Baseball and Influence Mapping 3.0: Drafting the Ultimate Influencer Team

Baseball is increasingly becoming as much science as sport, using performance analysis to guide managerial decision making. In part, it began with Moneyball, a book (and later a movie with Brad Pitt) that documented how the Oakland Athletics management team used analysts and statisticians to break down every possible scenario in a baseball season in order to reveal tendencies. Which players make for the strongest lineup? Would this batter swing on a 2-0 count? Which pitcher is most likely to get a certain batter out? A game based historically on gut feelings and “management bias” is now run, at least in part, from spreadsheets and data.

While product commercialization is very different from baseball, there are similarities in how General Managers (aka product managers, sales managers, clinical members, etc.) study the players statistics (aka influencers/Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)) to determine who to collaborate with and who to target for optimal success across the many disciplines within a life sciences organization. There are many traditional ways to play the game, but beating your competition requires advanced techniques.

Life science companies engage KOLs to assist with market development, product development and commercialization. These influencers are critical to assisting companies with clinical development, educational initiatives and product launch planning. Eventually, they become customer targets for marketing and sales of approved products. Healthcare professionals (HCPs) have historically been impacted by national opinion leaders, specialists in a given therapeutic area, researchers, clinical trial authors, trusted colleagues, etc. The number and type of influencers, however, is expanding due to many factors, including the increasing prevalence of social media, healthcare reform and newly empowered advocate communities. Today, treatment decisions can be influenced by local opinion leaders, passionate bloggers, hospital administrators or mid-level providers, to name a few.

Market forces are creating challenges and opportunities for life sciences companies in how they engage influencers and opinion leaders. Market forces such as industry consolidation, rising costs, increased competition, open payments as part of the Sunshine Act, increased regulatory requirements, greater restrictions on academia/pharmaceutical collaborations and market fragmentation are requiring players to adapt. The field is changing: Is your organization or team leading the way?

Traditional Models Are An Important Foundation

Attempting to identify and reach key leaders in the life sciences industry has been standard practice for years. However, this strategy needs to be rethought if companies are to be able to use it to gain a competitive advantage. Historically, in many companies, influence mapping has been a function of marketing in collaboration with the medical affairs team. These teams scan the market for experts or experienced clinicians “in the trenches” to help guide them on a variety of clinical or commercial decisions such as selections for post-marketing clinical trials, advisory board panels or training/launch meeting needs. Some traditional ways of identifying these individuals include:

  • Formal leaders (such as heads of departments at leading academic hospitals)
  • Published authors
  • Frequent speakers at medical conferences
  • Members of editorial boards/specialty associations
  • Frequent treaters of a given disease

While these leaders remain an important foundation, there are many other non-traditional leaders and data points that can be evaluated to further enrich influencer intelligence. The traditional approach yields relevant information that companies should use to map influencers; however, there are drawbacks. This information is typically obtained by performing a survey on a sample of the relevant HCP population, and using this survey method makes it difficult to understand the broader population, at scale.

Welcome to Big Data, Advanced Analytics and Validated Scoring!

The new approach that companies are integrating uses Big Data and advanced technology tools such as Hadoop, TouchGraph and NodeXL to improve and visualize results. It combines traditional data inputs with the troves of data pharma companies already gather and new “Big Data” sources including social media, other rich Internet information, and aggregate spend “open payment” data, among others. In addition, companies integrate valuable social network surveys to understand nominated “leaders” in a given therapeutic area as well as regional advice and expert networks, which can help disseminate approved product ideas and innovations.

The vast amount of attribute “stats” collected on influencers in a given market are analyzed, compressed and weighted, leading to individual scoring that drives “player” rankings akin to baseball leagues. Tapping these rich data sources with advanced analytics provides for greener profiles and less bias, thereby improving the probability of decision-making success. This modern approach also identifies many non-traditional influencers—such as bloggers, advocates, and pharmacy and therapeutics members—that traditional methods might miss.

Tools such as advanced influence mapping are only effective in improving the chance for clinical and commercial success if organizations align key departments on the value, and then train team members to optimize decision making and measure performance along the way. Best-in-class companies are encouraging multiple departments such as clinical, medical affairs, marketing and sales management to use advanced influence mapping to make better decisions. Influencer knowledge can also be integrated into CRM systems. Not only will choices regarding how and when to engage or target an influencer impact business decisions at the national, regional and local level, but this approach offers opportunities for compliance monitoring as well. Players can “trade” (eliminate) KOLs from their roster (target list) if they know competitors are investing heavily via aggregate spend reporting. Compliance can also assess the Fair Market Value of such players and designate fee for service rates.

Scout, Analyze and Score Influencers

Baseball managers get paid to win games. In tight contests, they are not likely to keep a pitcher in if the next batter has a history of success against him. Modern life science senior leadership teams, like baseball managers, need to use every piece of information they can get to secure an advantage over their competitors. Sophisticated use of data to understand and reach new influencers can help improve decision making, which leads to better business results across the organization. Manufacturers are making use of new data and analytical capabilities today by:

  • Gaining external insights to help determine what statistics or attributes are available to rank HCPs and KOLs.
  • Confirming and using the rules of the game and understanding what activities are in and out of bounds for KOLs.
  • Receiving independent ranking and scoring of the potential influence of KOLs for given activities.
  • Drafting their fantasy KOL team for each activity based on the scoring.
  • Looking at new ways to align their team with organizational goals—and winning the games.


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