Although the pandemic gave rise to countless restrictions on travel, work, school, and social activities, it also allowed many people to rethink how they approach work-life balance. Amid a gradual return to some in-person opportunities, KOLs may find themselves prepared to be more selective about when to travel and when to stick closer to home and work.
“In the near future, KOLs are going to pick and choose where they go,” says Veronica Velez, vice president of client success at Within3. “They won’t attend every meeting, every time.”
If it’s true that KOLs will be less interested in frequent travel, pharmaceutical and medical device teams should consider how to offer a more tailored experience that will help them establish and strengthen those important KOL connections.
Turn the KOL experience into a trackable metric
ROX, or return on experience, is a metric that captures a company’s investment in providing a rewarding or memorable customer experience. In this case, KOLs are the customer, and life science teams have nothing to lose – but much to gain – by providing a great virtual engagement experience to their valued experts.
They can do this by eliminating barriers to KOL participation, such as meetings that require international travel, take too long, or for whatever reason don’t quite compel a KOL to take more time away from family, patients, research, or other commitments. Asynchronous meetings offer the opportunity to participate and take advantage of peer-to-peer interaction without rearranging everything else. These can be used instead of, alongside, or in between traditional in-person meetings.
“You can never entirely replace face-to-face because it’s very important. But you could have a model where life science teams can continuously engage KOLs for more frequent conversations on a virtual platform,” says Velez. “Offering a virtual environment for more frequent engagement shows KOLs that you’re very vested in them and that you recognize the pressures and responsibilities they have, and so you’re finding a more convenient way to still have meaningful discussions with them.”
When it comes to tracking how the KOL experience you create is paying off, think of the metrics that would be most meaningful to your team. Perhaps you want to increase KOL enrollment in a specific program or improve the participation rate. Other teams might look into the volume of new insights they received versus how much older information is repeated during an advisory board meeting. And still others might want to use virtual engagement to identify and cultivate up-and-coming KOLs. Teams can also go a step further by tying these metrics to their business goals – the success of a clinical trial, winning over new prescribers, or reducing hard costs associated with insight gathering.
What are the elements of a better KOL experience?
Hybrid virtual engagement – a combination of asynchronous and real-time virtual elements like webcasts – meets many KOLs where they are today: wanting to resume some in-person meetings, but also exercising caution and being selective. “KOLs want to feel valued, they want to deliver, they want to advance their area of scientific expertise, they want access to data at its earliest availability, they want to help patients and they want to do it in a convenient way that works in their own place and time anywhere on the globe,” says Velez.
In 2020, we surveyed many of the KOLs who took part in discussions held on the Within3 platform. In looking at a year’s worth of results, a few common themes emerged. While many experts lamented the total inability to interact in person, they also cited convenience, exposure to global perspectives, and the ability to focus as distinct advantages of an asynchronous virtual environment.
For life science teams, the opportunity to plan how and when to use virtual engagement represents a turn away from the emergency-response mode of the past year and toward a more forward-looking, strategic stance. And given what we’ve all experienced, most teams have a renewed appetite for approaches that reduce unexpected or last-minute changes that could derail a meeting that was months in the making and represents a large investment.
“If we’re going to compare asynchronous to live meetings, you don’t have to worry about lack of coordination or last-minute hiccups, like people not being able to attend,” says Velez. “If that’s one of your key people, you’ve just lost a big percentage of the feedback you need. Asynchronous removes that uncertainty.”
To learn more about how virtual work helps life science teams achieve their goals without having more meetings, download Unlocking the Secrets of Virtual Work.