7 Components of a Successful KOL Engagement Strategy

7 Key Components of a KOL Engagement Strategy
7 Key Components of a KOL Engagement Strategy

An important part of bringing a new pharmaceutical product to market successfully is connecting with and gaining support from the right individuals and organizations. Therefore, building an engagement strategy that strengthens support for any new product is critical. A KOL strategy must be meticulously crafted for the plan to be as effective as possible.

What Are KOLs?

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), also referred to as ThoughtLeaders (TLs), are medical professionals with weighty influence in their respective fields. KOLs tend to be well-recognized and respected. They are often regarded as influential experts in disease treatment options and therapy decision making, providing informed patient care options to clinicians, formulary committees and to treatment protocols implemented by institutions and their networks.

What is a KOL Engagement Strategy?

In the pharmaceutical industry, KOL engagement supports the critical success factors of a new product introduction. A KOL engagement strategy is designed to build and maintain a sustainable, constructive relationship with specific ThoughtLeaders. Engagement needs will vary from product discovery to commercialization and throughout the product’s lifecycle. Therefore, KOL engagement is a necessity to achieving long-term product success.  

7 Components of a KOL Engagement Strategy

1. Create Phases of Engagement for Different Stages of the Product Lifecycle

Every stage of product development, clinical testing, and commercialization should involve a unique KOL engagement strategy. KOL input and support needs change throughout the lifecycle of a pharmaceutical product. For example, KOL engagement during clinical trial testing phases may require different expertise and perspective than a product in its commercial launch phase.  

According to research performed by ARx Research, 70 percent of companies take a “lifecycle phase approach” to engage with KOLs at certain points. However, around 40 percent don’t develop relationships with KOLs until a product is in phase 3 testing or beyond. KOLs who are engaged in earlier phases of product development will have a better understanding of the science surrounding the product and hold more interest in positive treatment outcomes.  

2. Identify Global, National and Regional KOLs

Adjust the scope of KOL engagement to create an all-encompassing product support network. KOLs with a global and national reach are no doubt important. Nevertheless, the involvement of regional and local KOLs in steps like clinical testing and messaging can be just as valuable. Even if new-product treatment outcomes are clearly effective, local and regional KOLs don’t always share the same opinions that national KOLs ascribe to. With that in mind, failure to involve regional ThoughtLeaders early in the process can lead to sluggish product adoption or acceptance in the community setting. Work hard to build a KOL engagement strategy that involves the right KOLs to negate the potential of acceptance gaps. A database platform, such as LUMINEER® , makes identifying KOLs with varied levels of reach easier and simplifies engagement with these professionals.

3. KOLs Selection for Clinical Trials and Data Evaluation

As noted above, the earlier a KOL is engaged, the more valuable that ThoughtLeader will be during product launch and later in a product’s lifecycle. The selection of the right KOLs for inclusion in clinical trial design phases is an important precursor to support the product as it moves to the commercial lifecycle stages. Likewise, KOLs should be involved in evaluating and assessing key data and potential brand messaging. Probe for pockets of resistance with KOLs and address them accordingly. Doing so supports a more stable, effective product launch with fewer unexpected objections to the new product

4. Target KOLs that Impact Treatment Algorithms

Certain KOLs have major influence on treatment algorithms in specific diseases. They often influence integrated delivery networks (IDNs), accountable care organizations (ACOs), medical groups, payers, etc. Therefore, having their objective support for a new product can prove invaluable for commercial success.

5. Equip Medical Affairs and Sales Teams to Successfully Engage with KOLs

As a product moves from development to commercialization, the medical affairs and sales teams must be adequately prepared to engage KOLs. Blindly sending out medical science liaisons (MSLs) or sales representatives may not lead to successful engagements. First impressions are extremely important as access to clinicians and prominent professionals is limited and not guaranteed. Use of a reliable and accurate ThoughtLeader database (like LUMINEER®) to gather pertinent information about specific KOLs is crucial. These tools are used to identify and map out potential KOLs, offering details that matter to building proper engagement strategies. A well-equipped ThoughtLeader database tool will provide details that inform professional interests, history of experience in the disease area, and relevant relationships in the industry.

6. Take Advantage of Peer to Peer Engagement

To build wider-scale traction during product launch, make use of peer-to-peer engagement. A peer-to-peer KOL engagement strategy can also be simplified with data-based tools like LUMINEER® — which can be used to understand relationships and influence across clinicians, experts, and other key professionals.  

7. Measure Success and Areas of Need Post-Launch

Measuring early successes and understanding areas of future need will be the primary focus for a newly introduced product. Utilize rapid research techniques (like DOCpulse™) to determine where a new product is performing best and where adjustments may need to be made. Take a closer look at KOLs and how their influence was perceived by clinicians. To maximize product potential, KOL adjustments may need to happen. Frequent use of pulse research to pinpoint areas of strength – as well as those of weakness – is a best practice to making necessary adjustments to commercial strategy.

Discover a More Efficient KOL Engagement Strategy with the Right Technology

From clinical trials to commercial success, a well-developed KOL engagement strategy can set the stage for successful outcomes. Pharmaceutical companies need innovative technology to make their KOL engagement strategy streamlined and efficient.
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