TotalCom Marketing

Hospital Marketing: Making the Case for Mobile

The facts are overwhelming when considering whether your hospital should go mobile.  The small screen is the place to be.

An astonishing fact: there are 48 million people in the world who have mobile phones but do not have electricity in their homes.  That shows the impact of mobile on our lives.  It’s estimated that the off-grid, on-net population will reach 138 million by 2015.

Ann Tracy Mueller posted on statistics showing the use of mobile is growing exponentially. Citing Kevin Roberts from a Cisco report in his Blogging Innovation site, the case is made for the impact of mobile and the need for healthcare marketers to be mobile-savvy and mobile-ready.

  • Global mobile traffic nearly tripled for the third year in a row in 2010.
  • Mobile video traffic will exceed 50 percent of all mobile data traffic for the first time in 2011.
  • In early 2010, iPhone use was at least four times higher than that of any other smart phone platform. By the end of 2010, iPhone use was only 1.75 times higher than that of number two, Android.
  • There will be 788 million mobile-only Internet users by 2015, up 56-fold from 14 million at the end of 2010.
  • There will be more than 7.1 billion mobile-connected devices in 2015, roughly equivalent to the world’s population by then (7.2 billion).

The numbers are staggering.  But they are understandable.  Think how much you use your mobile device.  How much you see the people around you using there’s.  How many people do you know who don’t have a mobile phone?  Probably not many.  The numbers are clear.  The stats are obvious.

As healthcare marketers, in the very least, we need to make sure our internet presence is mobile-friendly.  And we should be exploring ways to create and use mobile apps to market our hospital.  Information is being accessed from mobile devices, including information about one’s health.  We must make sure our health information and information about our organization and services are easily mobile-accessible.

Not convinced yet?  Here’s one more bit of information from Roberts that should remove any doubt about the need for our hospital to be mobile-friendly:

“The average smartphone will generate 1.3 gigabytes of traffic per month in 2015, 16 times more than the 2010 average of 79 megabytes per month.  Growth in the next five years will see global mobile traffic reach 6.3 exabytes per month by 2015. How big is that? It’s been suggested that every word ever spoken by human beings would equate to five exabytes. So six every month is a lot of chatter!”


Healthcare Marketing: 20% of Time Spent Online is with Social Networks

Social media sites reach 82% of the online population and Facebook reaches over ½ of the world’s population.

Social media continues to show amazing growth.  In “It’s A Social World”, ComScore has issued a report concerning the growth and impact of social media.  Without a doubt social media has become the most popular online activity.  In 2007 social media represented only 6% of online activity but that has now increased to 20%. Over 1.2 billion people globally use social media sites.

The report verified that women spend more than 30% more time online than men.  Social networking is no longer a young person’s activity as the participation now spans all age groups.   And Facebook now reaches 55 billion people, which is more than half of the world’s population.   Despite the hype for mobile access and marketing, it still captures just a fraction of the fixed-line connection.

The study just proves again the impact of social media.  The extensiveness of social networking.  But it does not answer, for healthcare marketers, the question of how to take full advantage of this massive audience.  Savvy healthcare marketers have experimented with some success.  But there are so many unanswered questions. We continue to learn and hopefully grow smarter.  But with limited resources and some of the limitations of healthcare marketing, it’s still a learning process.   There is still much to be explored as we attempt new tactics and new ideas.  Stay tuned….there will be much to come.


Hospital Marketing: Dealing with Angry Patients/Customers Part 2

Every hospital has unhappy customers.  The question is not if you have them but what will you do with them?

Every hospital will have disgruntled customers from time to time.  But instead of letting the situation create bad ill and tarnish the brand, the situation can be used to show how your hospital cares and even build brand loyalty.

Based on consumer satisfaction research, an article in The Financial Brand listed the expectations of customers once they have issued a complaint.  The list is important for hospitals to understand and use as a guideline for dealing with angry customers.

Customers who have issued complaints expect to:

  • Receive an explanation of how a problem happened
  • Be told how long it will take to resolve a problem
  • Be given progress reports if a problem cannot be solved immediately.
  • Be given useful alternatives if a problem cannot be resolved.
  • Be allowed to talk to someone in authority.
  • Be contacted promptly once the problem is resolved.
  • Be called back when promised.
  • Know whom to contact in the future.
  • Be told about ways the customer’s situation might be used to prevent future problems.

