Hospital Marketing

thinkstockphotos-177548655

Is Precision Marketing the New Strategy for Hospital Marketing?

Many buzzwords are thrown around in the marketing field.

One of the newer ones is precision marketing, a term to describe a data-driven, individualized approach to marketing that seeks to create loyal customers through highly targeted campaigns based on customer segmentation. Its goal is to retain existing customers rather than acquire new ones.

This makes sense, given that creating a new customer costs five to 10 times as much as selling to a customer you already have. In hospital marketing, your customers are patients, and you want them to return to your providers for years of treatment rather than go elsewhere.

Is precision marketing a viable strategy for hospital marketing? Or, is it yet another new buzzword with few practical implications?

Examining Precision Marketing in Detail

The major foundation of precision marketing is using data to help drive desired patient retention outcomes. For this reason, precision marketing is most often executed using digital marketing campaigns.

Digital marketing gives a hospital access to technology that can not only reach a large number of people in a small amount of time (using a smaller percentage of a marketing budget), but can also segment these individuals and target demographics with a laser focus.

For example, a hospital that seeks to retain obstetrics patients know that the typical customer for that department is female aged 20 to 35. Using social media and digital ad buys, a hospital can focus on that demographic and spread the message about the obstetrics practice. A hospital can also use a combination of surveys, social media, email marketing, and ad retargeting to directly target and illicit data from current and previous patients to not only learn more about their behaviors, but also build loyalty through repeated outreach and touchpoints.

The idea is that a personalized approach using data is preferable to mass-market appeals, especially with such a personalized and emotional field like healthcare. Customers are getting turned off and desensitized to marketing messages, which necessitates a more personalized approach.

Incorporating Precision Marketing into a Hospital Marketing Strategy

How does a hospital take advantage of this marketing method?

A hospital must first invest in a digital strategy. Precision marketing is best used in conjunction with a fully involved, multi faceted digital marketing campaign. Only digital provides the tools to combine data collection with coordinated, personalized reach to the individual.

Additionally, a hospital must invest in data collection and analysis. There must be a more concerted effort to build in-depth profiles about typical patients and demographics. Profiles should be as precise as possible. This allows the marketing department to build customized and personalized messages to be distributed via social, email, ads, direct mail, and more.

Furthermore, a hospital should invest in technology that allows advertising dollars to be spent in a more targeted manner, instead of a mass-market approach. For example, banner ads can be useful, but what is more useful is ad retargeting – ads that target visitors to a hospital’s website and then follow them around on the Internet for up to 120 days or beyond. These are more effective in connecting with current or previous patients and encourage visitors to revisit a website – which dramatically increases their chances of seeking the hospital for services in the future.

Taking the hospital marketing game to the next level means learning to adopt what works from precision marketing and using it to fill out a hospital’s digital efforts. Adopting the approach of data collection, analysis, market segmentation, and personalized approaches using a digital framework of message delivery could be a potent combination for hospitals in today’s age.

Contact TotalCom to learn more about precision marketing in hospital marketing campaigns.

Primary health services

The Growing Need to Market Primary Care in Hospital Marketing

The rise of alternative ways to access primary care – namely through the advent of primary care services offered by pharmacies, such as flu shots, medication management, and health/wellness advice – poses a challenge for hospitals that traditionally have relied on the strength of their primary care physicians to attract new patients.

Now, in today’s world, patients are turning to sources outside of hospitals to find primary care providers and are turning to hospitals either for specialty services or for emergencies – leaving a hole in a facility’s patient-acquisition funnel.

This leaves contemporary hospitals with a hospital marketing challenge: attracting new patients to a system for primary care versus only conducting service-oriented marketing campaigns that emphasize a specialty.

While there is still a place for specialty service oriented hospital marketing, the time is now for hospitals to take seriously the task of promoting their primary care physicians to the public.

The Role of a PCP as a Care Manager

These days, patients look to PCPs to serve as overall care managers instead of merely being care providers.

