5 common clinical trial patient recruitment strategy mistakes

It can be frustrating to plan out a detailed clinical trial patient recruitment strategy only to have something not quite click. There are a few common mistakes recruiters make in the planning stage that can cause problems down the road — if you're not getting the results you're looking for, it's possible that you've made one of these errors.

Luckily, most campaign issues are repairable once you’ve identified the main problems. After diagnosing the root issue, you can start troubleshooting to get your campaign back on track. These are some of the most common mistakes in clinical trial patient recruitment, with advice on how to fix them. 

You don't know your audience well enough

Audience research is one of the most important parts of putting together a clinical trial patient recruitment campaign. If your ads are getting low click-through rates, for example, the language you're using may not speak to your patient population. You may also have chosen imagery that doesn't match your patient population or capture the experience of living with their condition.

Before you start your next campaign, consider conducting a patient session or survey to learn more about what it's like to live with the condition being studied, and how better treatments could help. You can also spend time on patient forums, blogs, and social media to get a sense of how patients talk about their condition.

Working with patient advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations can also offer valuable insights into how patients will respond to both the goal and the logistics of your trial. Connecting with patient organizations, moderators of social media forums, and advocates also helps build trust. Partnering with these groups can open up dialogues around how to properly speak to your patient population. 

You're not running A/B tests effectively

Testing ad variations and placements is an important part of any clinical trial marketing strategy, but it can be challenging to stay organized when it comes to designing tests. Follow these tips to set up an A/B test correctly to get usable results:

  • Test one variable at a time. Elements of an ad that you can test include images, headlines, and call to action (CTA) buttons.
  • Set a goal. Decide how you'll measure success. Will you measure success based on clicks, pre-screener completions, etc.?
  • Use a control. After you've run one A/B test, you can use the winner as your control variable in your next test.
  • Make sure your results are statistically significant. Kissmetrics has a calculator that can help determine how statistically significant the results of your A/B test are.

If you're using Facebook ads, you can also set up A/B tests from within the ads manager. Running a well-designed A/B test may take a little extra time, but your results will be more reliable for influencing your campaign. Some advertising platforms even optimize copy variations for you and automatically find you the best combinations of images, headlines, and CTAs.

Your recruitment materials are confusing

In addition to making sure your ad copy uses the same language as your patient population, it's also important to keep in mind that many people aren't familiar with clinical trials. According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, only 12% of Americans are “health literate," which further highlights the need to keep reading level in mind when creating materials. In fact, the average American reads at a 7th-8th grade level, and most likely does not have a medical background. 

Avoid language that's too scientific, and try to understand what factors may motivate your patient population to take part in a clinical trial, as well as what their concerns may be. Addressing these head-on can be an effective way to let your audience know that you understand their needs and concerns. 

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to strike a balance between lay language and Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved guidelines that, in combination, still appeals to your patient population. In order for your IRB to approve your materials, they must also adhere to guidelines set out by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Working within those guidelines doesn't mean your outreach has to be dry, but it should be clear and honest. 

There's a problem with your landing page experience

If your ads are getting clicks but not conversions, take a closer look at your landing page. Ideally, perform user testing internally and with patients before launching your landing page, especially if the page is a pre-screener for your clinical trial. 

You can also take a look at form responses and see if there are any questions patients are skipping, or if there's a common point at which patients drop off from taking your prescreener. These behaviors may suggest that something is confusing about how the question is phrased, or that you have included a question people are not comfortable answering. 

If comments are allowed on your ads, particularly on Facebook and Twitter, you may also get a glimpse of whether something is confusing or not functioning on your landing page.

It’s also critical to ensure that your landing page is consistent with what you’re saying in advertising copy and creative. If the message is different, then patients might find your materials to be misleading.

You're not targeting the right audience

If your ads are receiving clicks but those who take your pre-screener aren't eligible for your trial, there may be an issue with your ad targeting. Take a look at ineligibility reports and find out why patients you're sending to sites aren't eligible. If they have another condition that makes them ineligible, for example, you can try to find a way to exclude them from your ads.

It's also possible that your audience is too general. Targeting ads to reach those interested in clinical research, for example, might be too broad. Consider narrowing your focus to reach the right audience.

If you're looking for more guidance on clinical trial patient recruitment, get in touch to learn more about how Antidote connects patients with research.