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Where’s Waldo? Identifying KOLs to Make an Impact

In the healthcare industry, we’re privileged to work alongside some of the brightest and most driven individuals in the world. The top voices in a medical field function as a trusted source of information to their peers as well as to those bringing new medical interventions to market.

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) represent the leading edge, and offer:

  • Up-to-date disease and treatment awareness,
  • In-depth knowledge of published data,
  • Increased willingness to adopt new treatments, and
  • Better access to new medical developments through clinical trial participation.

Having a pulse on KOLs in your therapy area is crucial to advancing your product and influencing clinician behavior.  And while you may already be engaging with some KOLs, developing a definitive mapping of all major players for your market will greatly improve your engagement opportunities, market understanding, and sphere of influence.

Thankfully, because KOLs are always driving a public conversation, it is often possible to identify and characterize them through publicly available sources. The most common way to identify KOLs is through their authorship on relevant medical publications (a greater number of published papers is nearly always associated with high degrees of influence) and through leadership positions in influential organizations.

Another, and more robust approach, is to conduct a broad quantitative survey of relevant providers and ask which KOLs most influence their education and treatment decisions. A key benefit of this approach is being able to map regional and even local KOLs and their sphere of influence, rather than focusing only at a national or global level. These two methods can also be combined to create an influence score for rating the degree of influence for each KOL.

Once you have your KOLs identified, how do you access them for their valued input? Challenges abound for accessing these in-demand experts, but there are several successful strategies:

  • Access them where they are, when it is convenient for them to participate in research
    Scheduling brief interviews, ad boards or mini-groups tangential to a conference is a successful strategy. Try to schedule the engagements outside of conference hours, as these busy professionals want to be attending sessions and engaging with their peers. Conducting your research the day before, or after the conference is optimal.
  • Gain participation in a later research engagement
    Walk the floor, make an introduction and capture their direct contact information for future research. This strategy allows them to focus on the conference but engages them for future research needs.

While conferences are your best approach to access these important thought leaders, the limited number of conferences per year may constrain your engagement strategy. Similarly, the geographic dispersion of these respondents makes it costly and challenging to convene them for a standard in-person discussion. Other approaches that can be successfully leveraged throughout the year include online real-time focus groups, online bulletin boards and traditional telephone IDIs or mini-groups with web-cam. Consider your business objectives to determine the best approach.

While KOL opinions are extremely valuable, it is important to recognize that they are one piece of the puzzle in managing a medical brand. Remember that research among KOLs reveals their expert opinion, and can differ from that of the clinicians on the frontline. The opinions and behavior of KOLs often takes time and investment to trickle down to providers who may be less up-to-date with recent medical advances.

Could your KOL engagement use a reboot? Through our better research approach, KJT Group can help you optimize your KOL strategy to maximize your market potential.