Before you can ever begin to sell your clinical trial services to any sponsor, CRO or otherwise, you have to buy into it yourself. With this in mind, an important key is what marketing professionals refer to as a “unique selling proposition”. This is a concept relatively underused in site development. Unless you can easily pinpoint what makes your site unique in a landscape of homogeneous competitors, you cannot target your development efforts successfully.
This starts with asking yourself a series of questions that can help to establish some baseline market intelligence, from which you can then make informed and justified decisions about investing in the future of your site, and that importantly helps clear your mind of any preconceived notions you may have about your services. Successful site management and marketing is not about having completely unique research services, it’s about making your site stand out – even in a market filled with other sites.
We must remember that individual site advantage in the clinical trials marketplace is a combination of medical specialty, trial diversity expertise, and both real and potential capability that appeals to target populations. There are few industry benchmarks or guidelines for site best practice, therefore, it is the site’s responsibility to develop benchmarks of their own and build a business that fosters meaningful relationships with consumers and attracts ongoing trial opportunities as a function of performance, competitiveness and reputation.
So, how will your clinical research service succeed in the marketplace where others may have failed?
1. How would you describe your clinical research services?
I think this is something few clinical research sites ever really consider. This is, after all, a very conservative industry focused on risk minimisation and hence restricted exposure. To consider promotion can be a foreign concept. In my opinion, I feel that appealing things for clinical research sites in this age are related to clinical trial conduct that is contemporary, accessible, engaging, efficient, and compliant, but is ultimately typified by enthusiasm. Energy, devotion and being willing to at least try what other sites may be unwilling to try within this industry is refreshing, and allows for formation of genuine interest from participants and other collaborators and promotes innovation. I have always thought that research is not about doctors, nurses and patients – it is about Investigators and participants and exciting new opportunities – you can offer people what no one else can.
So, how are you going to make this so?
Important things to consider in relation to promoting your site as contemporary, accessible and engaging requires regular and careful appraisal of the systems or business tools that can be utilised or adopted to separate yourself from the pack. Significant site advancement and differentiation can be made most considerably based on 2 major influencing pillars for success:
Your ability to access participants is key, but more so nowadays is your ability to harness modern tools to ensure your site is at the cutting edge of the methods used to engage with your participants. Coordinated Project Management Plans, multiple digital systems, company policies, procedures and pricing structures are all required to efficiently, ethically and transparently create, deploy, automate and analyse superior trial recruitment strategies. Sites keen to differentiate themselves would do well to cultivate a standardised recruitment structure and utilise this as a unique selling proposition.
Of increasing consequence for site management and sustainability are the methods you use for communication.
- How many different ways can you contact your participants?
- Do you just rely on newspaper or radio ads?
- Do you have your own database to use again and again?
In my opinion, if sites are not using a combination of their own site-specific database, predictably reliable external advertisement, mail, phone, email and text messaging, then they are at a disadvantage in the current clinical trials landscape. Effective logistical management of exceptional communications at site level is another hugely influential selling point for your site.
2. What is your research site not going to do?
Without good reason, and at times there may be some, do not compromise your concept, values, or worth. Simple things like not choosing to undertake certain types of studies, such as paediatric studies, for example, may be a smart decision for your site to make. These considerations are specific to your site, but are worth noting to maintain the integrity of your selling proposition, albeit with allowance of some built-in flexibility.
3. How will you prove you can deliver on your promises?
Integration of quality management principles, such as post study reviews or “audits”, can help you gain real analytical information directly related to participant engagement, access and rates of enrolment. With sound knowledge of system functionality (e.g. Facebook, website) you can get to a point where you know any sustained recruitment problem is based on a restrictive protocol, not your standard system or business practices, simply because you know the standard so well. Your comprehensive data exists to back it up. So, share these analytics, share your last successful recruitment outcomes or project results, and make your external audits transparent and accessible like your satisfaction surveys. Quality management is about validating your processes and management strategies; it is meant to be promoted.
4. Pricing Strategy
This, of course, depends on a considerable number of influential factors, including, but not limited to, the buyer of your service, the scope of the project and your ability to undertake the project based on assessment of resources. You need to have established fixed fees and they need to be both reasonable and justifiable.