A while back, Annie Garvey, previously with PatientWise, presented a webinar and wrote a subsequent blog article based on the idea of the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), and how this concept applies to patient recruitment. By definition, ZMOT is the point in time where you turn to the Internet to learn about a product or service that you’re interested in, often times before ever talking to a salesperson or seeing the product in person. If you look at your recruitment trends, you know all too well that this is common practice now for patients looking for a study. The ZMOT principle can create new challenges, but also, many opportunities when met with the right approach.
You may be asking, I thought this article was about finding studies – what does ZMOT have to do with that? Let me explain. In Garvey’s article, she refers to messaging your patients at the right place, the right time, and with the right content. If you’re familiar with marketing, this may sound familiar, as these factors are always considered when creating new advertising messages. Because the functions of business development and marketing are so closely tied, the same principles can apply. In fact, you could add another layer – the right person. Let’s take a look at how the ZMOT principle can be applied to business development, and the considerations associated with each point.
The Right Place
The right place is two-fold. Not only do you need to consider where you’re promoting your site, but also where you’re looking for new opportunities. Focusing on only one of these components can greatly reduce the number of study possibilities.
Starting with where to find studies, and following suit with the nature of ZMOT, most sites probably begin online. Websites with public databases of trials like ClinicalTrials.gov or CenterWatch are great sources for learning what types of trials are out there and which ones may be of interest to your site. However, consider other sources that may not be as common, like Google Alerts, online news services and pharma company websites. Thinking outside the box in this area can certainly pay off.
Where, and how, you promote your site is equally important. Is your website up to date, easy to navigate, and SEO optimized? If you’re going online to find studies, it’s a safe bet that sponsors are going online to find sites.
Also, consider the networking opportunities that exist in-person at local and national conferences, or on social sites like LinkedIn. Not only do they provide you the chance to highlight your site, but they can be a good place to find studies, as well.
The Right Time
You should always be looking for new study opportunities, regardless of where your current studies stand. There is never a single “right time” in a week, month, or year to be looking for studies. It may come as a surprise, but the function of business development is not just making the sale, or getting the study. Rather, the key lies in relationship management and staying in touch with the key players, so that, when an opportunity does exist, you are top of mind. If you wait until your site is ready for a new study, it could take months to fill that gap. Keeping a constant flow of communication with sponsors ensures that your study pipeline will never run dry of opportunities.
It’s important, however, to know your bandwidth and ability to accept a study. Is now the right time to move forward with another study? Or, is your timeframe closer to 6 months to a year? If you are not able to take a study when it becomes available, it is okay to say “no.” Sponsors will appreciate the honesty and respect your site more for not accepting the trial. If you do decline a study, don’t let that be the end of it. Continue to foster that relationship and let them know your interest in working with them on a different study at a later time.
The Right Content
What type of message do you want to send to sponsors? What do they want to see from you? In some situations they may want as much information from you as possible, while others may prefer you cut the “fluff” and stick to the nuts and bolts. Show your strengths and highlight processes you have in place to ensure success. Know what makes your site stand out against the others and don’t be afraid to brag a little if you’re excelling in an otherwise difficult area.
It is also important to not only know your site’s strengths, but the right way to communicate them. Consider the different places this content could be communicated. Referring back to “right place,” it could be on your website, at conferences, on social media, or in person (hopefully it’s all of these). Be sure to tailor your message based on the audience for each. For example, your website is perhaps the best place to go into detail and really show off your site. On social media, however, you’re much more limited on space, such as character length, and the audience may be completely different than those visiting your website. In this case, it may be better to only deliver a couple key messages and focus more on the networking aspect.
The Right Person
Once you find the right person at an organization, be diligent about follow up. Take note of what type of information will be of most interest to them and how their role fits into the entire process. Track all communications in a database so you know exactly where the conversation left off, and where you can pick it up again easily without missing any vital information that may have been discussed previously. An added bonus is if your database for tracking these communications also provides the ability to attach documents and other notes, so you have everything related to one sponsor together and can easily find it later.
In today’s world, it’s all about networking. The more contacts you have, the more potential to connect with others and land more studies. That junior level employee at a pharma company could be tomorrow’s project manager and a future VP. Positive relationships with a variety of contacts at an organization can spur positive relationships with others and encourage possible referrals. And, while first impressions will always be important, you need to focus on building sustainable, productive relationships with sponsors, which involves everyone at your site.
Make business development a priority at your site and ensure your study pipeline is always full by following these key points. Communicate the right content, at the right time, in the right place, and with the right person for a successful business development initiative.