What Drug Trial Recruiting Can Teach Us About Marketing

Consumers today are more demanding than ever, always looking for a reason to doubt your claim or ignore your message. Consumers expect you to justify your assertions or promises with sufficient factual supporting language that extends far beyond a simple sales pitch.

For marketers, the most challenging part of developing communications in this age of skepticism is identifying and crafting the reward or promise. No matter how clever or eye-catching the creative, it must have a reward or promise that resonates with your audience to generate the desired response.

My agency specializes in accelerating patient enrollment for clinical trials, and within the space we live in, developing communications to recruit potential patients poses even more unique challenges, particularly because:

1.   Messages cannot promise any direct benefit for the product, since the medication in the trial is experimental.

2.   Viewer must take the initiative to call or click to be prescreened for the study.



Rewards must have emotional as well as a logical appeal. How do you convince potential study participants to enter a trial when there are no guarantees the experimental protocol will make their life better?

Some questions to consider when constructing the reward are:

  • Will the product or service have a physical impact?
  • Is it emotionally grounded?
  • Will these be meaningful to targets and meet their needs?

If so, those are your benefits, but keep in mind that those benefits must be supported factually.

Developing Insights Based on Factual Data

The first step in crafting a reward is getting to know your target audience. Who are these people? What kind of lifestyle do they lead? Where do they shop? What kind of media do they consume?

At the outset of a new patient recruitment campaign, we first have to conduct research to determine the demographics of our target, which have often already been narrowed down by definition in the protocol. However, figuring out how to resonate within that target can be complex, and is accomplished using quantitative and/or qualitative primary research.

Once we’ve gathered those insights, we use them as the foundation to build a customized document that summarizes the factors affecting recruitment, which will serve as the foundation for our communication strategy.

Offering a Reward that Resonates

One of the questions we strive to answer in this document is,“What will motivate your target to respond to the communications?” Providing a spot-on response to this question is especially important.

For example, there was low clinical trial enrollment for a drug addressing a women's health problem. The trial used messaging that focused on the problem, emphasizing the frustration women experienced with the condition. This strategy resulted in only 17.5% of Web visitors clicking on the “Find out if you qualify” button (the desired action).

Testing the message previously being used against several other types of messaging, we quickly found that while targets identified with the problem, what motivated them to act was the promise of hope. We revamped the communications to be positive and aspirational, and that made all the difference. For these women, the reward was not a cure, but the hope this study might improve their relationships, their marriages, and personal happiness.

The new recruitment campaign ultimately resulted in 52% of all Web visitors clicking on “Enroll now” -- nearly three times the initial click-through rate.

Recruiting clinical trial participants is hard, especially when you consider that you can’t guarantee any benefits. If, however, you understand what motivates your target and develop a compelling reward statement, you can provide them with just enough reason to believe.

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