February 17th, 2016

Your Digital Marketing Tool Belt for Clinical Trial Recruitment: Paid Ads (Search and Social)

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CROs and patient coordinators must be able to quickly and affordably find qualified clinical trial participants. Paid digital ads offer a uniquely effective opportunity to reach a highly targeted and qualified audience.

There’s no questioning how difficult it can be to to find and retain qualified clinical trial recruits – CROs and coordinators have a limited window and budget with which to reach extremely specific patient populations, and misfires can seriously hinder progress, and deal a crippling financial blow to trial sponsors.

Many recruiters are turning to digital channels to engage with their targets in new ways, and paid ads are among the most cost-effective methods with which to drive traffic to your trial site, especially in the short time windows in which clinical trials operate. Even a small ad budget can dramatically boost your online reach, placing your message in front of a highly localized and interested demographic.

There are two major paid ad platforms – Facebook ads and Google Adwords – and for both, there’s a definite “right way” and a “wrong way” to get the most out of your ad spend. Put most simply, your strategy will attract the most patients when you gain a better understanding of your target audience and address them on a personal, individual level.

A Primer on Facebook Ads

Facebook ads are usually text-based with a picture, video, or even slideshow, and have the benefit of sophisticated targeting capabilities – by specific location, age, gender, interests, behaviors, and Facebook connections – that make your audience more likely to engage with your ad.

Facebook’s ad algorithms automatically target the most relevant user segments within your selected audience. For instance, using the followers of accounts associated with your ad campaign as a basis(whether they follow the trial itself, a coordinator, or the CRO Facebook page), Facebook’s algorithm will show ads to users most similar to those who have already engaged with your content.

It’s for this reason that many ad executives find Facebook ads to be more valuable and impactful than those of any other social platform, as Emarketer emphasizes.

Google Adwords Offers Unparalleled Targeting

Google Adwords serves much the same function as Facebook, but to larger and more actively interested audience segments – those who are searching for clinical trials or the condition at hand. Recruiters bid on selected “keywords,” the search terms patients will likely use, and are charged on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis.

Adwords can cost anywhere between $1 and $50 per click, according to Wordstream, but ROI tends to be much greater if recruiters select a wider variety of less-trafficked and long-tail keywords – “clinical trial in Wichita, Kansas” vs. “clinical trial,” or “Where can I find treatment for osteoporosis?”

Google‘s Customer Match feature also allows recruiters to target existing email lists, as well as similar audiences who mirror the characteristics and behaviors of your email group. While Adwords is a process of trial and error (and some CROs and sponsors also use Yahoo or Bing), it’s always highly effective if you understand your audience. In fact, this tool is the reason Google takes in the most search ad dollars worldwide, according to Emarketer.

Brief Words of Caution

Always remember that any paid search or social media advertisement must comply with FDA regulations regarding advertising and messaging – expect for each messsage to require IRB and sponsor approval. While it can be difficult to craft even-handed and informative clinical information using just a few words, it’s always the responsibility of the CRO or trial coordinator to do so.

In general, it’s always best to contact marketers who know the industry before releasing paid search campaigns, as they can ensure both compliance and effectiveness. Once you’ve checked all of the appropriate boxes and constructed your campaign, you’ll be able to conduct your trial in no time as your paid ads begin to bring the most qualified participants directly to you.

(Image credit: splitshire/Pexels; Enoc vt/Wikipedia; psd100; OpenClipartVectors/Pixabay)