Pharmaceutical companies are running out of KOLs (key opinion leaders, also referred to as external experts or thought leaders) the same time they run out of medical science liaisons. And by no means do their established software systems provide them with the adequate tools to effectively build relationships between the first and the latter. It’s a triple whammy.

If you talk with global brand leads from multinational, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies, they will probably tell you that they are increasingly faced with the challenge to accomplish even more but with fewer sales force. And the same people who mentioned ten years ago that they began to worry about their companies leaving opportunities on the table through lack of personnel, are now convinced of the fact, and share so openly.

Source: ZS Associates


Established brands can no longer suffer

It’s not that these pharma giants are missing ideas or good people. It’s just that they now focus so much on their must-win brands that they begin to neglect the long tail of products that made them big in the first place. Haunted by the upcoming expiry of their former cash cows, which will open up their flank to attacks from generics, they struggle the same way Kraft-Heinz would if it tried to promote all 57 varieties of its ketchup right next to the shelf of private labels at Tesco’s.

The Internet as a source for health and the medical-related information is a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, the digital channel between physicians and pharmaceutical marketers has barely surpassed the bandwidth of a garden hose. It’s time to fetch a spade and pickaxe and get ‘digitally’ dirty.

Taking inventory of your digital assets

Digital marketing teams across the globe naturally produce a lot of assets, such as awareness websites, campaign landing pages, microsites, and other touch points. You need to do an audit and prioritize them for what is most relevant and effective for your audience.

Here’s a way to perform a digital assets audit:

REVIEW YOUR WEBSITES – You need to get a picture of everything that exists for your brand online. This might include booking some time with the IT department and checking out the different marketing branches of your brands content management system. There are many software tools available which can help you quickly get a view into what the lay of the land is here.

CREATE AN OVERVIEW – Then you want to compile a full list and status with key facts and descriptions for the various resources. Who is the owner? Who is the target group? Which year has it been created? Are approval number and copyright still valid?

REMOVE OLD ASSETS – Finally, categorize your assets and uncover which are outdated and no longer performing. You want to make sure that your medics can rely on a live, functioning websites when they reach out to external experts.

Establishing a single point of truth

You want to create a digital assets hub for all internal and external stakeholders working within your portfolio of brands. Think of it as a one-stop shop from which your medical science liaisons can access and discuss with you, all the materials they need to approach a certain physician:

  • Websites
  • Detailers
  • Mobile Apps
  • Social Media

If your technical ecosystem supports external access, this will be the only link your MSL will ever share when they follow up with an external expert. No more forgotten passwords, gone are the days of hilarious QR codes printed in conference batches.

Such a portal can be added to the existing infrastructure or built with any good content management system such as Drupal.

Closing the loop with your experts

Now for the secret sauce that holds it all together. The key to engagement is to establish a community where you enable thought leaders to provide advocacy and key marketing feedback about your initiatives. A place where they can mingle in a trusted environment and can be reached by your medical liaisons.

You might find that you have a primary network of thought leaders, those who are already working closely with your medicals, and a secondary network of experts, who are a bit harder to reach. Of course, your sales staff probably won’t have the time and resources to engage the secondary network with the same impact. Wouldn’t it be great if the first line of experts could share points of interest also with their peers who are further away from you, allowing you to engage them as well?

The way the life sciences industry connects with healthcare experts will be changed by adopting proven frameworks based on collaboration and expert co-creation. Nitro Digital has developed a suite of customisable products and managed services to help you work in partnership with your external experts.

Putting the E in KOL-Management

As sales representatives find it increasingly difficult to get time with doctors for face to face detailing, e-promotional activities emerge and are quickly changing the pharmaceutical marketing landscape which becomes more and more fragmented.

With each new touch point, that needs to be maintained and kept up to date, your digital marketing strategy gets harder and harder to manage. Which is exactly why you want to have a custom-tailored communication hub in place that allows you to work with thought leaders to spread disease awareness and messaging that aligns with what your company is trying to establish.

You can also read further about a more structured approach to planning for KOL engagements here.

Feel free to get in touch with us at, we would be glad to hear from you and discuss more.