[Q&A] How to Effectively Advertise Your Clinical Trials to Potential Participants

Mel Johnson
March 1st, 2017

Forte’s recent webinar, “How to Effectively and Compliantly Advertise Clinical Trials to Potential Participants,” provided helpful tips and considerations for developing and implementing patient recruitment campaigns at the clinical research site level. In this three-part Q&A series, the webinar co-presenters will address attendee questions regarding the preparation, approval and implementation elements of advertising for patient recruitment. Here, Director of Marketing at Forte, Mel Johnson, discusses the necessary steps to jumpstart an advertising campaign, build an adequate campaign budget, and more.


How can I use Google AdWords for patient recruitment?

 Google AdWords falls under the category of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM is how you advertise your website via search engines. And within SEM, there’s organic search and paid search. So, a little background:

Organic Search
Organic search is based on the natural rankings of websites, and is determined by the content, links, and genuine growth of your website. Based on the keywords and content on your website and many other factors, search algorithms will rank your website when people use certain search terms. If you identify the keywords and content that matter to your site and include that in text (not images) on your website, that can help your organic search results. That being said, organic search growth can take a long time, and so paid search is an alternative option.

Paid Search
Paid search allows you to promote your website when consumers type in certain keywords. There are many search engines, but the most well-known is Google. Their paid search platform, Google AdWords, allows businesses to purchase keywords or phrases that trigger ads to appear on the search results page.

To use Google AdWords for patient recruitment, I’d recommend taking several steps:

  • Identify the keywords that matter to your site and protocol. What search terms are your target audience using?
    • Resource: Use Google Trends, Google Autocomplete, and Google AdWords Keyword Planner to complete some keyword research.
  • Update your current website with those keywords to improve your organic search results
  • Set a budget – determine how much per day you can spend on search advertising
  • Bid on the top keywords that matter to you with your per-day budget
  • Track your results and optimize your keywords as your recruitment campaign continues

For a great how-to resource, check out the “How to Use Google AdWords” Guide from Hubspot. You can also use Forte’s free worksheet, “Patient Recruitment Advertising Mediums: Strengths and Weaknesses,” as a guide to help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of top advertising mediums and determine if they fit with the goals you’ve set for your recruitment campaign.

 If you are building a database of responses for future trials, do you have to get their permission?

 Yes – email permission is very important if you want to communicate with people. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has very clear rules about email communication in the CAN-SPAM Act. Permission is clear consent from the individual to receive marketing communication in the future. This can be accomplished by adding a checkbox to your email sign-up that clearly states an opt-in to your email communication. For example: “ I agree to receive e-mails from X company for information about future studies and organization updates.”

I also recommend letting the individual know that you won’t sell or share their information with anyone else in an effort to build trust with the participant. If you really want to cover your bases, you can do what’s called a double opt-in, where you include a checkbox, and then send another email that asks them to confirm the opt-in. You also want to always include an option for people to unsubscribe at any time.

At the end of the day, it’s good business practice to always be up front with your participants when it comes to e-mail marketing and continue to build trust by letting them know what they can expect. For more information and resources, check out MailChimp’s articles about permission and double-opt in and the FTC’s CAN-SPAM Compliance Guide:

 What would you consider a reasonable amount to spend on a campaign?

 I wish I could provide a magic bullet answer to this – but in reality, the answer to this question always depends on the results that your site expects. I can tell you that from an investment standpoint, a strong marketing investment is about 5-8% of the company’s overall revenue for the year. For a start-up company, it should be closer to 10-12%. This includes staff, advertising, and everything related to marketing.

When it comes to a budget for a campaign, you always want to ask yourself what the goal is to create context. Is this protocol really important to your site this year? What is the potential return for your organization? And spend your money wisely. Targeted marketing options today like Facebook Ads and Google AdWords allow you to be hyper specific about the population you are targeting to eliminate wasted advertising.

Check out Hubspot’s Marketing Budget resource here.

 What are some examples of research blogs that demonstrate value to the consumer?

 It’s becoming more common for clinical research organizations to develop informative content to draw target populations to their website and increase awareness for their studies and/or services. Jumping on this trend is an effective way to boost your patient recruitment efforts and generate organic traffic to your website. Educational content that provides value will build trust with your target patient populations and make you top-of-mind for potential trial participants. Here are a few clinical research websites using blogs and other content to effectively attract attention and inform their audiences:

The Corvallis Clinic

What’s great about this clinic’s website is the variety of educational content published on a regular basis. The clinical research section of The Corvallis Clinic website hosts videos, blog articles and answers to frequently asked questions about clinical research. The site outlines general information about the clinical research process to help potential patients learn what they can expect during their time on on a trial.

Clinical Trials of Texas Inc.

This website takes a more targeted approach to content and focuses on providing information about specific therapeutic areas researched at their clinic. Targeting in this way can help generate awareness for your organization among distinct patient populations and lead the right individuals to your website.

Injury Care Medical Center

This is another website that does a great job of providing a wide variety of educational materials for visitors. The center’s blog highlights both the specifics of particular diseases and therapeutic areas, and also comments on the state of the clinical research industry. This is a useful tactic to optimize search engine rankings on Google and help you begin to distinguish your organization as a thought-leader.

Want to know more?

To learn more about patient recruitment advertising, including the benefits of providing valuable content on your website, how to develop a compliant email database, and methods to prepare for an influx of trial participants, watch our free, on-demand webinar, “How to Effectively and Compliantly Advertise Clinical Trials to Potential Participants.”

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How to Effectively and Compliantly Advertise Clinical Trials to Potential Participants

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