5 strategies to master the art of clinical trial recruitment
One of the most pressing challenges facing healthcare organizations is the constant struggle to meet enrollment targets for clinical trials. A staggering 85% of clinical trials fail to reach their recruitment goals, a fact that underscores the need for a more robust and strategic approach to recruitment marketing. Healthcare organizations must start using every tool available to them to excel at recruitment marketing or risk the far-reaching, long-term impacts of not meeting enrollment targets, which are significant. Clinical trials that fail to start for lack of participants hinder the advancement of medical research and the ability to conduct crucial trials in the future!
Recruitment marketing requires a slightly different approach than lead generation efforts. So, it should be no surprise that recruitment marketing for clinical trials, with its notably low conversion rates, requires a very intentional and comprehensive approach. While it is possible to apply best practices from general marketing campaigns, there are a few specific guidelines that will help your team craft an effective recruitment marketing strategy from the beginning.
Conduct in-depth audience research: Specific knowledge of your key audience is paramount. Conduct thorough research to understand the demographics, characteristics, and motivations of your potential participants. Use the data available to you from past clinical trials and vendor databases. Specific audience information should drive messaging, channel selection, processes, and even personalization and follow-up efforts.
Build a comprehensive strategy: Combine analytics with creative approaches to develop a strategy that is both data-driven and engaging. This blend ensures a more targeted and effective recruitment process that’s measurable. Many healthcare organizations try doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. The old ways of marketing aren’t going to cut it when you’re hoping to recruit participants for an important trial. You need to innovate and try new ways to meet patients where they are. Be sure to include the following aspects:
- Social media paid and organic campaigns: Utilize various social media platforms to reach a broader audience. Tailored campaigns can target specific demographics, increasing the likelihood of reaching potential participants. Additionally, when you know where most of your audience is getting their information, you can also try partnering with influencers on those channels.
- SEO best practices: Optimize all your published online content for search engines. This makes it easier for potential participants to find information about your clinical trials when they may not be on social media or they are conducting regular searches for videos and ranked websites. Consider creating a content plan around the topics of the clinical trials to get more hits and potential referrals.
- Paid search: If you have the budget, and it makes sense, invest in paid search advertisements to place your trial information in front of a targeted audience. We’ve had great success with paid ads in the past and will continue to recommend this for our clients when it fits. As long as the ads are relevant and engaging, you should see a considerable return on your investment.
- Traditional marketing, including print and broadcast: It’s important to keep in mind that more traditional marketing activities, such as tv media, print, and even physical advertisements can be highly effective, especially in local communities and healthcare facilities.
- Referral campaigns: Work with partners, suppliers, and providers to build a referral program. When providers have patients that would be perfect for the trial, ensure they have all the information they need, and perhaps an incentive, to send them straight to your trial. Providers want to ensure their patients get access to the best care, and sometimes that might include participating in a clinical trial that could improve their quality of life.
Test everything: Trial and error play a crucial role in finding what works best, especially for the very specific audiences you will be targeting for clinical trials. When performing A/B tests or testing different audiences, be sure to change only one thing for each test so you can measure the impact clearly. If you try changing too many things, you will not be able to pinpoint what instigated the new response. If you are new to testing audience segments, CTAs, or messaging, consider bringing on an expert as this can speed up the process, delivering optimized results faster.
Personalize messaging and follow-up with leads: Personalization adds a human touch to your outreach efforts, making participants feel valued and understood, rather than another number in a trial. By following up with patients, you can help remove barriers to entry and keep potential participants engaged, which will go a long way in improving enrollment. You can also address negative perceptions and misunderstandings before they spiral and prevent the clinical trial from starting. If you receive feedback from a follow-up call with a lead, make sure it gets sent to the team and incorporated into the process. Real-time feedback is incredibly valuable when solving for low enrollment numbers.
Partner with an expert: At this stage, most healthcare organizations have an in-house marketing team. However, with something as challenging as recruitment marketing for clinical trials, most teams lack deep expertise in this area. We would strongly suggest seeking guidance from professionals that specialize in recruitment for clinical trials. Their expertise can provide valuable insights and direction. Even better, they have already made mistakes and have used that information to refine their process to deliver the best results.
**Special consideration** All of your marketing and outreach methods must strictly adhere to the guidelines set forth by the FDA around clinical trials and other data-based rules and regulations, including the GDPR, HIPAA, and others. Be sure to triple check as any problems may prevent the clinical trial from starting.
Recruiting for clinical trials is a nuanced and challenging endeavor, requiring a strategic and multifaceted approach. However, with help from an expert and an innovative approach to recruitment marketing, more healthcare organizations should be able to meet their enrollment goals with ease.