Zed Williamson

How to Do Digital Marketing for Clinical Trials

How do you run an effective digital marketing campaign for a clinical trial? Use this guide to research, strategize, and plan.

The clinical trial recruitment process can be long, complex, and expensive. Executing a well-planned marketing campaign is essential to the success of any clinical trial, from content planning and production to reaching your audience with that content. Marketing your clinical trial is part of a broader process of implementing clinical trial recruitment strategies, which we’ve covered in some length.

But how exactly do you market a clinical trial from a digital perspective?

Begin by defining your objectives

Digital marketing objectives vary so it’s essential that you’re clear.

  • What are you hoping to achieve?
  • How will you measure success?

Yes, "clinical trial signups" may be the obvious choice, but you may need to think more long term. It’s likely that fewer people will sign up for the clinical trial the first time that they see your ads . . . especially if they're not familiar with you.

For instance, you may want to collect their emails to send them a digital brochure. In this case, you could use the number of emails collected as a metric of success.

Having clear metrics in mind will help inform the rest of the digital marketing process, help you improve your campaign as it's running, and help improve your digital marketing efforts for future clinical trials, based on what works and what doesn't.

Research who you want to market to

This comes down to who you’re targeting online – i.e., who is the right person who would be interested in your trial?

Who are they? What might they want to know about clinical trials? How can you reach them?  

Start by mapping out everything you know about the audience.

Demographic traits to consider:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geography

Behavioral traits to consider:

  • Group affiliation
  • Buying or association behaviors
  • Preferred media consumption and usage (older audiences tend to be heavier Facebook users for instance, whereas younger groups are more likely to be using Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or YouTube (and are more likely to be using mobile devices to do so).

You will also want to brainstorm the types of ways they might be actively searching for information related to this study (on Google or Bing, typically). Some of these patients might not be aware of clinical trials, while others are actively searching to join one — your marketing approach will vary depending on this level of readiness.

Bear in mind that you can’t target patients with messages based on their specific health conditions.

There are many sources of audience research available — Google Ads and Facebook for Business both provide some level of free audience research before you run campaigns, for example. Reddit and Quora both have active Q&A forums, making it easy to find the questions patients are asking, the language they use to ask these questions, and popular beliefs or misconceptions that you may want to address. If this isn’t enough, consider visiting the websites of relevant organizations that your audience may spend time on, and learn more there.

Break your target audience into groups

Depending on how ready you are to develop a sophisticated marketing campaign, you will want to segment your audience into different groups, based on the demographic information mentioned above — this data informs the type of content they will respond to, and on which platforms they will see your marketing materials.

For example, you may segment one group based on their readiness to "convert" (in this case, to sign up for the trial). The calls to action here will lean strongly toward “sign up now” and “apply for the trial.”

People earlier in that process aren't generally ready to be pitched on the trial quite yet, and you will need to focus on some education and trust building first. The call to action here may be “learn more” and “yes, I’m interested”.

This is also very important when it comes to writing copy and coming up with the creative and graphics or videos for your ads or posts.


  • Segment: People who tend to listen to podcasts about a specific topic
  • Approach: Acknowledge their desire to learn and build knowledge about living a healthy life, and how they can further their impact by joining this study
  • Strategy: Show someone participating in the study and talking about their experience (in a video for example)

When ads or digital marketing doesn’t deliver, it often has to do with a mismatch of segmentation (groups) and message. Learn why messaging it so important and how you can increase conversions.

Develop a strong “why” for your clinical trial marketing

This is also known as a value proposition: Why should patients participate in your trial? What’s in it for them?  Understand the target audience and their needs. Figure out what they care about, what they value, what they're afraid of regarding your clinical trial. Try to address these points when developing your messaging.

Remember, different audience segments may not respond similarly to the same messaging. Your value proposition may need to be customized depending on factors like age, for instance, because younger people tend to value different things, and will pay attention to different benefits of your trial than older patients.

Create engaging digital content

You are creating different types of content here for different stages of your marketing campaign.

Content for digital marketing for your clinical trial may include:

  • Images you use in your ads
  • Copy (text) you use in those ads
  • Landing pages
  • Emails
  • Guides
  • Brochures
  • Videos

Pro Tip:

When creating images, personalized photos tend to perform better than stock photos, but bear in mind that photos perform better when they have people’s faces in them (as opposed to a picture of a medical device, building, or some other inanimate object).

Your audience segmentation is key in marketing content creation: you want to have a clear idea of who you're creating each piece of content for. Are they young or old? Male or female? Are they ready to sign up for a clinical trial right now, or will they need to spend some time learning and thinking about it first?

For patients who may need some time, you should create content to provide valuable educational material, such as a downloadable PDF guide, ideally collecting their email. With their email, you can follow up with other resources, then later send clinical trial promotional materials.

When creating promotional content, be sure your value proposition is clearly communicated. Why would they want to participate in the trial? What will they want to know about it? Address the benefits for each group.

Promotional content should also address concerns they may have, including reasons they may be nervous about participating in the trial, and how much of a time commitment it will require.

Going live with your clinical trial digital marketing campaign

Once everything is in place and you're done preparing to launch digital ads, you're ready to launch your campaign on your chosen platforms. Digital marketing platforms offer a range of customizable settings, so be sure to match them up with your target audience as accurately as possible.

You can also run tests with different combinations of text and images, or even different audience targeting, to see which ads perform best. If certain pieces of content are underperforming, you can remove them from the ad group to improve the overall strength of your campaign.

Each ad platform will provide you with more detailed instructions on how to set up and run those ads, so we won't dive into specifics here.

Beyond social media, remember to consider search ads (such as Google and Bing), where you can serve advertisements to patients based on their search terms, which you can research in the Google Keyword Planner within the Google Ads platform. Use what you've learned about your audience to consider the language they might be using to search.

If they're actively searching for resources related to clinical trials, they will typically be more ready to sign up for one than people searching for more general information, and more likely to sign up than those coming from social media ads.

Find a partner that can help expedite your success

Countless books have been written on digital marketing, so this article is by no means exhaustive on how to successfully market your trial. But time is of the essence when getting a trial off the ground, so sometimes you may find it helpful to hire an expert to plan and run the campaign.  

That's why at TrackableMed, we provide years of medical marketing expertise to help you with your clinical trial recruitment, so you can focus on the work you do best. From digital marketing for clinical trials to leveraging strategic partnerships and exclusive databases, we'll connect you with the right patients to reach your trial objectives. Learn more about our clinical trial recruitment services today.

Book a free consultation for clinical trial recruitment services -- https://www.trackablemed.com/clinical-trials