As a market, the medical device sector has been quite slow to adopt digital change. Until very recently, it focused on in-person interactions as a pathway to clinical trials and expert advocacy – relying on Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to help them increase their credibility.
But changes to working environments as a response to COVID-19, have pushed a new group to the fore – Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs).
Just like KOLs, DOLs are experts in their fields, with a wealth of experience and access to the latest technology and insights. The key difference is the way they communicate their message.
Are we seeing a new breed of influencers evolve?
Adapting Accelerated Change
Changes in the way we consume content has evolved steadily over the years. But in terms of the way we work, the 2020 lockdown gave rise to significant change – particularly for medical devices and technology (MedTech) sales reps and marketers.
Instead of being able to visit hospitals, meet doctors in person, and attend congresses to gauge which KOLs are dominating areas of expertise, reps were essentially grounded. This meant that their access to experienced, respected, well-known industry experts, was limited to those they already knew or were working with.
Not an ideal scenario for those looking to market and launch new products.
Clearly, a new approach was needed. A digital one. As it transpired, a new batch of active professional influencers were keenly demonstrating new techniques and approaches online: DOLs.
Although DOLs are every bit the consummate medical professional, they’re typically younger but still very senior in their own right. Many hold key positions on boards and committees, or are involved in large research projects.
But what really differentiates them is their adoption of social media and other online platforms. Using sites like LinkedIn, they can quickly distribute content – such as surgery or procedure demonstration videos – and reach a far broader audience than many KOLs have done traditionally.
DOLs also understand that engaging with other medical professionals is vital to creating communities – where knowledge can be shared and progress documented. The immediate visibility provided by online platforms also means they can post and respond quickly, and also adds to their wider digital footprint – making it easier to aggregate data relating to their expertise (using tools like Toxeos!).
Ultimately, there can be no doubt that digital interaction will continue to increase year on year and with shifts in working culture, physical meetings are going to slowly reduce in number.
For MedTech sales reps, being able to connect with professionals is a critical part of communication and it is something DOLs understand clearly and excel at. If marketers want to reach those same DOLs, they must use the same tools and engage with the communities that are blossoming online.
As the rate of change increases, so too will those wielding influence. Staying dialled into these trends is now an essential part of MedTech sales and marketing. Simple as that.