Increasing Engagement and Strengthening Patient Relationships

email_marketingA reliable marketing strategy relies on the use of multiple media resources. One of the best ways to reach the baby boomer generation (who may not even be home checking their traditional mail) is through email. Email is highly portable and as such can be checked from wherever they are, even via their smartphone.

In order to begin email marketing you must make sure you’ve been gathering email addresses. If you’re not already doing this, update your patient intake form or simply have your front desk ask every patient for their email address. One point of clarification before you begin–don’t send marketing related messages through your office email system (this includes Outlook or Gmail). These systems weren’t built for marketing purposes and your account will be marked as sending spam which will present business challenges for sending transaction related messages.

Here are some key points to consider as you start incorporating email into your marketing approach:

  • What is the purpose? The overarching intent for your email marketing program should be to build and maintain relationships with people in your database. If you aren’t actively engaging your database, you’re missing out on a major opportunity! Current patients, TNS/TNC, and those who have had an interaction with your brand but not come into the office yet (like those from a health fair) are all typically more receptive to your messaging.
  • Who is the target audience? Figuring out how to best segment your database is an essential first step of strong email planning.. Sending a “We Miss You” message may not be well received by your most active patients and you don’t want to alienate anyone. Consider your objectives first –monthly newsletters are a way to strengthen your position in the community and as a thought leader. Is there a benefit to your business by re-engaging your TNS and Cancelled/No Show prospects? Reaching the correct audience will ensure your success. If you’re using a practice management system like Sycle, your rep will be able to help you pull correctly segmented lists that include email addresses.
  • What is the message? And, how does it relate to your target audience? For example, do you want to send a birthday message with a small gift offer or are you trying to reengage TNS patients with a ‘quality of life’ message? One key to successful email messaging is to make sure that your emails sound like they’re coming from a friend, someone you trust. Tailoring the message to your recipients, developing relevant content for each database segment, and making sure your message isn’t too clinical or too sales-y is the best way to make sure your desired call to action is completed. You also want to make sure the subject line account is well thought out too. You want to aim for something between a very generic and boring “Office Newsletter” and the highly promotional “50% OFF TODAY ONLY” (which may end up in their spam folder). Subject lines are critical to your message and ensure your emails are well received.
  • Who is doing the work? There are a multitude of options when it comes to commercial email marketing platforms such as MailChimp (mailchimp.com) and Constant Contact (constantcontact.com). While these applications are generally user-friendly, someone still has to take the time to design, write, send, and track them. For a business owner trying to juggle all aspects of their practice, this may be one marketing initiative that source to a professional partner
  • How will it be measured? Tracking results is important for any marketing initiative but especially for email! By regularly tracking all of the behavior, like opens and clicks, related to your email campaigns, you can learn which emails are working and which list segments are receptive to the messages you’re sending. Also, since each email address is tied to a person in your database, your office staff can follow up with people who may have read a newsletter article then clicked through to your “Contact Us” page yet didn’t submit the contact form.

Email marketing offers a unique way to tailor your marketing messaging to the patients and prospects in your database and strengthen your current provider-patient relationship. As a hearing health provider who specializes in high-end, personalized technology, incorporating personalized email marketing just makes sense as part of your digital marketing strategy.

Consult YHN recently rolled out an email marketing program that features preloaded content and is executed by a digital marketing vendor and is something the Consult YHN Marketing team is happy to help you with!  We can also look over any proposals you may receive from local vendors to help evaluate exactly what you’re getting, what information you may have to provide, and how well it fits with your overall marketing needs.

Digital Marketing is more than just cool tools

In today’s business environment we’re fortunate to have access to a variety of marketing tools that let us communicate easier with our customers and prospects, observe competitors, and scrutinize the market. Many small business owners are competing more effectively using digital media (and extending the value of their traditional marketing efforts). These newer digital tools foster greater competition by enabling our businesses to reach interested prospects with highly relevant real-time communications and get measurable feedback almost immediately.

Successfully acquiring new customers through digital marketing is best handled by employing inbound marketing channels to obtain visibility and leads. These channels include search, social media and email marketing, all fueled by content marketing.

This post outlines the best types of tools and the most popular tactics in each category based on our experience.