Patients aren’t going to PCPs so much for routine care as they are advice and guidance with managing everything from prescriptions to specialty care. In this way, a PCP is a gateway provider to a wide range of specialty services that a hospital provides. The PCP, in this respect, has become the main source of referrals to more specialized services – a source that, as time as gone by, has gotten away from hospitals and into the realm of private practice and non-hospital, non-clinic providers (like major pharmacies).

The rise of the Internet has also caused the role of the PCP to change. Patients are becoming more accustomed to self-diagnosing online and contacting a PCP only for a referral to a specialist. When viewed in this context, a PCP is no longer the frontline provider but instead is a portal to other services.

Since patients are looking for PCPs to be care managers, it’s important that hospital marketing campaigns portray them as such, and promote a PCPs as trusted, reliable resources for overall health and wellness for patients, especially since our population is aging.

Hospital Marketing Campaigns for Primary Care

To remain competitive, and to be a top-of-mind choice for initial care, hospitals need to do a better job of marketing their primary care physicians and promoting them to potential patients who are always in need of medical consultation and information.

Paid Search Advertising

One direct way to reach potential customers is to use paid search ads to promote individual physicians. These days, it appears that most marketing budgets go toward specialty care, leaving individual doctors behind. But even PCPs need concerted marketing support, and paid search can offer that in the form of clicks to individual doctors’ websites from people who are searching either for PCPs themselves (such as “family doctors in _____”) or information.

Content Marketing

Each PCP on staff should also be actively involved in content marketing, in the form of contributing to bylined blogs and articles.

Since patients are searching for this information, having a PCP deliver it in a trustworthy, reliable format (that is also easy to read) is enticing to a typical patient or parent who is choosing a PCP for the family. Content ideally should come from the doctors themselves and should be informative, educational, and engaging – offering advice and consultation for health and wellness that most patients will find useful.

Social Media Advertising

Promoting PCPs on social media is also effective, especially when coupled with social media advertising targeted toward those searching for providers online. Facebook in particular is a powerful platform for promoting posts featuring content from a highlighted doctor or for creating ads specifically designed to either promote a piece of content on the website (and by extension, the doctor whose name appears on it) or the physicians themselves.

The goal in all of these channels is to promote a hospital’s primary care physicians as the first-recourse resources. The benefits of taking a primary care centered approach are numerous, but most hospitals still shy away from emphasizing primary care in their hospital marketing campaigns.

Contact TotalCom for more information on how you can forge a new hospital marketing campaign that places the spotlight on primary care and opens the gates for new patients.

 

 

 

Branding Blue Marker

Tips for Creating a Unified Hospital Marketing Brand

Take a look at all of your branded material online — your social media profiles, your website, the blogs you create, the emails you send out, your graphics, your display ads, and anything else that is associated with your brand.

If you were to remove the logos, would all those pieces look similar/related? Would there still be a unified, consistent look among all of those elements — or would you not be able to tell they even came from the same company?

If the latter, you may have a problem with brand consistency for your hospital marketing campaign.

Learn more about why brand consistency is important and how you can build a stronger, more unified brand for your hospital.

Why Brand Consistency Matters

People have an innate ability to recognize patterns. We also have an innate ability to recognize and associate with brands, in that we notice what makes a brand stand out and recognize those elements when we see them later — and also, we build positive or negative connections between a brand and our opinion of it.

For example, seeing a physical example of McDonald’s “Golden Arches” is commonplace. We all know what those arches mean, just as we know what it means when we read McDonald’s tagline, “I’m Lovin’ It” or see one of the company’s advertisements. You could remove the logo entirely from the restaurants and the company’s marketing materials and you’d still be able to tell from the company’s consistent use of various other brand elements that you were standing in a McDonald’s (or reading/viewing a McDonald’s advertisement). And of course, every time you notice one of these elements, you experience emotions and thoughts about the brand (good or bad).

Brand consistency matters because it’s these strong brand connections that ultimately drive business. This is especially important when it comes to hospital marketing. A hospital isn’t a place people go because they want to — they only go there when they need to. And since no one knows exactly when he or she is going to experience that need, it’s important to ensure that your brand is “top of mind” when the time comes. Otherwise, your customer could choose another provider.

