KOL: When to Use a Key Opinion Leader in Healthcare Marketing
by Debra Harrsch
Before we start looking at when you should use a key opinion leader (KOL) in your marketing, let’s first explore exactly what a KOL is.
Key opinion leaders are industry leaders who are experts on their topics. They are well-known and viewed as highly trustworthy and credible resources in their field. KOLs are particularly important in the healthcare space and life science technologies. These individuals are experts who promote the science associated with your product, create indirect awareness about your product, and lend credibility to your company among the target community. They have a significant impact on how their peers think and what they purchase.
A KOL is either a clinician and/or scientist that has developed and earned visionary leadership in their medical field. They typically have earned peer respect and admiration, and can influence future treatment solutions. KOLss are typically prominent at regional and medical conferences, and often dominate the scientific programs, panel discussions and debates. Most KOLs are excellent speakers, and present their work in a very clear and compelling manner. Publications in peer-reviewed journals are regularly written by KOLs.
While KOLs tend to be physicians or academics, there are many other roles which can produce a persuasive and talented influencer. We’ve seen nurses, social workers, patient advocates, lab directors, PharmDs, and researchers all provide exceptional KOL value.
When to Use a KOL
From a marketing viewpoint they are ambassadors for your product. What I mean by this is they are very device-, diagnostic- and treatment-agnostic, so they are ambassadors in terms of educating an audience about why a test or product is important in the treatment of a disease. They don’t mention your specific product. In fact, they likely also work with your competitors!
Your KOL’s job is to educate the market as to why they need a product. For example, they can support or confirm why the market should do a certain test, or why they should use a particular therapy. It’s then your job to promote your product, show how well it matches the ‘why’ the KOL explained and show how it delivers results.
Because these individuals are able to reach and influence a specific audience niche in the market, they are a valuable resource for any healthcare or life science company. You want to use a key opinion leader to educate your market space through:
- webinars your company is sponsoring on the disease state
- speaking engagements at conferences or events
- user meetings
- social media
- podcasts on related topics
- educational videos
- article authorship
A KOL educates the people you’re selling to with real facts and data. There is no hearsay, no so-called Facebook ‘expertise’ and no marketing fluff. It’s the facts and only the facts. KOLs are not part of your sales team, but they do help to educate your sales team.
Key opinion leaders aren’t just for clinician education. They can also be valuable resources for patient-facing markets. If you are marketing a medical device or software device, your KOL can educate patients on why this type of device is important.
Where to Start Once You’ve Identified a KOL
It starts with building a KOL slide deck. A slide deck for a healthcare KOL is a deep scientific conversation, usually around 60–90 slides in length. When we build a deck, it’s comprised of reference materials, it is entirely non-promotional data – the Holy Grail of thought leadership.
What you want to do is provide your thought leader with all of the data and all of the prep work that went into the creation of your test or product. In addition, you’ll include all of the outside research – every single relevant journal article should be included in this deck – along with the results doctors are looking for. A doctor no longer needs to go out and track down every article, you’ve already centralized it all conveniently in one place.
What you won’t include is why your test or product is important. In fact, you’re not going to mention your product at all. The science around why it’s needed is what is important here. Think of it as a subtle sale.
The Value Beyond the KOL
When you develop a slide deck for your KOL strategy, you may think that it’s only good for webinar education or some of the other activities mentioned above.
But, you’d be wrong.
A KOL deck is what I call ‘marketing rich.’ It’s rich for the sales team. It’s rich for the marketing team and it’s rich for your customers. Not only do you educate your customers and sales team, but by having all of this information, the marketing department gains a real understanding of the product’s background. Because of this, marketing is able to build out webinars, white papers, blog posts, social media content, email campaigns, landing pages and web copy – all of which can help drive leads. The initial investment in a slide deck continues to pay dividends beyond your direct work with the KOL.
For example, for one of our clients, an in vitro diagnostics testing solutions pioneer, we developed a lead generating webinar using noted KOLs to discuss a disease state and the importance of testing. This webinar ultimately produced more than 1,100 high quality leads.
A KOL Strategy Keeps You Top of Mind
Incorporating a key opinion leader strategy in your overall marketing can be a very smart decision for healthcare, pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies. Think about it – who do you think will be top of mind when your target audience is ready to buy? It’s going to be the company that educated that audience.
If you need assistance planning and implementing a KOL strategy, reach out to us.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.