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We’ll start with a concept known as Content Marketing. Content marketing is the primary focus for business owners seeking to use digital marketing to increase reach, leads and sales. So, what is Content Marketing? Content marketing is the process of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and well understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Content marketing fuels:
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Event marketing (in person events as well as Webinars)
  • Paid media including Pay per click and display advertising
  • Lead generation and conversion rate optimization (through landing pages)

How do you go about developing a content marketing strategy?

Here is a quick checklist to get you started:

  • Define business opportunity for content marketing
    • Define key segments or target audiences
    • Review current content marketing
    • Review competitor content marketing
  • Define your content marketing strategy
    • Define content marketing plan
    • Prioritize audiences and personas
    • Prioritize content assets for audience
    • Define content marketing resources
    • Create communications timeline
  • Implement and manage your content marketing strategy
    • Update your editorial calendar
    • Manage social media distribution
    • Manage email marketing distribution
    • Manage SEO effectiveness of content marketing
    • Review analytics for content effectiveness

Great. Now what? Time to consider the tools.

One of the tools your likely to be using in your content efforts is social media. In our case, we strongly recommend Facebook as the starting place, but use the platform you are most confident in to get started. (More on social media selection in an upcoming post).

Why focus on social? Leverage social to help find ideal prospects and accelerate list growth. The adage that birds of a feather flock together sums it up nicely. People with similar issues, concerns, challenges, and life experiences typically are connected to others much like themselves. Social is all about connections. Go on, engage your audience.

Online reviews

Today’s consumers check out online reviews before making in-store purchase! Reviews are known as ‘user generated content’ or UGC.

But remember, you must craft content that does more than just ask contacts to buy. Your customers aren’t always in the market to purchase. If all they hear from you is “buy this,” can you blame them for tuning you out? To avoid this predicament, try creating content that helps your contacts solve problems, buy better, and even find interesting things they wouldn’t have uncovered any other way.

Here are a few topics to talk about besides “buy this”:
  • Present information that helps customers use your products correctly.
  • Go behind the scenes by introducing customers to key employees. Show off your offices or factories. Talk about your company philosophy.
  • Add customer voices to your emails by featuring reviews, endorsements, photos and other user-generated content (UGC).
  • Become the authority in your market niche by sharing “insider” news and information.
  • Improve onboarding for new customers with information that helps them find what they want faster or navigate better around your website.

What about email?

Do you collect email addresses? From whom – everyone that you meet, just customers, all appointments, third parties? Think it through. Why not collect them all if they’ll share them with you? Above we discussed the use of social media to interact and extend the reach of your audience. Those names are gold, email address gold to be exact.

Now that you have defined the ways you’ll collect email addresses, let’s turn to what to do with them. First, and this is a critical component, you have to keep track of where the names came from! Two reasons for this – first, to be CAN-SPAM compliant you must have permission to use the addresses (if you’ve been given the information freely, you’re good here – no buying or renting email addresses!). The second reason is more practical, since you absolutely want to tailor your messages to each type of audience you identified in the first step of the checklist.

What emails will you send? You really need to ask yourself what messages will resonate with the audience I am targeting. What do they want to know, what is important to them? This is not about your agenda, it must be content that is relevant to them first – then when you have their attention you can ask them to act a certain way, or react to your content. The opportunities are endless, and they are similar in nature to the list of content topics we explored for social media. This is all very connected. In fact, the more connected the content and media, the more effective you will be.

Time to jump in

That’s enough to get started, but remember, the foundation of any digital marketing plan is your website. All of the other digital tools and efforts rely on your website as the central element for customer and prospect communication and an informational base. Don’t overlook the importance of investing time and effort into shoring up your website from the content perspective!

Consult YHN Marketing has turnkey programs and solutions to get you started, just give us a call and we’ll review your situation with you and offer recommendations to get you digitally marketing in no time.

The Customer Experience Imperative:  Strategies for Relevant Marketing

Welcome to 2016!

The world has become a show-me-you-know-me marketplace. Meaning, if companies want to keep customers happy and loyal they must first prove just how valuable customers are by making every interaction personal and relevant to their needs. The same is true for prospective customers and your database is full of those!

Identifying prospects

Locating prospects within your database offers huge opportunities.