The simple truth is, people choose whomever has the strongest, most memorable brand. But you can’t make your brand strong or memorable without also making it consistent, and ensuring that it delivers the same message, no matter where your audience sees it.

Creating Brand Consistency

First and foremost, your hospital should have a brand guide. This is a document that codifies all that the brand is — not just how it looks, but also the brand messages to be communicated. This guide is where you spell out slogans, taglines, core values, messages, talking points, and the like —anything, that is, that can be used to create a message that a potential patient will encounter.

Of course, how a brand looks does also matter, tremendously. That’s why a style guide should be a part of the brand guide. The style guide dictates, to the finest detail, how the brand will look — which is key to ensuring consistency in any graphic you create, whether it’s a Facebook page, a print ad, a display ad, a social media post, an infographic, or a logo for a TV commercial.

Your guide can get very specific in detailing brand directions for each medium. For example, if you run ads on television, your guide can dictate what branding elements will be in each commercial. If you post on social media and create images for the post, you can stipulate what each image must look like and contain.

Everyone on your team needs to have the brand guide and be on board with it. This is crucial for successful hospital marketing. Otherwise, you’ll have different people creating different things — applying brand elements inconsistently across marketing materials. And that lack of consistency dilutes your brand.

Periodically, check your brand and review it to make sure it’s:

  • Coherent
  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Cohesive
  • Convincing

All of these qualities need to be in place, especially the cohesive aspect. Your brand should have the same uniform appearance wherever it appears. Checking it on a regular basis — maybe once a quarter — not only gives you opportunities to revise it if needed, but also keeps everyone on the same page.

Get Better Hospital Marketing with TotalCom

If you’re interested in advancing your hospital marketing campaign with consistent branding across all media, contact TotalCom Marketing. We’d be more than happy to help create winning branding campaigns that improve recognition and build trust within your market.

Hospital Marketing in 2016: Three Trends

ThinkstockPhotos-468838012

 

Want to know what trends to expect in hospital marketing in 2016? Here are three trends we’ve identified that every hospital will need to follow.

Increase Content Quality 

Content marketing continues to remain a big part of hospital marketing and will only increase in importance as we move through 2016. Last year saw an increase in the quantity of content. This year, we’ll have to see a rise in the quality of the content we produce.

It’s not enough to mass-produce content in order to fill a quota of pieces for a blog. We’ll have to spend more time on each piece of content in order to make an impression. This is actually a positive, because it means we can be really creative and spend more time developing and polishing a few pieces of content – an article for a magazine, a white paper, a video – rather than just pumping out content that is merely okay.

Focus on Simple Scheduling

People in 2016 will value convenience more than they did before. Amazon now has one-click buying that allows you to buy in a snap. Other platforms have rolled out one-click buttons to shop and buy. Hospitals can take advantage of this trend by having simple, convenient scheduling with just one click of a button.

This changes things. Formerly, a hospital’s campaign would feature landing pages that ask the consumer to learn more. But they’ve probably already learned a lot by the time they get to the landing page. When they arrive there, the instinct for instant gratification kicks in, and they’ll probably want to just go ahead and schedule an appointment.

So, we’ll have to retool our landing pages to reflect that desire. Allow your patients to sign up for an appointment right then and there, and you’ll have more success translating marketing into action.

Take Advantage of Moments

Over the past few years, consumers online have started to experience more “moments”. A moment is a short amount of time in which people turn to the Internet to find something that they need at that moment.

For example, they may want to know something about symptoms of a condition or illness. They may want to go somewhere near them, which means they’re searching for a local provider. They may want to know how to do something, like create a healthy exercise plan or cook something tasty yet healthy.

A hospital can live in these moments by creating content that takes advantage of this inspired activity. If you want to get people who want to know things, produce content that shares information about symptoms and illnesses and other health items that may be in the news. You can market the hospital and your doctors with geo-targeted campaigns that zero in on zip codes. You can create how-to videos on healthy living.

Living in these moments with your potential patients will place you closer to them in the moments that they appear online.