It’s important hospitals address customer issues and fulfill the expectations listed above.  Unsolved problems have a particularly negative impact on both continued loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations to others. Dissatisfied customers tell far more people about their experience than do satisfied customers.

So it’s imperative to deal with customer complaints and use the opportunity to turn a negative situation into a positive one.  One that can actually build customer loyalty.

Healthcare Marketing: Consumers Say Ads Influence Purchases

A majority of consumers admit advertising is helpful when deciding what to buy.

Consumers like to attest that advertising has no influence on their buying decisions.  But a recent survey by Adweek-Media/Harris Poll found that in unguarded moments consumers admit advertising is influential when deciding what to by.

Sixty percent of consumers admit they find advertising to be helpful in their decision-making process. But the influence wielded by different media may be surprising.

The poll found that the most influential medium is television. A full 25% say television is the most helpful in deciding what products or services to buy.  Television ranks even higher than Internet search engine ads, which came in second at 18%.  Newspaper was cited by 15% of the respondents as being most helpful and only 2% selected internet banner ads.

In a time when many are skeptical about the effectiveness of traditional media, this survey indicates it still plays a major role influencing consumers.  Healthcare marketers can still have confidence in advertising effectiveness.  Advertising is still an asset and effective.

Additionally surprising, the poll indicates television is effective in influencing even the 18-34-year-olds. Twenty-four percent of that group rate television as most helpful in making buying decisions.   And even more surprising is that 20% of 55-plusers rate internet banner ads as most helpful compared to 16% of the 18-34 group.

Maybe our stereotypes about effectiveness of various media among different age groups are not entirely correct.  Research is very helpful in dispelling some of our preconceived ideas.  And research certainly shows that advertising still does influence buying decisions.

Healthcare Marketing: Social Media Screw-Ups

In just seven short years there have been social media missteps that show the power and risks of social networking.

In a little over six years Facebook has gathered 500 million members.  Over 14 billion videos are watched on YouTube each day.   And Twitter has more than 165 million users.  There has been so much attention given to the strengths and advantages of using social media as a marketing tool. But there are also considerable risks as social networking has shifted power to the consumer.

While there have been great success stories for companies who have used social media, at the same time there have been major headaches and embarrassments to companies who have been victimized by either consumer advocacy or their own mistakes. Matthew Yeomans, a co-founder of Custom Communication created “A Short History of Social Media Screw-Ups”.  The presentation is a walk down a short memory lane and shows us some of the pitfalls and dangers of  “social media”.  As health care marketers, we should learn from the mistakes of others and commit to not repeating the same mistakes.

Watch the presentation here:


Healthcare Marketing: CAPTCHA as a Marketing Tool

Those annoying CAPTCHAs may soon be a viable advertising medium delivering a captive audience

You know those CAPTCHAs.  They are annoying and time consuming.  And most of the time very difficult to decipher.  CAPTCHAs, Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart, are those squiggly, indecipherable text strings websites require you to discern and type to gain access and provide security.  They protect websites against bots by generating and grading text that humans can read but current computer programs cannot. But now they can become a branding tool.

Solve Media is a new start-up company that is offering the opportunity to substitute those hard to read texts with clear concise words that can be a brand or product name.  So instead of typing in words or a series of letters that mean nothing, you can be forced to type the name of a brand or product. What a captive audience! And what a way to get consumers to type your brand or product, which is much better than just seeing it.

Of course it’s not free.  Advertisers will be required to buy the words on various sites.  The company is currently pitching it to major brands and advertisers.  The anticipated cost will be 25 -50 cents for each time a consumer types in your brand or product.  Seems rather expensive.  The revenue will be split with the website publisher.

The idea requires the consumer to be engaged and actually type the name of the brand or product, which the company claims, will increase recall. It does not provide a link to the advertisers website or a video or an ad for the advertiser.  The value is simply creating recall by the consumer seeing and typing the name.

What a novel idea. What a potentially promising advertising venue.  It’s early, so no one knows if the company will get traction or if brand and product managers will adopt it as a viable option.  But it does point out two things.  The first one is that branding happens everywhere. It’s omnipresent and ubiquitous. Nothing is sacred or off-limits if it can possibly give a brand or product an advantage.  The second is that advertising and branding is only limited by the boundaries of our creativity. New and exciting advertising opportunities appear almost daily.  The proliferation of media is seemingly endless.

