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.

How About LinkedIn?

You Need a LinkedIn Strategy

Why?

Simple, because as the largest professional network on the Internet you will find anyone who matters to your business on there — from customers to prospects, from business partners to employees. The network adds two new members every second and is home to more than 250 million members worldwide. LinkedIn has become the place for professionals to gather. And, when you have so many interconnected entities gathering in one place, you need to have a plan.

LinkedIn Has Gone Beyond the Job Search

Your employees? They’re all over LinkedIn. From sales reps to the people in the back office. Most are on it weekly, many are on it a few times each day. They check it on their smartphones during breakfast and on their laptops during conference calls.

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LinkedIn – Can you afford to ignore it?

Sure, some employees will be job-hunting, yet the majority are using LinkedIn in many other ways. Ways that could benefit your business. They’re getting management advice from business thought leaders. They’re keeping up with industry trends. They’re searching for prospects. They’re building relationships with business professionals who will: buy from you, sell to you,or work for you. LinkedIn is bigger than the recruiting department. It touches all aspects of your business.

The People You Want to Connect with are on LinkedIn

People don’t buy from brands. They buy from people. When a client or prospect searches for people they’ve met, their LinkedIn profiles are likely to come up first. Employees use LinkedIn to represent both themselves and indirectly your company too. From a brand perspective, those profiles should be compelling. Ask your employees and most will reply, “I should do more with LinkedIn.” Yet, most of them are doing it poorly. Their photos aren’t professional looking, their profiles undersell their experience, and their networks are not relevant. These are the people who help create your brand, and they are often part of the first impression others will form of your business.

Help Yourself and Your Employees

There isn’t a simple solution to this issue. Each person’s use of LinkedIn depends on his or her role, as well as the industry, your company go-to-market strategy, and your overall company branding and messaging. For your company to get value from LinkedIn you will need to know what you want to accomplish, how your organization will get there, and how you will measure success. In other words, you’ll need a strategy.

Like all marketing programs (and make no mistake about it, this is also a marketing program) you have to set a strategy, then work toward implementation in a clear and deliberate way. Start small, focus on bang-for-the-buck; create a consistent brand message about your organization then ask your staff to use it in their profile. Develop a company page, so that when other people run across your employees the company information is clickable and exactly how you want it. Encourage your teams to build relevant industry contacts and ensure they are connected to one another right away. These are all solid building blocks.

Also, allow time for exploration and investigation. That time your staff is using to learn a leadership skill will manifest itself positively if you let it. The industry contacts that are cultivated from posting to related groups and interacting with regularity will have long-term value. Even the job hunting activities are beneficial in some ways, as keeping employees happy is often a matter of having a realistic perspective on market conditions.

Regardless of what you do, or how you prioritize it, give LinkedIn the respect it deserves. Craft a strategy then set about making it happen.

Seasonal Advertising

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Most of us live our lives on a fairly regimented schedule – waking up at a certain time each weekday for work, getting the family together for dinner around the same time in the evening, trying to attend a workout class at a certain time on the weekends and preparing for upcoming holidays with planning travel, organizing gatherings and decorating with seasonal flair.  Sometimes the same schedule we follow in our personal lives can translate into good business practices.  Believe it or not, your personal event schedule can be applied to your cyclical marketing plan.

Most marketing plans are developed on a 12-month schedule.  Having an organized plan deters last minute scrambling and panicking and promotes consistent traffic and opportunities.  However, once that plan is in place, the individual tactics [including messaging and design] like ads, inserts, direct mailers and promotions need to be developed.  Think about planning the themes for these initiatives around the usual calendar events – seasons, holidays, etc.

It’s easy to tie the theme of your ad, insert or direct mailer into an upcoming holiday.  Let’s use Thanksgiving as an example.  You might consider showing an image of a family around the dinner table and including a headline that touches on both the holiday and what the prospective patient might be  missing; e.g. “What’s more memorable…the meal or time with the family?”

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Sample seasonal themed ad from MarketSource.

What’s powerful about this approach is that your audience is already in that ‘holiday’ mindset so your promotion will be relevant to their needs in that moment.  And coupling that with the pain point of ‘missing out’ on family and friend interactions around the holidays is a poignant message.

This same approach can be used for patriotic holidays, changing of seasons and much more!  Think about what your prospects will be focused on at a certain time of year.  Then, tie your message into their organic thought process at that point in time.

Also, take your 12-month marketing plan one step further by developing a calendar of tactics and messaging focused on upcoming holidays and seasons.  This will be the perfect combination of organization and subject matter for successful communication with your prospective patients!