Even though these are the trends, the challenge for many community hospitals is to have the resources to keep up with the trends. Limited personnel and limited resources for technology will continue to hinder some from taking full advantage of these emerging trends.

For more information on hospital marketing in 2016, talk to the experts at TotalCom Marketing.

Marketing Your Hospital to the New Generation

Marketing to Millenials There is no doubt that in today’s digital world that marketing your hospital has evolved to include more than just traditional marketing and advertising efforts. Today, everything from search engine optimization to social media plays a role in getting people to choose your hospital over the competition.

While Millennials are likely not the majority of cardiac, cancer, and some other service lines, they are your future patients and often assist their parents and grandparents in making key healthcare decisions, often doing the research online for their parents and grandparents.

Be Social

Statistics show that social media is essential for reaching the younger generation.

Did you know that 90% of 18 to 24-year-olds trust healthcare-related information if it is shared by someone they are connected to on social media? (Statistic provided by Search Engine Land.) Therefore, it is essential that your hospital is not only active on social media platforms, but that you should also encourage happy patients to mention your hospital on social networks.

Despite this statistic, only approximately 26% of hospitals within the United States are active on social media (statistic provided by DC Interactive Group). Social media isn’t going away – if your hospital is not active on these growing platforms, now is the time to start.

Monitor Reviews

Before determining which hospital to visit or doctor to use, most Millennials search online for reviews and other, relevant information about the doctor or hospital. Therefore, it is essential that someone is monitoring and responding to online reviews not only for each of your hospitals, but also each of your doctors.

Fortunately, there are several tools that allow you to quickly and efficiently monitor reviews across the Internet, providing you with real-time emails to notify you of new reviews.

Use Online Advertising

In addition to being social and monitoring reviews, you can help improve the overall recognition of your hospital through affordable online advertising. There are a variety of ways to have your hospital and doctor profiles to show up across the Internet – plus, it is incredibly affordable when compared to traditional advertising methods.

Not only can you track the results, but you can also choose which websites your ads appear on, who sees your ads (by choosing demographics), and the geographical location that you are targeting.

At the end of the day, with Millennials relying on the Internet when choosing which hospitals and doctors to trust, it is important that your hospital is showing up online. Get active on social media, monitor and respond to reviews, and use the power of online advertising to help your hospital stay in the mind of your target audience.

 

Contact Jimmy Warren to learn how you can better market your hospital and monitor your reviews online.

 


ABOUT JIMMY WARREN
Early to bed, early to rise, work like crazy and advertise! Jimmy Warren is president of TotalCom Marketing Communications and has over 30 years experience helping all kinds of businesses build a strong brand. A large portion of that experience has been helping hospitals and healthcare organizations. He loves the ‘weird’, interesting and extremely talented people he gets to work with every day – that includes co-workers and clients. Outside of work he enjoys his grandkids, traveling and any kind of good ole fashion Alabama sports. Roll Tide!

Healthcare Marketing: 7 Rules for Hospital Crisis Management

At some point your hospital will face a crisis.  Follow these tips to successfully navigate the situation.

Hospital Crisis Management

Every organization faces a crisis of some sort from time to time.  Social media has certainly increased the likelihood of a problem becoming a crisis.   There are now so many venues where news of the crisis can be spread and an abundant number of ways consumers can weigh-in on the crisis.

Deborah Budd, writing for Second Wind  provided some very valuable insight into crisis management that is worthwhile to share.

When your hospital faces a crisis, here are seven rules to follow:

1.    Don’t hesitate

It’s foolish to think the crisis will go away.  Most of the time it won’t.  The internet and social media almost guarantee it won’t unless responded. Get in front t of the situation as much as possible. Acknowledge the situation and state that you are looking into it and will be back with more information when it’s available.  This establishes you as a source for information rather than a target.

2.    Stick to the plan

It’s not easy but there can be a good result. Any crisis is uncomfortable and tense.  But handled well it can increase stakeholder loyalty and enhance your hospital’s brand.  Stick to the communications plan and see it through.

3.    Silence is a loud message

Any information void will be filled with something.  And usually it’s not good.  The negative press and social media comments will become worse until you provide a reasoned and rational response

4.    Respect those affected

Always acknowledge and respect those adversely affected.  People want to know your hospital is acting to correct the problem that has occurred.

