you learn what a clinical trial is?” Think about it – most of us have never been asked to participate in a trial, and informed consent, which can be a big hairy monster, can turn potential participants away within only a matter of sentences.

The last aspect of the track today I found interesting is the cost-versus-value debate. It is a unique conundrum to clinical trials – the cost to recruit a patient can be as much as $20,000 for a single trial, and that can also be the lifetime maximum value. It is unlike any other business which can turn a one-time purchase or engagement into a longer term commitment. This aspect places even more onus on researchers to pre-search (a term I learned in grad school) the desired target and reasonable behavior to ensure the greatest reach and return for every dollar invested.

When she is not working as a healthcare marketing and PR professional, Jennifer Crowley is mom to an eight year old son with cancer. His illness has largely driven her interests in patient advocacy, pediatric cancer research and personalized medicine. It's great to learn because knowledge is power! 

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