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Apr 11, 2007
Case Study

Super-Persuasive Email Campaign to Motivate Doctors, Busy Execs & Rev Enthusiasm for Product Line or Long Project

SUMMARY: If you’ve struggled to keep your sales team, roster of resellers or other network of partners focused on a long-term project, you’ll find inspiration in this Case Study.

See how one pharmaceutical company used carefully-selected newsletter content and an extranet with color-coded status reports to create a sense of urgency and competition among doctors managing its clinical trials. The result: email open rates as high as 80% and a 23% boost in clinical trial enrollment.
Any marketer working with a large sales force, roster of resellers or other external partner network knows how difficult it can be to keep that group marching in step with your plans and long-term projects. Communicating your goals gets even tougher when your target audience is a group of incredibly busy, high-level executives.

That was the trouble facing Dr. James Baldassarre, Senior Director Clinical Research, INO Therapeutics, who manages the pharmaceutical company’s clinical trials, which involve hundreds of physicians, vendors and trial managers around the world.

Because these trials last for years, busy physicians won’t always be as dialed in to the program as Baldassarre. “It’s really difficult to get all of these different outside partners to move in the same direction that we’re trying to move in.”

He and his team needed to communicate with those partners in a way that got them revved up about their clinical trials and keep them focused on crucial steps, such as patient enrollment and data reporting.

Baldassarre knew an email newsletter was an obvious place to start, but a basic newsletter alone wasn’t going to cut it. That would be too easy for physicians to ignore -- unless the content was compelling enough to keep them opening and engage them directly in clinical trial activities. Here are the three tactics he and his team used:

-> Tactic #1. Content that engages and motivates teams

Running clinical trials requires them to collect mountains of data that often never gets back to the clinical trial investigators. Baldassarre’s team realized that much of this information could be used to motivate team members to stay on top of the trial.

Content highlights included:

- Enrollment rates by trial site and country. This way, investigators in different locations saw how their enrollment numbers compared with other teams’, creating a sense of competition. “Each country has a lead investigator personally invested in this trial. His reputation is on the line, and he can see how his colleagues are doing.”

- Average time to report serious adverse events. Investigators were supposed to report such events within 24 hours, but Baldassarre and his team found they were getting some reports late. Including the reporting time would provide an incentive to meet the 24-hour timeframe.

- Links to important documentation and other reporting tools, such as reimbursement forms.

-> Tactic #2. Automated newsletter production for regular deliveries

Baldassarre’s previous efforts to communicate with investigators had been ad-hoc -- text emails and an occasional newsletter. A regular delivery schedule would keep trial partners better motivated, so they needed a process that made it easy to produce a newsletter each month.

With help from a vendor (see link below), the team created a template that emphasized content elements contained within the body of the message, rather than links that busy physicians and other recipients were unlikely to click.

They also built an online project management tool that automated most of the functions involved in putting it together, including:

o Email reminders before deadlines
o An online interface to load content into the template
o Editing capabilities

Because they already communicated with their clinical trial investigators and vendors by email, they had the necessary addresses to send a monthly newsletter. They also included a “send to an associate” capability in the newsletter that allowed physicians to include key staff members in the distribution list.

-> Tactic #3. Trial extranet to reiterate key data

Along with the regular newsletter, the team wanted to give clinical trial investigators a password-protected extranet so they could retrieve important data and documents on demand.

While answering those queries, though, the site was designed to push several of Baldassarre’s most important trial-management messages:

A dashboard at the top of the page provided updates from the clinical trial, such as enrollment rates, serious adverse event reporting and the status of case report files.

Rather than expect investigators to always click through and read those links, the site used a color-coding scheme to provide an instant visual status report:

o green -- tasks or elements that were on track
o yellow -- those that needed attention
o red -- measurements that had slipped below benchmarks

Baldassarre’s team also created a “hot links and recent news” section to highlight new or particularly important information. Links in that section could be coordinated with the most recent newsletter. For example, if the most recent newsletter announced an upcoming meeting, those dates would be put in the hotlinks section. Likewise, a change to the trial protocol or any other event that would affect how investigators do their jobs would be highlighted in that section.

A third special section contained links to the trial’s policies and standard operating procedures. This way, new trial investigators would have a central place to go for guidance, and veteran investigators would have a place to easily click for refreshers on important policies, procedures and checklists.


“The newsletter is working out beautifully,” Baldassarre says, and the trial-specific, relevant data has proved to be a hit with the doctors, vendors and sother members of the clinical trial team.

In fact, newsletter open rates have been as high as 80%, and the typical open rate ranges between 50% and 65%.

Even better, by checking subscribers’ open rates Baldassarre has a tool that can help him assess each investigator’s performance. “If I have a sense that an investigator isn’t doing a very good job, and I also see that they’re not opening the newsletters, that tells me something.”

Overall, the effort to light a fire under investigators is working. Since launching the newsletter last year, Baldassarre and his team are averaging 23% higher monthly enrollment rates in their clinical trials.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from INO Therapeutics:

eDetailing: Best Practices & Data - a 16-page PDF report from Pharma Marketing News:

Past Sherpa article: How to Market Technology Products & Services to Hospitals

FulcrumTech - helped create INO Therapeutics’ newsletter, content management system and extranet:

INO Therapeutics:

See Also:

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