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Flip Your Media Plan: From Old-School Marketing to Digital in Three Steps

by Susan Solomon  |  
December 16, 2014

I'll admit it. I work in an industry that's known for being "old school" in its marketing. Healthcare traditionally loves print pieces. We've adored billboards, even for inexplicable marketing strategies. A freeway billboard for neurosurgery? Yup, it's been done.

But changes are coming, actually more quickly than they have in decades. Healthcare reform, the rise of healthcare consumerism, and just the general agreement among some very talented marketers that it's time to make important shifts in strategy and resources are all in play.

For healthcare, as well as other changing industries, it's time to rethink marketing—and that starts with flipping our media plans on their heads.

The Foundation

Until we perfect that mind-meld with all our target audiences, there is no better strategy than investing in digital marketing and making it the foundation of our media plans. That means resources go first to these elements:

  • Paid search: Why would you not invest in a service that requires payment only when an interested party responds to your ad? I've never met a print ad salesperson who'd make the same promise. Paid search also helps reach highly targeted audiences, so there's very little waste.
  • Remarketing: Remarketing is a powerful tool for increasing awareness, ensuring new business, and pulling in customers who may prove greatly loyal over time. Remarketing is also efficient. You're gently nudging people who are genuinely interested in your product or service. Some people just need that little push before they're ready to trust. It's logical buying behavior.
  • Targeted mobile advertising: It's hard to travel around with a billboard in your pocket or even a print publication. But a mobile phone? It's practically glued to most peoples' fingertips. If you truly want to go to where your market lives, use mobile advertising. Just make sure that your ads are well targeted to your intended audience.

Level II

Once you've invested in the basics and ensured a robust foundation for marketing, you can proceed to Level II media, using this level for those products and services that merit more marketing push.

This level is where content marketing, social media, and public relations all help your story come to life:

  • Content marketing: Tell your story through the many avenues open to you: blogging, podcasts, videos, e-books, whitepapers, social media, presentations, and webinars. Invest in serious brand journalism that becomes a reliable source of information both for your customers and for reporters.
  • Public relations: Speaking of reporters, getting that all-important third-party validation should never be underrated. Telling your story through interesting media pitches is a good marketing investment that never diminishes. And despite my skepticism about investing heavily in print advertising, that skepticism doesn't apply to print journalists: Print content still sets the agenda for broadcast and other media, so it's important to nurture your relationships with print journalists.
  • Social media: Make sure your social media postings have purpose; also make sure they are related to your overall marketing strategy. The best way to ensure that is to establish an editorial calendar for all your content marketing efforts. Products such as Divvy HQ bring better organization to your marketing department and help internal editors and copywriters write to company strategy.

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Susan Solomon is a healthcare marketing vice-president in Southern California and a marketing instructor at four universities. She was a Fulbright scholar and she has written extensively on marketing, branding, and social media for more than a decade.

LinkedIn: Susan Solomon

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  • by Victoria Ipri Tue Dec 16, 2014 via web

    Stellar advice in a logical format, Susan. Now if we can just get those 'old schoolers' to listen... (I think I actually passed that neurosurgery billboard the other day, somewhere near Philadelphia) Good tips here that I'm happy to share.

  • by Caroline Tue Dec 16, 2014 via web

    Logical step by step process! Will print for my wall so I am organised for campaign I plan (I have a number of apartment projects that I work on) - it also made me start thinking outside the box which is great since often I can't bounce ideas around off a team. Pity DIVVY HQ only offers a 14 day free trial though. Cheers

  • by Edward Michael Rhodes Tue Dec 16, 2014 via web

    Why Fight The Feelings?
    I am the view, Marketing as a discipline, would be better served if one reinforces the importance of integrating all activities in pursuit of satisfactory exchanges. Why the constant separating of what is termed Old and New Media? In a given scenario, all or some options may be best suited for adoption. Maybe, we can Brand this approach Conciliatory Marketing.

  • by Jenny McDermott Fri Jan 2, 2015 via web

    This article is all very well concerning the means of delivering the message, but I would like to state something that I think marketers for health care organizations don't get: the message itself is of overriding importance. When I need medical care, my primary, in fact my ONLY concern is whether the doctor I visit is competent and caring. I've seen billboards with stock images of models in bucolic summer settings with captions describing how ecstatic the (fake) patient is about her healthcare provider. Do they really think we're that stupid and shallow, that we'd be swayed by such ads? If I needed to go to the hospital I would go to whichever one a trusted doctor recommended, no matter whether it has glossy brochures, attractive billboards, or sophisticated online ads or not.

    If I needed a hospital on a non-emergency basis and a doctor wasn't recommending one I'd check out what the state Health Department had to offer in terms of ratings and listings of complaints, if any, about area hospitals and clinics. I do not consider marketingese babble and stock photos of people who've never been anywhere near the facility I'm considering to be a reliable basis for making healthcare decisions. Something I learned when I was doing direct sales is that after you make the pitch and get people interested, then you have to PROVE IT. Marketers would be better off citing the ratings from the American Hospital Association than shuffling around pictures of happy families playing with puppies.

    As you may already know, Google considers healthcare and medical Web pages to be in a special category they call "Your money or your life." Standards for getting these types of pages listed high in Search Engine Results Page are especially rigorous. Physicians' sites must list credentials, including any board certifications. Further, such sites must be up-to-date and contain adequate contact information. Google recognizes that people rely on it to give them accurate information and that healthcare information must be based on fact, not spin.

    So if you're writing marketing materials for medical facilities and/or professionals, I'd start by asking myself, "If I need major surgery, what would I want to know about the surgeon and the hospital?"

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