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Five Tips for Successful Patient Outreach

Posted by | 1:18pm on Monday, June 27, 2011
illustration of thought bubbles filling a bottle

When you approach someone, it is critical that you show your genuine interest in getting to know them 

As patients increasingly drive their own medical care, the value of direct, two-way conversation between biopharma and patients also increases.  When executed with a genuine intent to understand the experience and needs of patients and caregivers, honest and transparent engagement is an excellent means of gaining:

  • Understanding of how your company and your product are perceived
  • Insight into unmet needs
  • Clarity in opportunities that exist to improve adherence
  • Relationships in which you can advocate for patients, and patients can support your endeavors

However, before you rush off to Facebook to “poke” every person that notes the disease state of your therapy in their posts, there are a few things to consider. That said, here are five tips that will lead to success in patient cold calls.

1. Invest time in identifying potential partners
When you approach someone, it is critical that you show your genuine interest in getting to know them. What’s the best way to do that? Take some time to get to know them before-hand. Read bloggers’ posts and understand interactions between the people behind social network site postings. Identify those who are potential partners, and let them know that you have shared goals.

2. Be transparent, not empathetic
When it comes to sickness, each individual’s experience is unique. This isn’t to say that there aren’t elements of a shared journey; however, it is true that even if you have experienced a disease, you can never truly say that you understand what someone is going through. As the representative of a pharma company, this is even truer. Phrases like “I understand,” “like you, I,” and “all patients who have,” will instantly be received with resistance. You cannot know what another person has experienced, and disease affects far more aspects of life than just physical health.

However, you should be transparent. Let the person know what you are working on. Let them know your goals. Let them know what you are looking for from them, and as appropriate, offer them some creative ownership of your work. Approach all partnerships as true partnerships.

3. Be brief and direct
The person you are reaching out to is just as busy as you are. Their inbox is just as flooded as yours. Their schedule is just as jammed as yours. Sending someone a seven-paragraph email detailing the granular minutiae of your tactical approach will get your outreach deleted faster than an inquiry from that Nigerian prince who just needs your Social Security number and credit card expiration date. Get to the point and let the details come out when dialog has been established.

4. Offer several means of contact
Offering a person a single email address will surely allow you to keep things brief. But it’s not that easy. Give them some kernels that will allow them to learn more about you. Give a name, a phone number, a URL, and a Twitter feed. Let them take some time to get to know you, too. Let them enter the relationship on a footing that is equal to your own.

5. Clearly state expectations
The fact is that while you want to build a relationship, the first thing you want is a contact. Set early expectations that won’t strike fear into the heart of the person you are approaching. All you want to do is talk, maybe exchange a few ideas, and perhaps learn a bit about their experience. All of that is incredibly valuable to you, and the value you can offer them is the ability to shape disease perception and management. That is pretty powerful stuff for a few conversations, but that is the opportunity we have.

What do you think? Has your experience been the same? Please comment below.

(Image courtesy of PJ Macklin).

About David Jakubiak

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