5.    Don’t use data or facts to minimize the situation

Facts and data are only useful as much as they align with the concerns created by the crisis.   Focus on those affected and use data as background.

6.    Never ignore inquiries

“No comment” usually creates the perception of guilt.   It’s much better to respond with “I don’t have answer but I’ll get back with you as soon as I do” or “here’s how we’re handling things now.”  Never refuse to answer.

7.    Never lie and don’t hide the negative stuff

In the end, integrity is the most important thing.  Hiding the truth or not owning up to it will make matters worse.   You earn credibility by being honest and sincere.

The day will come when your hospital is faced with a crisis.  How you handle it will determine how your band is perceived.  Handled appropriately and professionally will go a long way toward minimizing the crisis and making your brand even stronger.

Healthcare Marketing: Do You Know Where Your Hospital’s Digital Ads Are?

Many web ads bought through digital ad exchanges are appearing to no one and some are even appearing on sites with objectionable content.

149045481

Those digital ad exchanges appear to be a great deal.  You provide the information concerning whom you want to reach and they’ll take your digital ad and place it across a wide range of websites that will deliver the audience you are seeking.  You provide the ad and they do all the work.

But now research is indicating that your ads are not appearing where you might think or even want your ads to appear.  Comscore  conducted research to see where digital ads are actually appearing and the results were alarming.  The research was conducted on behalf of twelve major brands including Ford and Kellogg.  The results reported by Jeff Roberts in paidcontent.org indicated as much as 31% of the 1.8 billion ad impressions purchased by these companies were not seen at all.  The ads were shown to non-humans – bots or spiders that induce a web page to display an ad.

In addition, 72% of all their ad campaigns resulted in brands having their ads placed next to questionable content.  Sites dedicated to pornography, piracy or malware.

This is not to say all digital ad exchanges are bad.  It’s just to point out there are risks involved in placing digital ads across multiple sites with ad exchanges.  Unlike radio, TV or print advertising, with digital advertising it’s hard to know exactly where your online ad appears.

For healthcare marketers, it’s safer to stay with purchasing ads on high-traffic local sites, like the local newspaper or television websites.   But even these local media companies are now partnering with ad exchanges to offer behavior-based buys across a wide range of websites.  So we must be careful and understand as much as possible about where our ads will actually appear.

It’s all part of the development and evolution of digital advertising.  There’s a lot of big numbers thrown out, even by reputable local digital sites.  But sometimes it’s difficult to have great confidence in some of those numbers and in the way they are presented by ad reps.   As the digital advertising industry develops, hopefully more precise and reliable results will be provided which will increase our level of confidence in online advertising.  In the meantime, we must be as careful, and as thoughtful as possible, in evaluating digital advertising options to make sure our ads are actually being seen by human beings and within a context that’s appropriate and suitable for our healthcare messages.  

Healthcare Marketing: Improve Your Hospital’s Search Rankings

Improve your hospital’s search rankings by improving your hospital’s website content and navigation. 104011192

Below is an article by Marty Reardon that appeared in MarketingProfs that gives very sound advice on how to improve both your SEO ranking and your website experience.  There are ten very helpful pieces of advice that healthcare marketers can use to improve their hospital’s website.

10 SEO Tips to Improve Your Search Rankings–and Your Website

SEO, when done well—with quality in mind—doesn’t just help increase your search rankings; it also improves your entire website from the viewpoint of search engines as well as your visitors. And that, rather than a cheap shot at fooling search engine algorithms, should be the ultimate aim of your SEO campaign.

So here are 10 tips that won’t just knock you up a few places in search results pages for a couple of months; rather, they’ll help turn a visit to your website into a better experience and help your site to naturally grow in popularity.

Tip 1: Create incredible content

The most important aspect of your website—and the most important part of all your optimization efforts—is your content. You can’t get around that fact in the long run, even with the best of SEO tricks. And why would you want to? You can fool the search bots for a while (and less and less with every passing year), but if your content is of low quality, nobody is going to visit your website or share with the world what you’re offering. 
 