Which means, as health care marketers, we must always be open to new opportunities.  And we must use our imagination and creativity to discover new but effective ways to market our brand.


Healthcare Marketing: Marketers Use of Social Media Not Keeping Up With Users Consumption

Some companies are having great success with social media, but overall use of social networking is still very modest. 

Most companies are at least dabbling in social media. This includes hospitals and health care organizations.  The number of hospitals that have Facebook pages and that tweet continues to slowly increase.  But overall, the statistics indicate overall involvement and investment is still very modest.

Social Media and Online Media Report conducted by Econsultancy reveals that almost a third of companies are not spending anything on social media marketing while another third spend very small amounts.  Only about 10% of companies are spending a significant amount of their budget on social network sites.

Several reasons are given for not investing very much in social media.

  • Lack of resources  49%
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding  35%
  • Lack of budget  30%
  • Company culture 29%
  • Inability to measure success  24%
  • Fear of reputation issues   22%
  • Lack of senior buy-in  15%

Although these figures relate to all businesses, we can  safely assume the numbers for health care marketing would be very similar.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ford Motor Company uses social media extensively and very effectively.  In an interview with Ford’s CMO Jim Farley and reported by Mack Collier, Farley stated Ford has effectively used social media to lower marketing costs.   Farley, referring to social media states, “by launching a new vehicle early, getting people talking about it before it goes on sale, we can lower the amount of traditional advertising we do after the vehicle goes on sale.”  He adds Ford  spends 10% of the amount normally spent on traditional media on social media before a launch.

So two very different approaches to social media.  Two very different attitudes.  And these two are pretty representative of the marketing landscape.  Some marketers embrace social network marketing and claim great success while others are still skeptical and limit their use of social media.  It’s the nature of new media.  There is always a period of experimentation and uncertainty.

The lessons to learn are to watch, explore, experiment and learn.  There are ways to use social media that can be effective, but it may not be time to sell out and transfer significant amount resources and budget to a mostly unproven medium.  True some health care marketers have invested significant amounts in social marketing, like the Mayo Clinic.  However, they are generally an exception.  For most hospitals, the investment and effectiveness of social media is limited and varied.

There is still much to learn.  And the learning process will be adventurous, challenging and perhaps exciting.  Stay tuned as we watch what others do, explore new opportunities, experiment with new ideas and learn.  Social media will most likely consume more resources in the future but for now it’s a mixed bag for sure.


Healthcare Marketing: New Ways to Buy Broadcast Media

Both television and radio are providing opportunities to place ads in precise contextual locations to maximize effectiveness.     

The usual way to purchase broadcast is to buy a Run Of Station schedule or specific programming/dayparts matching the program audience with the brand’s target audience.  But recently, there have been even more narrowly specific conceptual targeting options available in broadcast.

Here are a few examples:

  • TIAA CREF uses a song by Lady Antebellum, “I Run To You” as the music for one of the company’s ads.  In the recent ABC’s Country Music Association Awards show, the spot appeared immediately after the band preformed the song on national television during the show.

  • Allstate Insurance ran a spot focusing on teen driving in a special episode of “Friday Night Lights” devoted to the same subject.

  • Radio listeners heard ads for AC/DC’s “Black Ice” album sold exclusively at Wal-Mart immediately after an AC/DC song was played.

  • Geico illustrated its “save 15%” brand message on radio by airing 15-second spot after other ads for cars, motorcycles and RVs and by running spots at 15 minutes past the hour.

These all represent creative ways to place spots in a context that supports the brand’s message. It is not an easy thing to accomplish.  And some media outlets are still resistant to such precise spot targeting.  But with media revenues down in a tough economy, more media properties are open to specific contextual targeting.

In fact, Clear Channel Radio has introduced a new service that uses contextual placement.  “Over the years we’ve really built up proper systems to speak in one voice with programmers and automate these programs for advertisers,” stated Jeff Howard, Clear Channel’s president of radio sales.

With new possibilities like the ones cited above, creative media buying can make buys much more effective.


Hospital Marketing: Which Patients are Using Twitter?

