How patient recruitment materials can make or break your campaign

Patient recruitment materials developed by clinical trial recruitment companies have to achieve more than simply passing an IRB’s careful inspection. While guideline adherence is critical, it’s just as important that materials capture patient interest, answer key questions, and guide would-be participants to the next step toward your trial. 

Successful recruitment companies create robust outreach materials that can be applied to any challenges that come up. We share the key ways patient recruitment materials can throw your trial off course – and how to make sure you’re working with a company that can quickly right the ship.

1. The problem: Your recruitment agency uses the same outreach materials across channels.

A rule of thumb in marketing suggests that most people need to see an ad seven times before they remember it. That doesn’t mean every ad should look identical, however. Today, someone may see an ad multiple times in different places online, from a sidebar on a favorite website, to an ad in their Instagram feed. Each platform has different sizing specs and best practices that lead to results. If materials are created in the wrong size, ads can lose their aesthetic appeal, and important information may be cut off. 

How to avoid it: Ask for examples in a range of formats.

Be sure to request clinical trial advertising samples from marketing channels that require different types of materials. For example, if the company says they’ve run advertisements on Facebook, ask to see banner ads as well as video content. Understand how your recruitment agency differentiates content across channels to get a sense of their knowledge of all the different platforms your campaign may use.

2. The problem: Ads don’t reflect the interests of your target patient audience. 

As anyone who works in healthcare knows, patients are not a monolith. The benefits of participating in research that resonate with someone living with asthma may not be meaningful to a Parkinson’s disease caregiver. If patient recruitment materials are too general, advertisements may miss the mark.

How to avoid it: Ask your recruitment agency about their audience research process.

Even if a recruitment agency has run a campaign for a particular condition area before, nuances in the trial itself may require a fresh approach in outreach materials. For example, Antidote’s research found that patients respond to different clinical trial advertising approaches depending on the type of trial being advertised, such as whether it was interventional or observational. A successful recruitment company will thoroughly understand your trial and what about it specifically may appeal to your target population. 

3. The problem: Outreach efforts are bringing in patients who aren’t qualified for your trial. 

In patient recruitment advertising, it is possible to be too successful. At least, it can seem that way at first – until all of those patient leads a campaign brought in end up not meeting your trial’s inclusion and exclusion criteria. This kind of problem can happen when outreach materials are too general or put too much emphasis on financial benefits.

How to avoid it: Ask about your patient recruitment company about a time they had to adjust their tactics.

Every clinical trial is different, and your recruitment agency may need to try a few different approaches in their outreach materials before finding their most successful approach. When evaluating potential recruitment companies, ask for an example of a time the recruitment team had to pivot to a fresh approach. Flexibility is important in any marketing campaign, and this question can help get at what the recruitment company would do if patient referrals aren’t working out once they reach sites.

4. The problem: Ads don’t comply with guidelines from Facebook or another advertising channel.

Healthcare is a sensitive topic. Rules around ad targeting have also become more stringent in recent years, particularly around targeting personal attributes on Facebook. Too many rejected ads, and a Facebook account can even be shut down for violating guidelines.

How to avoid it: Ask whether marketers at your recruitment company are certified in Facebook Blueprint or Google Ads. 

Several of the most popular advertising channels, including Facebook and Google, offer training on their platforms. Marketing professionals who are certified by these programs are more likely to be familiar with their specific rules around ad creation and targeting. Marketers with these certifications are also more likely to be up-to-date on the latest best practices around getting the results they’re looking for with their ads, beyond simply ensuring ads are approved.

5. The problem: Your recruitment agency has run out of advertising materials – but you haven’t met your enrollment goals yet.

Even with the most careful planning in place, patient recruitment timelines often take longer than expected. While the “rule of seven” adage mentioned in our first point is important, ad fatigue can also set in and reduce the number of new visits to your pre-screener.

How to avoid it: Ask your recruitment company to plan for an additional three to six months of content in their submission packet.

Members of your IRB may not relish reviewing multiple extra pages of outreach material, but you’ll thank yourself if your team ends up needing the additional options. Changes and adjustments don’t necessarily have to be drastic – even small changes like updating the background color on an image can make a significant impact on ad performance. Putting together a robust outreach packet also means recruiters have more options to run A/B tests and find the ads that connect best with your audience. 

At Antidote, our patient recruitment teams use a wide variety of tactics and outreach materials to reach and engage patients. Learn how we’ve used our creative approach to save our clients up to six months in recruitment time by downloading our case studies below.