Good content, on the other hand, will be eventually be widely read and widely shared by others, often on their own websites, creating excellent link-building opportunities for your website (see Tip No. 5).

Your site’s content must be well written, informative, as unique as possible, and free of excessive keyword use intended solely to garner search spider attention. If your content is genuinely informative and written for the niche it’s serving, it will already have the keywords you need.

Update your content frequently to focus on the latest information in you niche.

Tip 2: Pick a comfortable niche

Your blog or website can deal with extremely general subjects, but that will make your work a lot harder. General-interest websites have to deal with stiff competition from some very powerful and well established players.

Sticking to a niche, on the other hand, limits your audience but also limits your competition. You can write more authoritatively on your subject, and you can more easily generate a reputation for reliability among a much smaller but more loyal circle of readers.

The important thing is to research the keywords that are most searched for in your niche and use them wisely in your Web pages. You should also keep well abreast of new developments in the field.

Tip 3: Carefully research keywords

We’ve noted the danger of using too many keywords, but that does not mean you have to deliberately stop using them; on the contrary, keywords are still vital for SEO.

Compile a well-researched list of the most commonly searched for keywords and phrases in your niche by using tools such as Google’s Keyword Tool; once you’ve got them sorted out, scatter them strategically throughout your content, your headlines, and your sub-headers. Just make sure you don’t overdo it by using them to the point that text flow seems unnatural.

Tip 4: Stick to SEO-friendly URLs

You should also optimize all of your website’s pages at a basic level. Start by ensuring that every page of your website has a distinct and SEO-friendly URL that describes what the page is about in a few words. For example, if you have a page about cooking steak, instead of <www.myawesomesite.com/tips/item4?=45756>, convert your URL into something like <www.myawesomesite.com/tips/grilling-the-best-steak>. That is much more search engine friendly.

Tip 5: Use tags and meta descriptions

You should create concisely informative meta descriptions of all your Web pages with the keywords for that page appearing in the description; you’ll have 150-160 characters to fill. These meta descriptions are likely not use by Google any more for ranking, but they’re useful in attracting attention from human readers in the search results page, so use them anyway.

Also include title tags for every important page of your site. These need to fit within 70 characters and should offer very quick descriptions of the individual pages they represent with at least one or two page relevant keywords within them. Make these friendly to human readers, don’t just list keywords.

Tip 6: Don’t forget image attributes

You likely have content-relevant images on your website or blog; those images offer an excellent SEO boosting opportunity thanks to image search features on Google and other engines. However, search spiders can’t analyze images well if related text is not included—though they do consider the name of the image file (e.g., “cavalier-king-charles-puppy.jpg” is better than “sidebar-image.jpg”).

Therefore, you need to create brief HTML description tags for each image you post amid your website content. These tags should consist of a quick description of what the image is of or what it relates to in your content.

Tip 7: Build internal links

Internal link-building is an on-site SEO tactic that consists of creating a well-organized and thorough link structure among your own website’s pages. In other words, as many pages as possible should be connected to each other in a hierarchical or web-like connections of in-page, text-based hyperlinks.

Pay particular attention to creating connections between your main pages and your homepage; do so via menu objects or by placing the links right into your on-page content.

Another helpful internal link-building feature is a sitemap, which has the benefit of also helping search spiders index your site better and faster.

Tip 8: Build external links

External link building is a different animal: You need to encourage the creation of backlinks to your site from other websites; that is, links on other sites lead back to relevant content on your own website pages.

If you want to build external links successfully and without resorting to black hat tactics, you’re going to have to dedicate a lot of time to posting links to social sites, finding guest post opportunities that allow you to publish links back to your website, leaving plenty of informative guest comments on other websites in your niche, and syndicating your RSS feed (if you have one).

(Try to ensure that those links are not “nofollow.” Links with a nofollow attribute are ignored by search spiders as a valid backlink in the sense that your site doesn’t receive “credibility points” from the search engines. You can still get visitors as a result of those links, however, because people will click on them and end up on your site.)