So, how do you reach those prospects in an efficient and effective manner? The best messages are driven by customer insights that enable extremely relevant communications. In other words, the answer is right there in your own patient database. You already know more about your prospective customers than you may think.

Poor data quality may be a common barrier, but there are strategies for optimizing the data you have to reach prospects wherever they are in the customer cycle.

Consult YHN has examined the basic steps to increasing your marketing efficiency and how to create messaging that truly stands out. This strategy will be discussed at Convention 2016 coming up in February along with a presentation on the tactics and tools we suggest for getting started.

Attendees will be able to:

  • Identify and understand more precisely who your high-value prospects (and customers) are
  • Create customer profiles for select target audiences
  • Improve business results by identifying and segmenting customers and prospects within the database
  • Deliver more personalized and relevant messages to high-value prospects

Join us in February; be ready to face the continuing changes within the hearing healthcare marketplace by meeting the challenges head-on! Register today if you haven’t already, there’s plenty of time to sign up. For more event info go to AHAAconvention.com or to register for the event you can go directly here.

Your Newsletter: 30 Informal and Amusing Ideas

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Newsletters keep subscribers informed about your business and brand while building a trusted relationship.  Many companies produce and distribute newsletters either printed or thru email on a consistent basis. While people understand the importance of it, it’s not always easy to come up with content ideas for them.

Content that’s helpful to the subscriber

Your newsletter should contain content that’s valuable to its subscribers. Your newsletter is a way to communicate with your customers and build a relationship, so you don’t want to fill your newsletter with promotional material. However, once in a while it’s okay to add promotional messages.

To help you create customer-focused newsletters no matter how you distribute them, we’ve compiled a list of 30 ideas for your newsletter that you can use to inspire fresh and fun content.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. How-to articles

Create content that’s relevant to your audience and helps them accomplish something with step-by-step instructions. Try using content from the list of frequently asked questions your office gets from customers to solve routine challenges.

2. Product maintenance advice

Does your product require maintenance? If so, provide maintenance tips in your newsletter.

3. Top 10 lists

Top 10 lists are popular because they’re easy to read. Create a list of valuable tips, most popular articles on your blog or ideas that refer to your business.

4. Add an infographic

Use online tools to create an infographic for your newsletter. Turn industry numbers into an eye-catching chart, or provide customer satisfaction ratings in a visual way.

5. Roundup

Create a post that offers a roundup of your company’s best blog topics or most popular social posts. It’s a great way to repackage content that already exists.

6. Customer reviews

Collect a few customer reviews on a specific product and share them in your newsletter. Start out by explaining the product, offer a picture of it and show subscribers what others are saying about it.

7. Events

Use your newsletter to invite or remind subscribers about upcoming events.

8. Invitations

Tell customers about events, charity drives and exclusive sales. Create an event on Facebook so guests can RSVP and include the link in your newsletter.

9. Upcoming health fairs or community shows

Planning to attend a health fair or even a local craft show? Share the details in your newsletter. Explain why you’ll be there, what’s new this year, or provide valuable information like the most affordable place to park.

10. Business history

Tell customers a piece of your company’s history. You can add a tidbit in each newsletter, create a timeline or write a longer piece on the company’s anniversary that covers the big milestones.

11. A letter from the owner

Have the owner craft a letter for the newsletter. The letter could thank customers for their support, provide goals for the upcoming year or talk about a new product the company is about to offer. Customers need to hear from those in charge now and then; it helps maintain a trusted relationship.

12. Employee of the week/month/quarter

Pay tribute to a special employee by highlighting him or her in your newsletter. Keep it short and sweet, but provide enough information to show customers that your staff is top-notch. Always include a picture of the employee.

13. Frequently asked questions

What are the top five questions that your staff receives each week? Use the information to create a frequently asked questions post for your newsletter.

14. Updates on changes

If the company has a new boss, a renovation is taking place or the company is changing the way it does something, use your newsletter to update customers.

15. Business video tours

Break out a video camera and provide a short tour of your business for customers to check out in your newsletter.

16. Discuss partnerships

Whether you’re teaming up with a local charity of the business next door, tell customers how the partnership benefits them in your newsletter.