A look at last week’s most tweeted brands shows that Twitter users are all across the board and hard to define.  They come in all shapes and sizes.      

Advertising Age and What We Trend have collaborated to list the “Top 10 most Tweeted Brands” each week.  One would think reviewing the list would give you some very definitive information about who is tweeting the most.  But the list is very confusing and reveals that all types of people, at all ages are active on Twitter.  You cannot specifically define the Twitter audience.  Sometimes it’s tweens, sometimes baby boomers and sometimes its Gen Xers.  It varies and varies widely.

A look at the top ten brands from the week of March 7th proves the point very well.  The list was presented by Simon Dumenco in the March 12th issue of Adage .  Number one on the list was the Oscars whose Twitter participants was a “grown-up” audience.  Number two was Justin Bieber whose new album “My World 2.0” is due out on March 23rd. This was definitely a teenage audience. Number three was “Alice in Wonderland’.  Who tweeted about this?  Moms of younger children?  Number 4 was Notorious B.I.G. (on the 13th anniversary of his death).  And number 8 was Corey Haim (who was found dead on March 10).  Tweeters for both of these are arguably Gen Xers.

And just to really confuse things, number seven was Chuck Norris who turned 70 on March 10.  Definitely a Boomer audience there.

And just to further show the variety of Tweeters, the others in the Top 10 were:

Lady Gaga…. who premiered her new video with Beyonce “Telephone”

Jonas Brothers… who announced an upcoming tour with Demi Lovatos

Demi Lovato… whose fans tweeted why they love her

NBA… as it heads toward the playoffs and Rodney Stuckey of the Pistons was taken to the hospital during a game against the Cavaliers.

Lady Gaga, Jonas Brothers and the NBA, all in the top 10?  All very different audiences.  And the techno geeks did not break the top 10? Very confusing indeed.

So Twitter has apparently penetrated a very wide and diverse demographic and sociographic audience.  Twitterers cannot be pigeonholed.  They are not to be stereotyped.  We cannot assume they are all a certain type of audience.  What it says to hospital marketers is there is an audience on Twitter that can be very worthy of our efforts to reach.  We just have to be creative and provide useful and wanted information. Whatever the audience we are seeking, some of them are out there tweeting.


Healthcare Marketing: When Social Media Goes Bad

Social media provides the opportunity for dissatisfied customers to complain…. to a wide audience.  It’s important when and how a brand responds.

A mom in Baton Rouge, LA, complained about changes to Proctor and Gamble’s Pampers Cruisers. Although P&G appropriately responded to her complaint, when she heard other moms make the same complaint she became a regular complainer on P&G’s message board and created a Facebook page to air complaints.

Johnson and Johnson ran an online ad for Motrin about moms who wear their babies in slings.  After 45 days of the ads first appearance, a blogger posted a complaint.  Soon another blogger followed and then thousands were involved in the controversy with as many as 300 tweets an hour.

Shiny Suds ran a television ad in which cartoon suds harassed a woman in the shower.   Two feminist bloggers took issue with the ads claiming the ad condoned rape.  Method, the manufacturer of Shiny Suds, began receiving thousands of email complaints.

And there are many other examples, some of which involved complete falsehoods.  It shows that even as few as one malcontent can use the power of social media to create quite a storm.  So when should a brand respond to an online complaint?  That is not an easy question. It is an emerging science at best.

Jeff Neff in an article in Advertising Age cited the examples above and offered some factors to consider when deciding whether to respond to an online/social media complaint.

Among the factors to consider:

1. How credible is the source?

The tone and track record of the source is important.

2. How influential is the forum?

Is it a thinly read message board or someplace with a larger following? Does it have staying power?

3. How common is the complaint likely to be?

A common complaint has the potential to get traction and engage others.

4. How serious is the complaint?

Is it a matter of taste or preference or a larger issue, which may be more offensive?

5. How likely is a response to make things worse?

Sometimes a response adds credibility to the complaint.

6. How important is the issue to the brand’s customers?

Does it affect many or a few?  How large is that for the brand’s customer base?

These are certainly not the only issues to consider for every case but it provides a start.  All brands, including healthcare brands are subject to one person or a few persons who can use online/social media to try to tarnish a brand.  How successful they are depends largely whether we respond and how we respond.  We should however tread carefully, thoughtfully and strategically.