Thursday, March 03, 2011

N-of-8 Advisory Boards -- producing actionable results

Life science industry marketing executives rely on key opinion leaders (KOLs) — physicians and other stakeholders who have earned credibility with their medical colleagues based on their expertise and scientific stature — to diffuse innovation and disseminate scientific information regarding innovative treatments and new products. Thought leaders are a critical component of a bio-pharma company’s professional marketing and medical strategies.  But companies face a real challenge in creating, maintaining, and leveraging those relationships while safely navigating logistical issues and regulatory waters.

One enduring problem is in finding an appropriate way to measure the impact of interactions between brand innovators and KOLs. In part, this is a matter of regulation: Because advisory boards shouldn’t be treated as sales occasions, it is risky to assess them the way you’d assess a focus group—by number of positive reactions.

But even without regulation, that sort of metric would seriously misrepresent the nature of the relationship between a product development group and KOLs—a relationship that is based on science, mutual collaboration, and engagement, and tends to evolve over longer periods of time than interactions with inline marketers.

The thought leader interaction is a process; as such, it may not yield the same kind of immediate, measurable results seen on the commercial side of the company.

In my upcoming book, I will apply the principles of N-of-8 to the ubiquitous tactic of “advisory boards.”  That means we will review how the tool can be use in identifying the right advisors, maintaining a practice focus, creating an agenda, and producing actionable results.  I’ll also share some very functional guidance on the reporting of the N-of-8 sessions.

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