Best Strategy to Convert KOLs to Brand Advocates
Pharma marketers are well aware of how it is almost impossible to catch doctors and pitch product or services; given the scarce ratio between allopathic doctors and the general population, i.e.close to 1:1500, most doctors are always busy. Traditional initiatives like a sales pitch make the engagement a bit monotonous and are subsequently followed by resistance. Also, due to the paucity of time, MRs are suggested to opt for novel methods for reaching out to doctors. Surveys demonstrate that only 2% of doctors give more than 10 minutes to the MR. In many cases, it is as low as less than 2 minutes; a lot is lost in translation because of this shortage. To add more value to the point, Docplexus survey found out that 79% of surveyed doctors complain about not being able to get full info from pharma reps. It is wise to choose the ways that are already approved by the doctors at large.
The doctors trust messages from recognized experts rather than from overcompetitive, yet professionally bland sales pitches. One such medium is dialogue by KOLs – a credible source of knowledge from decorated officers in the field of medicine. The general tendency of doctors is to look for things that help them expand their knowledge and make their practice better and KOLs are perfectly placed to fulfil these needs.
The term ‘influencer marketing’ isn’t new to pharma and is synonymously known as ‘brand advocacy’, ‘advocacy marketing’, etc, wherever there’s an element of involving KOLs to speak about their therapy. “People feel a sense of proximity to the KOLs owing to a strong interaction the influencers build with their followers,” said Vincent Marion and Sophie Coulon of Francelysee (an authority regarding French products within F&B in China) when commenting on why KOL marketing works in China. “Followers feel a sense of community and trust the influencer to share accurate information with them.” KOLs do this public sharing of positive feedback on famous online communities and forums. Marketers know how important the participation of advocates is in their marketing pursuits but struggle engaging with them in the long run because of many factors.
Before we move on to the how’s, here’s a quick checklist that would assure you that you have successfully created KOL Advocates –
If your goal is to get have such doctors on-board, here’s what you need to keep in mind while opting for the ‘Brand Advocacy’ approach:
- Expand your scope – Don’t skim down your list since the beginning and focus only on a few nationally famous KOLs. Keep your pool of influencers wide and nurture them as your potential KOLs; practically only a few percentages of them will get converted. Pharma marketers often ignore that they have an opportunity to tap the regional KOLs with influence over particular geographies, thereby impacting the purchase trend and prescribing habits of the ones who look up to them. These stepping stones are important to reach a certain level on the road to their ultimate goals. It cannot be denied that KOLs who are active in the industry can be approached more easily. You need to comb through all sorts of datasets to find out who’s who and identify budding KOLs to foster relationships with them for the future.
- Solidify relationships – Relationships play a pivotal role in the success of any marketing endeavour. Most doctors are always in the pursuit of being educated and gaining knowledge. Credible online media and content platforms can be utilized to keep the doctors abreast with advancements in their respective fields by playing a major role of a thought leader, hence positioning themselves at the top in this world of intense competition. The power of warm and long-lasting relationships just cannot be taken out of the picture when it comes to brand advocacy because it takes a lot of efforts for any customer to be the company’s ambassador and even more efforts to retain them as one.
- Create value – As mentioned earlier, doctors are always in pursuit of expanding their knowledge base and keeping themselves updated about various advancements in the medical field. Reaching out to a large audience to help them improve their practice by gaining insights will help pharma companies to emerge as a thought leader and sow a seed of credibility in the mind of the doctors, some of which may be KOLs or even budding KOLs. It would be wise to circulate uniform communication on neutral and non-proprietary doctor communities and forums without creating a personal bias.
- Don’t ignore the skeptics – It takes time for those in doubt to be fully convinced about the product’s benefits. It is necessary to continue dialogue with them and reap benefits from their feedback. Keep questioning them about different aspects of the product. Such Mindset Analysis can help pharma identify the gaps between what KOLs need and what they are offering. These insights need to be current, so online touchpoints are important.
- Take it from the top – It’s not new to gather how KOLs don’t prefer being approached by executives having impartial knowledge about their practice. The Medical Affairs team should be empowered in terms of scope of operation to be able to add value to the practice of the doctors by digital mediums. After establishing their place in the minds of the doctors, they can further act as a face of the company while pursuing subsequent communication for brand advocacy.
- Transparency is pivotal – Pitching only the positive effects and not informing the doctors about the side effects of therapy is absolutely unethical. Transparency is the basis for trust, which in turn is the building block of a long-term relationship with the KOLs.
It is important to tap into the passion of the doctors who enjoy their status of being influential and involve them with your company for mass engagement. This type of public reference and referral is incomparable with any other sort of marketing to get the attention of pharma’s target customer base, as it is not only credible but also covers up the time and geographic constraints. It has the potential to become a communication channel in itself which would never lose its integrity in the years to come. For a comprehensive guide on KOL management, click here.