17. Behind-the-scenes photos

Give customers a look behind the scenes by posting pictures of employees moving massive inventory for the holiday season, or a shot of your team stocking shelves.

18. Be Social

You can promote social initiatives in your newsletters too. It’s a great opportunity to cross-promote your business and encourage subscribers to become part of your social family.

19. Tell subscribers about giveaways

Are you giving away something cool on Facebook? Remind your customers about it in your newsletter. Provide participation details and a link to enter.

20. Encourage subscribers to follow you

Add a brief “Follow Us” section to your newsletter that includes all of your social links.

21. Tell subscribers about a social competition

Ask subscribers to submit photos of them using your product, or submit a short essay about a loved one that should be considered for a special prize. Launch the competition in your newsletter and remind subscribers to participate. This creates a wealth of testimonials and positive reviews!

22. A special coupon

Offer a coupon just to your newsletter readers. Provide a coupon code to use online, or a printable coupon that can be used in-store.

23. Mention a new product launch

When you have a new product coming in, tell your customers about it. Build the hype by providing availability, release dates and options like sizes and colors that are available.

24. Refer-a-friend promotion

Allow subscribers to forward your newsletter to a friend, and if they subscribe to your list, send the customers a special thank you (gift, deal or discount) for helping you grow your list.

25. Make a connection to a unique holiday

When an odd holiday rolls around that’s connected to your business, use it to spark a small post in your article. For example, you can can write an article on Senior Citizen’s Day and offer a discount. Here’s a list of odd holidays to use.

26. Cute or wacky photos of your employees

Did your company host a Halloween custom party? Are you hosting an Evening with Santa? If so, use a few of the pictures in your newsletter to give subscribers an “insider’s look.” Be sure to get permission to use the photos first, and use good judgment. Pictures from the 11th hour of the holiday party aren’t a good idea. Don’t overdo this one, it gets old fast!

27. What’s the deal with the weather?

At some point, the crazy weather will impact your area. Consider writing about it and how it impacted your business. Be careful, you don’t want to write about any storms or weather that hurt someone. Instead, stick to interesting weather topics like the lack of snow in cold weather spots.

28. Pictures of pets or mascots

Does your business have a pet or a mascot? Use a picture of your furry creature to liven up your newsletter. Put the company cat in a cute holiday sweater, or give it a birthday crown when the business hits its anniversary. Again, use your best judgment here, be careful not to let the content become the primary focus or a distraction from the important stuff.

29. Digital holiday card

Use online tools to create an e-card. You can create one for the holidays or the company’s birthday. ‘Punchbowl’ offers traditional options or try ‘JibJab’ for something a little more out of the ordinary.

30. Make a pop culture connection

Use pop culture references to spark an article about your company. For example, “5 things the hit show Scandal has taught us about business.” Make a connection to a hot TV show, a celebrity mishap or musical fads.

If you are interested in sending out a newsletter to your database, contact the marketing team to help you get started.

Honesty In Online Communication

We learned in kindergarten that honesty is the best policy but how many of us actually apply this advice on a daily basis?  In a culture that’s increasingly driven by countless forms of communication resulting in 24-hour access with fewer and fewer chances to be ‘off the grid,’ has it become easier to stretch the truth, feign ignorance or simply lie? According to Jeffrey Hancock, associate professor of communication and information science at Cornell University, being perceived as deceptive can seriously harm reputations and relationships, regardless of the medium.  His studies have also shown [surprisingly] that we tend to lie less online than in person or over the telephone; perhaps it’s because our online, documented posts, comments, status updates, and pictures will be around for a long time.  As a business owner, the type of communication you put in front of your audience adds up – and honesty is a big part of tipping the scales in your favor.

Enter social media. 

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Honest and open communication is the cornerstone of social messaging.

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for business or Pinterest, Instgram or YouTube for pleasure, have you thought about how you are representing yourself online?  The first thing to do is learn how to engage online responsibly and assume you are speaking in public at all times.  We’ll say it again: the internet is not forgiving; posts, comments, status updates, and pictures will live on for the foreseeable future.  Make sure your professional social presence is one you are proud of now and will be in years to come.