Interested in seeing some seasonal and holiday-themed options with targeted messaging?  Visit MarketSource – marketsource.consultyhn.com – and sign up to peruse seasonal marketing samples that you can order with just a few clicks!

The Value of the Experience

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A forgettable experience won’t bring customers back through your doors – an unforgettable positive one will.

All of today’s shopping, dining and entertainment experiences are just that – experiences.  It’s more important than ever to engage customers and tether them to your distinct brand – what makes you different from your competition down the street or a purchase made online?  The answer to this question – and the way it’s conveyed to your current customers – will keep them coming back for more.

Let’s face it, in today’s marketplace, it takes more work to make [and keep] the sale.  Consumers have higher expectations, expect more value, look for discounts and demand better service – so your business has to focus on how to integrate or improve upon these factors.  Use these influencers to your advantage by enticing customers to buy from you based on what they want, not what you think they should be getting.  Maybe you can’t offer the best price, but you can give excellent service and you sell an amazing product – focus on your strengths and what makes your business unique to the customer so they’ll want to purchase from you.

Remember that the consumer experience does not end with the purchase; that’s just the beginning.  Large and small ‘follow ups’ post-purchase are necessary to keep your business top-of-mind with the consumer.  The establishment and retention of these types of relationships are becoming almost as critical as the actual product itself.  We know that your current customers are your most qualified leads, but just because they purchase from you once doesn’t guarantee repeat business.  So it’s up to you to nurture these relationships and create a strong connection between these customers and your business.  This can be accomplished via targeted direct response [email and direct mail], personal phone calls, yearly birthday messages, etc.  Stay connected to these customers to keep your business top-of-mind.

Businesses [especially privately owned ones] need to concentrate on selling the experience and differentiating themselves from the competition.  It’s the positive and unique experience that will fuse a customer to your business – not the device they take with them.  A forgettable experience won’t bring customers back through your doors – an unforgettable positive one will.

In this industry, our Associates are selling a lifestyle improvement, not merely a device.  The device is the solution, but the customers’ journey is actually more important.  Focus on the journey, the factors that are important to the customer and encouraging them to always travel back through your doors!

Remember these tips:

  • How is your business unique?  What differentiates you from the competition?   Use the answers to these questions to help your business stand out.
  • Raise the bar [especially related to service] to meet consumers’ increasing expectations.
  • Keep current customers connected to your business to encourage loyalty and repeat sales.

Which is it?

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Advertising is the most visible component of a marketing program.

Many people confuse marketing with advertising or vice versa. While both are important — they are very different. Knowing the difference and doing your homework can put your business on the path to substantial growth.

First, a review of the definitions for each and then an explanation of how (and why) marketing and advertising differ from one another:

Advertising: The paid, public, non-personal announcement of a persuasive message by an identified sponsor; the non-personal presentation or promotion by a firm of its products to its existing and potential customers.

Marketing: The systematic planning, implementation and control of a mix of business activities intended to bring together buyers and sellers for the mutually advantageous exchange or transfer of products.

It is easy to understand how these two can be confusing to the point that people think of them as one-in-the same, so let’s dig in a bit deeper.

Advertising is a single element of the marketing process. It’s the part that involves getting the word out concerning your business, a product, or the services you offer. It encompasses the process of developing strategies for ad placement, frequency, etc. Strategically determining the placement (and repetition) of an ad in useful media including newspapers, television, radio, and of course the Internet is part of the process. But, so is creating and using direct mail, or even billboards for that matter. Advertising is the largest expense on most marketing plans.

On the other hand, marketing is everything that the consumer encounters when it comes to  your business, from advertising, to what they hear, to the customer service that they receive, to the follow-up care that you provide. It’s  all marketing. Marketing creates the decision within the consumer whether or not to choose you initially, or again, for their repeat business.

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Marketing isn’t just the art, the logo, the brand – it’s the entire customer experience.

The best way to distinguish between advertising and marketing is to think of marketing as a pie, inside that pie you have slices. The slices consist of advertising, market research, media planning, public relations, product pricing, distribution, customer support, sales strategy, and community involvement. Advertising only equals one piece of the pie in the strategy. All of these elements must not only work independently but they also must work together towards the bigger goal. Marketing is a process that takes time and involves hours of development for a marketing plan to be effective.

You should think of marketing as everything that an organization does to facilitate an exchange between your business and its consumers. Taking into account the bigger picture helps to understand and appreciate the interconnected relationships between the elements that make your business thrive. If you only focus on advertising, you are setting yourself up for frustration and will likely only see the expenses. In this way you can not enjoy the full benefit of a tightly integrated marketing perspective. Think about it — your business may depend on it.