The global pandemic has caused seismic changes in the medical and pharma industry. In recent years, the industry has begun a gradual shift toward virtual connections; COVID accelerated these trends, canceling swaths of conferences and conventions. This shift is likely to become permanent in some regions. Attendees and hosts have discovered that virtual tools have many unique benefits.
Key opinion leaders (KOLs) may promote an ongoing shift away from in-person meetings; these individuals enjoy the freedom and flexibility that comes with virtual meetings. Digital platforms allow KOLs to fit meetings and outreach into their busy schedules. Medical and pharma companies must adapt or risk losing touch with their advisory team.
Now, more than ever, your company needs KOL insight. The global medical system faces many challenges in the 21st century – different mindsets, priorities, and policies are emerging. By anticipating coming changes, your company can position itself for success.
Read on to learn more about developing a virtual KOL outreach strategy.
KOLs offer valuable insight
KOL outreach can make or break your organization. These individuals offer on-the-ground insight into treatment patterns within the healthcare system; they understand patients’ priorities and providers’ concerns. KOLs can help your organization understand what drives clinical decision-making, which helps your company refine its strategic planning.
Their insights can also drive marketing and branding processes, as they identify pain points for patients and providers. Your organization can use their input to craft a successful marketing message; by offering persuasive, relevant information, you can build interest in a new treatment. KOL insights also help your organization introduce products at the right time.
Overcoming outreach hurdles
Unfortunately, connecting with KOLs can be a challenge. In the past, many companies simply attended conventions or conferences, but pamphlets and booths are no longer a viable strategy because most conferences have shifted online. KOLs are increasingly wary of in-person meetings, so most outreach now takes place digitally. As a result, companies need a sharp, responsive strategy for virtual communications.
Your strategy should center around providing value to KOLs; today’s KOLs aren’t willing to take time out of their busy day to listen to a tedious lecture. Often, they grapple with a jam-packed schedule and unprecedented job stress. The most desirable experts are sought-after by many companies. They can’t accept every invitation and they won’t invest in a meeting that offers little value.
As KOLs consider invitations, they may ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?” They know that medical and pharma companies rely on their expertise, but outreach should never be one-sided. Companies can offer reciprocal benefits to build deeper relationships. As you plan a virtual outreach strategy, consider the following tips:
Do your homework
KOLs gravitate toward experienced, well-informed organizations. They understand that your company has questions and needs expert input. Still, they expect that companies will have done some background research.
Make sure to review key meeting topics in advance, and arm yourself with useful insights and relevant statistics. This research process lets your company share information about your products or accomplishments. Ensure that you have access to clinical and research data that supports your points.
Choose the right platform
KOLs often have a tight schedule, and synchronous meetings can be bothersome. Flexible online platforms allow your contacts to join discussions on their own timetable. The best platforms offer a range of tools for rich discussions between members. They let attendees break into small groups and share multimedia presentations. Consider which tools offer the best alternatives to in-person meetings, then look for a platform that meets your needs.
Make the most of virtual tools
Once you’ve made a selection, familiarize your team with the platform. Ensure that team members know how to troubleshoot and use each tool; create a troubleshooting plan in advance. Look for platforms that offer integrated tech support, then select one team member as a main point of contact to streamline assisting clients or contacts who run into trouble.
Remember that virtual meetings are only one tool in your arsenal. After the meeting ends, plan for follow-up activities, which can include Q&A sessions, networking time, and more. These activities help deepen your connection with attendees; they keep the discussion flowing and offer added value.
Be selective with invitations
Your company needs to connect with KOLs who align with your priorities. You may gravitate toward individuals with recognizable names or a dazzling resume, but consider whether this particular person is a good fit. Outreach for the sake of outreach is a waste of everyone’s time. Create a detailed checklist and identify KOLs who can help your company reach its goals.
Look for individuals with expertise in your particular niche. Consider approaching KOLs who have led clinical trials or published in major journals. Providers who specialize in certain regions or demographics are another good resource.
You may find it helpful to look for several contacts, each one with a unique background; a diverse group can provide different perspectives and insights. Determine what kind of expertise you need, and then look for KOLs who fit the bill.
Offer unique opportunities
If your initial meeting goes well, your contact may want to deepen the connection. KOLs often seek out opportunities to engage in research projects, clinical trials, and advisory boards. They may also enjoy sponsorship opportunities or special networking events. Consider what your company can offer, then make plans for how to follow up with these offers after the meeting is over.
The bottom line
Virtual outreach can be challenging, but the right strategy can help your company stay connected to KOLs. Digital tools help you engage with KOLs and build relationships with qualified experts. Versatile platforms can allow for in-depth discussion and collaboration – these tools help mimic the conference environment and keep attendees engaged.