Also, be yourself – honest and open communication is the cornerstone of social messaging.  Customers, or potential customers, will respect genuine communication that matters to them.  For instance, use the 4-1-1 rule; post 4 interesting, funny or informational ideas, 1 promotional post and 1 re-post [share with a friend, answer a question, hit the ‘like’ button, etc.], all of which need to be relevant to your audience.  Regardless of whether you post a few times daily or a few times per month, follow the rule above for a targeted strategy that will resonate with your audience.  And as a general rule, before posting on any social medium, ask yourself if the information is honest and relevant.

The review sites.

Here’s where honesty may be most beneficial.  What happens when online reviews about your business begin popping up via Yelp and Google?   If they are positive, great!  But what about the other side of that coin?  We’d all like to think that we give 100% all day every day, but the reality is that sometimes we fall short.  It’s inevitable that you’ll see a less than stellar business review at some point.  When confronted with this ‘bad’ review, it’s how you handle this perceived setback that can set you apart.

Be courageous in the face of bad news, honorably standing tall despite conflict [even if you suspect the negative review is the handiwork of your competitor down the street].  If tempted to avoid the issue, or to make an excuse, think of how you’d feel if a comment you made went unaddressed or simply ignored.  Not pleased, right?  Human beings are deeply attracted to courageous honesty, but sometimes when we are on the other side of the complaint it’s difficult not to be defensive.  It’s best to apologize and do everything we can to make things right — right away.  A February 2014 study by the Social Media Marketing University found that 52% of US marketers respond to negative online comments within 24 hours.  That means responding diplomatically to the comment online, calling the customer [if you can] and remedying the situation ASAP!  The Retail Consumer Report found that of consumers who received a reply in response to their negative review, 33% posted a positive review and 34% deleted their original negative review.  That means by handling the issue, you might even get that nasty, negative comment retracted!

It will work. Honest.

If you believe in what you are doing and are passionate about why you get up every day, this honesty task will be a piece of cake.  Communicating with a broader audience is easier today than ever before, but remember, your message needs to be relevant, timely and genuine.

List Generation: Buying vs. Building

With any marketing strategy, it’s imperative to make sure you are targeting the right audience.  Development of target names and addresses, known as list generation, should be a priority in your planning and implementation strategy.  After all, if you don’t reach your intended audience, how will you generate sales?   But when attempting to reach this audience, is it better to buy a list or build your own?

Let’s look at the facts

When marketing, it's important to reach the right audience. Concentrate on your most qualified leads first and your target prospects second.

When marketing, it’s important to reach the correct target audience.

  • Buying a list is quick and easy.
  • Building a list takes time and resources.

So, what’s the best strategy?  The answer is: it depends.  Meaning, it depends   on who you are trying to target and what type of message you are communicating.

Buying a List

When your objective is to reach a new pool of prospects within your area, buying a list is necessary.  Whether that’s for direct mail or telemarketing, you’ll need to reach out to those prospects within the community who don’t yet know about your services.  Be sure that you are reaching the appropriate audience – in this case, the 65+ active senior and Baby Boomers.

While buying a list for the traditional outreach like direct mail and telemarketing will help feed the pipeline with new opportunities, we recommend steering clear of purchasing lists for digital marketing [i.e. email marketing].

Building a List

We all know that retaining a current customer is more cost-effective than bringing in a new customer.  That’s why developing your customer database for future marketing [out of warranty, tested not sold, etc.] is so important.  Your customer database [read more here] includes your most qualified leads – those that are not as price sensitive – and nurturing these relationships will reap continuous rewards.

Reaching out to your current database with targeted messaging across the traditional mediums – direct mail and telemarketing – will result in a higher response rate and more positive return on investment [ROI].  And as mentioned earlier, it’s best to take the time to build an email contact list by collecting email addresses from you customers – let them ‘opt in’ to receiving email communication from your practice.

What’s Next?

Once you have your targets identified [compiled from both your customer database and prospect lists], remember to develop a marketing plan to reach these consumers on a frequent and consistent basis.  Also, think about the communication strategy [i.e. “what you want to say”] in order to convey relevant messages to each segment of your list.  Your target audience will appreciate the time and effort you put into speaking to them based on their needs via the mediums they prefer and you will reap the rewards.

Questions?  Consult YHN Marketing is here to help!  Contact marketing at marketing@ConsultYHN.com