DoctorA comprehensive brand strategy includes one that engages with key customers and influencers that can positively impact a brand perception and value.  In the BioPharma world, this includes interaction and engagement with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), a subset of physicians with a high degree of expertise, research, and publications, which are typically followed by physicians in the same field for insights, experiences, and guidance.

KOLs are often involved in clinical trials, or in cutting edge research, and publish their findings to share their perspectives regularly.  These KOLs are often the experts who define guidelines and boundaries around good medical practice, and their opinions on drugs, procedures and medical devices often generate a lot of interest among other practicing physicians with similar interests across the US, and quite often, around the globe.

So what about for us COMMERCIAL folks—where do these KOLs play a role in our world??

KOLs know what physicians and patients need.  Engaging with KOLs is critical to better understand how customers may perceive your brand, and overall treatment.  KOLs help bridge the info gap between our end users and our industry, and we should be diligently using this information to help inform our product and business decisions.  KOLs are also trusted by their colleagues and patients, and their endorsement and use of a product can have significant ripple effects to other healthcare providers.

Most brands understand the importance of engaging with KOLs to help realize a brand’s potential (however, we may not always be doing a bang-up job on a strong KOL strategy).  In order to be effective and build strong relationships, engagement with KOLs has to happen throughout the product’s lifecycle, from development to launch, and into maturity.

Here are just a few benefits of engaging with KOLs during various stages of the product lifecycle:

Pre-Launch: As a brand is in clinical development and nears a potential launch, engaging with KOLs can provide insights into the potential consumer base for a product, how customers may react to a new product and its clinical profile, and how it may stack up against existing therapies.  KOLs can provide insight into some unmet needs in the disease, frustrations that may exist with existing products, which can help manufacturers position their brand accordingly, and aim to resolve frustrations faced with currently marketed drugs.

Launch: During a product launch, having a KOL advocate for the brand can have a huge impact on how successfully a product will enter the market, and reduce the time it takes for uptake and to achieve peak sales.  As mentioned before, physicians often heed the advice of KOLs, especially as it pertains to new products or treatment paradigms.  Having a KOL speak favorably about your product at various congress events and trade shows will help instill confidence in your brand, and can spread quickly as other physicians continue to share the KOLs perspectives with other colleagues.

Maturity: As a product matures, KOLs can provide their thoughts on potential competition currently in the pipeline, and their perspectives on how they stack up against your brand.  Whether it be through increased efficacy in certain patient sub-types, to an improved method of administration, KOLs can highlight the issues most likely to have an impact on your customers so that you can better mitigate the risk against your brand when these new assets enter the market.  KOLs may also be helpful in identifying and prioritizing other disease indications where your asset may have additional value, and potentially how best to structure additional studies to meet desired endpoints and showcase that benefit.

KOLs can provide much more value, communicating key concerns from consumers, highlighting payer and insurance challenges, and identifying other potential opportunities for your brand.  Even if your brand is already partway through the lifecycle, partnering with and engaging KOLs can help realize the full potential of your brand.

The team at RxL Partners has worked with several brand teams develop KOL strategies, and helped execute engagement initiatives.  We can help with KOL identification and selection, initial outreach and communication, and engage them through a variety of options including online forums, telephone interviews, focus group discussions, and more.

Contact RxL Partners today to see how we can put our experience to work for you!