Hospital Marketing: Competing with Smaller Ad Budgets

Social media has leveled the playing field and made it possible for marketers with smaller budgets to compete effectively.

There is a lot of talk these days about brands that have large budgets being threatened by competitors with much smaller budgets.  Some believe scale is losing its effectiveness because social media is having a leveling effect.  An article in Advertising Age  on November 17, 2009 by Jeff Neff outlined the discussion recently held at the Association of National Advertisers in Phoenix.  National advertisers, due to their large marketing budgets, who could overwhelm smaller competitors are now taking notice that those competitors are making headway in the battle for consumers.

Brad Casper, CEO of Henkel’s U.S. business stated, “New  media, social media, has been the great equalizer”.   He cited the successful launches by Purex Natural Elements and Dial Yogurt body wash that have gained significant share despite significantly lower budgets, by using PR, digital and social-media components.  Neff also referenced Colgate-Palmolive who has built or maintained market share in categories such as body wash, oral care and laundry against competitors who have spent much larger amounts in measured media.

What does this have to do with healthcare marketing?  There are many hospitals that compete against much larger hospitals that overwhelm them with ad spending.  What can a hospital do with a much smaller budget?  If the packaged goods industry can teach hospital marketers anything, it’s that smaller budgets can be strategically utilized to compete more effectively. Larger hospitals are often very slow to adopt digital and social media strategies.  If that is the case, as it is with many large packaged goods brands, hospitals with smaller budgets can begin to penetrate the competitor’s market share. 

They can compete by:

  • Having a rich, useful and consumer-friendly website
  • Advertising on popular local websites
  • Concentrating on paid and organic search optimization
  • Establishing appropriate Facebook pages
  • Advertising on Facebook by matching services with highly targeted audiences
  • Using Twitter to communicate with healthcare special interest audiences

It’s a new form of guerilla marketing.  Digital and social-media can effectively be used to make a strong impact and create a stronger voice within the market.  Measured media is not to be discounted.  Some level of traditional media must be used.  But it can be supplemented with “new media” strategies that can help level the playing field that has been heavily weighted against the smaller marketer.


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