A Healthcare Marketer's Guide For Surviving In A Bad Economy

Daniel Weinbach, for HealthLeaders Media , April 1, 2009

If you're like my clients, your marketing department finds itself at the center of a "catch 22." Representatives from nearly every part of your organization are likely demanding more and more resources to drive revenues higher (reacting to their own bosses' panic). But you likely have less money, and you may have a leaner, even skeletal, staff to get the work done.

Here's where a marketing tool kit can help. It can be as simple as a few templates for creating flyers or as complex as an entire pre-packaged campaign. Ideally, the elements would be hosted on your company's intranet and available for download. This allows you to assign responsibility for certain components of the marketing process to other people in your organization. By creating the framework for their projects, you can ensure relative brand consistency and adherence to graphic standards. In addition, a marketing tool kit provides an economic alternative to the cost of creating customized materials for each request.

Your colleagues will appreciate the speed with which they can move projects along, and you'll appreciate the disposition of workload.

Use online advertising. I have long been a skeptic of the effectiveness of online advertising. Even as I write this article, I remain convinced that certain types of online advertising are among some of the more invisible forms of marketing communications. However, effective online advertising relies upon huge reach and a low cost-per-impression. In other words, you can expose your ad to far more users than other forms of advertising for far less than the cost of other media.

Along with its bargain price, online advertising offers better methods for tracking, and therefore a more verifiable ROI. Also, most online advertising can be modified and adapted almost instantly to improve results or to capitalize on proven successes.

My advocacy for online advertising does not minimize my respect and value for other media types. I am a die-hard believer in an integrated media mix, and online advertising in isolation of other media will fail to accomplish most organizations' long term goals. However, in these times when healthcare organizations need to urgently generate revenue, online advertising–more than any other advertising that I have used on behalf of my clients–can be created fast, implemented fast, and modified with greater speed and efficacy than most other options available.

One caveat: effective online advertising relies upon two essential variables. First (and rather obviously), you need a working website that accurately and positively reflects your organization. Second, make sure your online advertising directs users to an online inquiry form where they have the ability to enter contact information.

Tap referring physicians. While most healthcare organizations have a referring physician strategy among their marketing plans, make sure you reach out to this influential audience now more than ever. Like online advertising, referring physician tactics are relatively economical since the size of your audience is typically a fraction of the size of patient audiences. Also, like online advertising, you can often more easily track the effectiveness of referring physician tactics and quantify results.

You may be thinking, "Physicians don't respond to marketing." Hogwash. Physicians are people too, and like any audience, your marketing success will vary based on the timing, content, and relevance of your message. Unlike other forms of marketing that target a single prospect, physicians portend to generate far greater rewards when they respond to your efforts. Remember, a small number of physicians can yield literally hundreds of referrals, if not immediately over the long term–potentially in perpetuity.

Yes, these are difficult times, and marketing communications professionals within healthcare organizations need to work within the constraints of their reduced resources. However, fewer dollars and a small staff should not spell defeat. Implement the strategies outlined above, and you'll make it though the downturn in stride.

Daniel Weinbach is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The Weinbach Group, Inc. For more information, visit www.weinbachgroup.com.
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