The process of building backlinks is slow, but it eventually pays off to create some really good SEO.

Tip 9: Enable social media sharing

Enable as many social media sharing options on your website as you can. Install buttons for all the major social sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and others on every important page of your website. With these buttons, your readers can spread the word about the valuable and interesting content you have to offer; eventually that content can find its way to other websites and so lead to some quality backlinks.

Tip 10: Avoid using Flash and images as text

The search spiders that index websites read only text on websites and are, for the most part, incapable of analyzing Flash or image files. So, in general, stay away from both as content mediums. Do not use Flash-based site navigation tools and stay away from creating content text that is in image form.

In the case of Flash navigation, the search bot won’t be able to click through to index the pages the flash navigation links to, leaving parts of your website without indexing. In the case of image-based text, any useful information and keywords you put there will be invisible to the search engine.

Stick to site browsing code like jQuery or CSS and create purely text-based written content.

Pitfalls and Uses of QR Codes in Healthcare Marketing

QR codes can be useful in healthcare marketing but only if used correctly.  Effective use is dependent on understanding the context and following some basic guidelines.

QR with HQR codes are the cool thing these days in marketing.   Some have said it’s the next big thing because it brings physical interaction into the digital space.  And you have begun to see them everywhere.  Some places which are very creative and ingenious and some, which are questionable or downright stupid.

Just two years ago, only 1% of U.S. adults used QR codes.  But according to research from Forrester Research  just a year later that number grew to 5%.  Then a Temkin Group study  recently found that now 24% of adults are using them.   So use is increasing.  But just how effective are they?

Dan Wilkerson, a social media project manager at Luna Metrics (lunermetrics.com) outlined on masable.com some of the problems with QR codes for marketers.  He listed 5 problem areas.

1. Worthless Content

QR codes are easy to create, inexpensive and trackable.  They also open up a world of possibilities for consumer interaction.  However from a consumer’s point of view, scanning a code is a little cumbersome and requires time and effort.  Worse still, 90% of the time the link is to a website not optimized for mobile.  This is frustrating.

2. Consumer Awareness

Many consumers don’t know what QR codes are. An ArchRival study (archrival.com) of college students found that over 75% didn’t know how to scan a QR code.    These are statistics that are hard to believe. What looks cool for marketers may not be understood by the consumer.

3. Value as a Medium

QR codes are not considered a medium itself.  More often than not, QR codes are used simply to link to a company website.  Is it worth the effort to take your phone, unlock it, boot the app, get the code in focus and scan it, assuming you already have an app.  Is it worth the effort just to go to a brand’s website?

4. Location, Location, Location

QR codes are showing up in the most unlikely places.  Seemingly everywhere, on everything.  And many in very questionable locations with little or no thought for context.

5. Aesthetics

Too many QR codes are ugly.  And they are often confused with codes used for industrial purposes.  Many think they are tracking barcodes instead of a marketing tool.

So there are limitations to QR codes.  That’s not to say they are useless.  They can be effective for healthcare marketer f used correctly.

Here are some basic guidelines to improve effectiveness.

1. Make it worthwhile to the consumer. 

Provide information that is useful and valuable to the consumer.

2. Include instructions with a recommended app spelling out how to use the code.

3. Make sure using the code doesn’t take more than 6-10 seconds.  Otherwise you will lose the consumer.

4. Walk through your QR code implementation in a real-world scenario to make sure it’s actually useable.

5. Make the code as attractive as possible and distinguish it from packaging barcodes. 

You can use Photoshop to round off the corners and sometimes remove portions of the code for better aesthetics.

QR codes are not just marketing gimmicks.  If they are used that way, they will not be effective.  But they can be very useful if they are the results of a defined marketing strategy and provide value to the consumer.

Marketing Your Hospital – Most Read from 2012

Most read blog entries for 2012148499165

A Hospital’s  Strong Brand is Strong Indeed

Hospital Marketing Strategy First, Social Media Marketing Second

Television and Internet Advertising: Effective When You Need to Reach Affluent Patients

How to Promote Your Hospital with Social Media

Advertise Your Hospital on Television or Not?