How to think about the future of promotion when it comes to your overall marketing and communications plan
I must admit, I’m a bit of a marketing nerd. As such, I get really excited thinking about the future of marketing and communications and promotional efforts — specifically, which platforms will perform best, or simply fade out. Contextually, though, the efficiency of a given platform is directly tied to patients’ specific needs and demographics.
Merely because a promotional platform no longer receives mass attention (i.e., the Yellow Pages or flyers) doesn’t mean those promotional vehicles have no value. I have worked with several doctors who, because of geographic realities, have great success with these types of publicity instruments.
What marketing is and isn’t
The colloquial understanding is that marketing equals sales; too often, sales and marketing are seen as being interchangeable. Though the ultimate goal of all promotional efforts is to garner additional clients and sales, marketing is the study of how and why people buy — what is their motivation?
Historically, the world has been trying to motivate folks to choose their services over someone else’s for eons. In Pompeii, Italy, archeologists found ancient advertising painted on walls. Around 1450, print advertising appeared, and in 1741, the first American magazine was published in Philadelphia. By 1867, we have the earliest recorded billboard advertising.
By the time we arrive in the mid-20th century, we have radio, television and telephone advertising [telemarketing]; the Sears catalog is all the rage. The digital age emerges by the early ‘80s. In 1984, Apple launched its hugely-successful Macintosh ad during the Super Bowl, reaching 46.4% of American households. By the mid ‘90s, we are receiving “spam” advertising and messaging on our computers, blogging emerges, and we’re concerned with search engine optimization (SEO).
By the mid-2000s social media enters the conversation. Around 2010, we have email marketing, smartphones [mobile internet users], tablets, online video and e-commerce; and Facebook begins its dominance (in fact, in 2012, 90% of social network users were using Facebook).
What do I get from using you?
New technology is popping up and changing the landscape at breakneck speed. What this means to you is that you have to find your particular niche and platform to tell your story the best way possible.
To stand out from your competitors, you must incorporate your message within the available technology. Hence, the future boils down to your ability to communicate. Think of it this way: The new technology is a Ferrari; the information you provide (your content) is the gasoline. It behooves you to focus on and promote your value proposition. If you’re confused, don’t be. Mounds of marketing and communications research point to the fact that we all buy things to satisfy our self-interests. Therefore, approach the delivery of your value proposition from the patient’s point of view, i.e., “What do I get for using you?”
The “problem/solution” philosophy of marketing acknowledges the following promotional premise: “Your patients have a problem they don’t want, and they know that somewhere out there is a solution they want, but don’t have.” It’s your task to address the problem and deliver a solution.
Author Ted Rubin nailed it when he wrote, “What the modern buyer wants from you is value and information he can trust when making a decision. He wants you to know where he’s coming from.”
Interestingly, when you sit back and analyze the medium, you discover that social media selling isn’t really about selling at all. It’s about being social, connecting, interacting, engaging and building relationships. The technology just allows us to have access to more options.
Help your patients find you
Technology provides your patients larger amounts of data and treatment options at their fingertips. If you wish to be your patients’ choice in medical care (rather than your competitor), you need to find out “What interests or concerns them?” Engage with your patients if you plan to be “fully connected and plugged-in.”
In a connected world it helps not to just talk to people, but to listen. Use technology as a tool to listen and add value, to study and understand who patients really are.
If you are also the practice owner, the knowledge gained from the available technology is priceless and should determine your promotional messaging, which has a direct impact on your marketing and communications return on investment (ROI).
Quality marketing and communications content and keywords
Social media creates bridges between potential patients and your practice. To boost ROI, your content [messaging] must be “Useful and Useable, Desirable and Accessible.” The new technology is wonderful and fantastic; but it’s worthless if people can’t find you. Consumers find you, and differentiate you from the competition, based on their online inquiries and searches (often using keywords).
If you don’t have treatment-oriented marketing and communications content available, you will not be found on the Internet. The more you write, the more you increase your visibility. That visibility equals rankings by search engines; the higher your ranking, the more qualified traffic chances you have to convert new patients.
Good user experience (UX)
Perform periodic website audits; make tweaks to improve UX. Your goal is to convince users to explore your pages long enough to read your treatment philosophies. Improve your site speed and page load times. Reduce annoying distractions like interstitials and ads. Revamp your page navigation, so it’s clear, easy to find and logical.
Recently an article cited several chief information officers, and a full 75% of them were concerned that their work cannot be differentiated from that of their competitors — yikes. As stated at the onset, the decision as to which advertising vehicle is “best” and makes you stand out is tied to your practice’s demographics — this was true yesterday, it is correct today, and it will be valid tomorrow.
Rest assured, though, that as your technical skills become more proficient, you will be able to explore and employ many more “cutting edge” marketing options.
The bottom line is: You must still create platforms of visibility; make sure your content sticks to the minds and hearts of your readers; and encourage those readers to share your information. You must devote yourself to delivering superior and trustworthy content.
You will need to add to your marketing and communications team. You need to develop an alliance with someone who can tell your unique story, your treatment philosophy, and your ideas about injury prevention. Moreover, that person needs to be able to create a bridge of security, all the while letting your patients know that “you get where they are coming from.”
CLAUDIO GORMAZ is a medical marketing strategist and freelance writer for the last two decades. He develops robust branding platforms, enhances reputation campaigns, and cultivates fruitful and predictable advertising messages. He can be contacted at 951-294-2274, at summitmarketingstrategies.com, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.