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Best Practices for Research Sites: Effectively Using Patient Recruitment Advertising Dollars

When thinking about patient recruitment, a crucial step in the recruitment process is building effective patient recruitment advertising campaigns and using advertising dollars to their fullest extent. Here are several best practices research sites can implement:

1. Determine the status of your patient recruitment advertising funds

First, sites should determine the status of their patient recruitment advertising funds to better plan for the tactical and financial elements of their recruitment campaigns. Patient recruitment dollars typically fall into three main types: sponsor-allotted advertising funds, sponsor funds requests, and out-of-pocket advertising funds.

Sponsor-allotted advertising funds are initially allotted to sites enrolling on a specific protocol, typically outlined in the site CTA. These localized advertising funds can be used at the discretion of the site, although in some cases a sponsor may want final sign-off on a campaign plan.

A sponsor funds request is used when a sponsor does not initially distribute localized funds at the protocol level to all sites, but a site is still interested in running a localized patient recruitment campaign. The site would put together a campaign proposal outlining the advertising plan and submit it to the sponsor for review. A funds request can also be made if the initial sponsor-provided budget is exhausted by a site. Lastly, if the sponsor does not provide any patient recruitment advertising funds, both initial or through funds requests, a site may choose to pay out of pocket to run an advertising campaign.

2. Build a campaign plan and patient profiles for your study

Once it is determined how your patient recruitment advertising campaign is going to be funded, it is important to formulate a campaign plan and create patient profiles for your study. Having a campaign plan established prior to starting the creative development process can help you stay on task and organized throughout the process. The campaign plan should outline your budget, provide an overview of the media tactics you plan to use, as well as descriptive details on each of the media tactics regarding specifics such as dimensions and frequency for print ads, key word options for search engine marketing campaign, and duration of each media tactic.

Once a campaign plan is developed and approved by site stakeholders, it is important to check with the sponsor regarding already established and IRB-approved materials. The sponsor may have already created some materials that you can leverage as a reference when developing your customized materials. For example, if flyers or a study website were already created and approved by the sponsor/IRB, you could use the imagery and language within your social media ads or radio spots.

When creating patient profiles for your study, it is important to research the patient populations you want to target. Think about the behavioral interests of your ideal patients and determine which type of media tactics they might consume. Does your target patient population consume mostly digital media or traditional media? By understanding the patient population you are trying to target, you can build more successful patient recruitment campaigns.

3. Set goals for your patient recruitment advertising campaigns

Setting goals for your patient recruitment advertising campaigns is a crucial step in the process. Before starting your campaigns, it is important to set ROI goals for each media tactic. By setting ROI goals, sites can make more informed decisions on their campaigns, but it is important to note ROI can fluctuate based on the therapeutic indication, protocol, and budget.

After each campaign has finished, sites should review their campaign results and archive them for future reference. Sites should use each patient recruitment campaign as a learning experience. When planning for future campaigns, sites can then look back on their past campaigns and find what was successful.

4. Actively track and monitor the status of your ongoing recruitment campaigns and make changes as necessary

Once you have put in the work to create and implement your patient recruitment advertising campaign, sites should continue to monitor the results throughout the campaign to maximize each dollar spent. Unfortunately, creating a thorough campaign and doing market research doesn’t always guarantee great recruitment results. Things can go wrong, and campaign tactics may need to be adjusted in real-time. The beauty of tracking campaign metrics for each of your media tactics is that sites can pivot the campaign as necessary and shift funds to media tactics that are generating more quality referrals to get the most out of their advertising funds. There are many free tools that you can use to track campaign metrics, such as Google Analytics and Facebook ads manager. In addition to those free tools, many TV and radio vendors have their own metrics-tracking platforms that you can utilize to view campaign performance.

5. Evaluate your ability to implement your patient recruitment advertising campaigns

Last, but certainly not least, it is important to be transparent when looking internally at your site’s capabilities. Does your site have the manpower and team to develop an advertising plan and create advertising materials? Does your site have a designated team member who can be responsible for IRB/sponsor approval submission and follow-up, as well as implementation of your campaigns? Does that person or does someone else have the capability to track performance and make pivots? All these questions are necessary to ask your team. You may be surprised that one of your coordinators has some marketing experience, or you may alternatively find that outsourcing some or all these steps is best for you and your site.

Want to learn more about best practices for patient recruitment advertising campaigns? Visit our website today or contact us to learn more. 

About the Authors:

Hannah Kepros is the Manager at WCG PatientWise, an advertising agency that specializes in patient recruitment for clinical research.

Sarah Eklund is a Senior Marketing Specialist at WCG PatientWise, an ad agency that specializes in patient recruitment for clinical research.

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