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Effective KOL Engagement Is Key to Unlocking Commercial Success

By Onyx Health | 26th October 2021

When you work in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, getting the right key opinion leaders (KOLs) onside is one of the most important things you can do to drive your commercial success as a business.  

Achieving this in practice is no mean feat; engaging KOLs in an ad hoc piecemeal fashion can often do more harm than good. Target the wrong people or the right people in the wrong way and important messages about your products or services can disappear into a black hole; meaning you miss your big chance to get seen and heard. 

At Onyx Health, we understand the importance of KOLs as an essential component of a company’s success. You can find out more about how we can take your KOL engagement to the next level here 

Effective KOL engagement involves having the right strategy to approach and engage the right people in the right way backed by clear measurement and evaluation. We’ve pulled together a brief guide of the things to consider for a successful KOL campaign.   

Targeting the right people 

Traditionally, KOL’s would have been limited to healthcare professionals. Today, the term KOL extends to represent a much broader group of stakeholders, including payers, commissioners, patient groups and many more who may have a stake in getting your product into mainstream use. 

Engaging the right KOLS in the right way at the right time is a crucial to your success. The targeting phase should identify which relationship will be the most beneficial to your business and what they have to offer. Creating a relevant selection criterion and gathering accurate and reliable information about the KOL is important to ensure high quality engagement.  

This involves detailed profiling and audience segmentation to get in front of the right people. Getting this right involves a systematic analysis of their areas of interest and expertise, their reputation and the extent of their influence, not to mention their willingness to work with pharma and healthcare companies in the past.  

Being clear about what you want from a KOL is really important. It would help if you were also clear about your key asks from the KOL you are targeting. KOLs perform various functions ranging from writing articles, advising on medical and scientific content, acting as a media spokesperson, and facilitating medical education. If you aren’t transparent about this from the outset, it can damage your relationship.  

KOLs vs. Product Champions?  

KOL’s shouldn’t be confused with a ‘product champion’ who openly encourages and supports the uptake of your product. A Product Champion will get your product onto formulary listings, put forward the business case to justify spending, and inspire colleagues to support and use your product. 

KOLs play a key role in collaborating with the healthcare industry to help improve patient care and treatment options. 

Measuring your success 

Dialogue needs to be transparent, and goals shared to anchor relationships to get the most from your KOL engagement. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, take on feedback and be ready to anticipate their requirements. 

Having clear metrics in place to measure the success of your engagement is vital to achieving the best results. Evaluating engagement is a process and not an event and must be performed on an ongoing basis. Once adjustments and modifications are made to your KOL engagement, this must be monitored continuously to assess its effectiveness. For measurement to be effective, it must be open, honest and transparent. You should celebrate your successes but also be constructively critical about things you could have done better. Learning the right lessons is vital.  

Why are KOLs important?  

KOLs may contribute to research and development, act as commercial advisors, support market access activities or participate in medical education programmes to help people understand the true value of a product.  KOLs use their influence to shape the market for you but may not always talk openly about it; instead, they may suggest a place for it in clinical care. They have a unique level of credibility and influence that their peers listen to and turn to for knowledge and advice on specific treatment approaches or disease areas stemming from years of experience within their field. 

Healthcare SMEs need to invest their time and money in developing good relationships with their KOLs and identify potential product champions. Those who don’t might be missing a trick. Just because someone has shown an interest in your product does not make them a KOL or a product champion; it goes way beyond that. For more information about our KOL Development services, contact Onyx Health on 0191 640 3638, email us at 

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