7 Media Buying Myths: Reducing Financial Risk in Healthcare Advertising

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Animated light bulb with the number 7 insideThe single most financially dangerous line item in a healthcare marketing plan is usually labeled Media Planning and Buying. An otherwise sound medical advertising plan can become a major waste of resources.

When hospitals or doctors who own a practice fail to understand how media buying works, they either spend more money than they need to, or they avoid it and lose growth opportunity.

The fact is most medical marketing decision makers-including hospital executives, group practice administrators and healthcare marketing professionals-should ask themselves if they are getting the most from their media dollars.

Media Planning and Buying Myths

There’s little comfort in knowing that this is a classic (and wasteful) advertising mistake. It would seem like a simple process to place an ad in a newspaper, a magazine, or on radio or television. Just pick up the phone and place your order…right?

Media Planning and Buying is not as simple as it appears. There’s a science behind sound and cost-effective media buying that is hidden by commonly held folklore. Here are a few of the most common myths we hear from provider practices and medical facilities:

Myth: “We don’t buy advertising. It’s too expensive.” Fact: Not every marketing plan includes a large media budget, but that decision is driven by the ability to achieve goals and objectives. A media placement budget is not included or excluded based on cost alone. Changes in the advertising industry have made some media options more available and affordable than previously.

Myth: “The audience is just like me. We’ll go with that.” Fact: You are not your target audience. The selection of broadcast stations or print media must be based on a proven ability to reach the prospective patients you want to attract. What’s more, with a precise definition of the target audience, an experienced media buyer can identify media solutions that you may not have considered.

Myth: “There’s only one newspaper, so that must be the media to buy.” Fact: First, there are probably more options in a results-driven solution. Second, a media buyer will devise the best plan–down to the days of week, times of day, section of the paper, and online options, reach, frequency, flights, etc.

Myth: “Media Buyer? We don’t want to add to the cost.” Fact: An expert media buyer adds value and effectiveness to the plan, usually without adding any cost at all. It’s the job of a healthcare advertising agency to get results, and a good media buyer will recommend a schedule that generates results, usually at a more favorable rate.

Myth: “The Rate Card shows the cost.” Fact: Virtually all media rates are (a) negotiable, and/or (b) will vary with frequency, combinations and other options. At best, rate cards are difficult to read and can be confusing. But if you (or someone in your office) are buying media based on published rate card rates, we can pretty much guarantee that you are paying too much. Professional media buyers have the skill and experience to negotiate the most cost-effective prices for their client.

Myth: “The (broadcast or print media) representative will do everything for us.” Fact: At least two things are wrong with this assumption. First, media reps are primarily advertising sales people, not marketing people. Their perspective begins with the inventory they have available to sell. Second, they only represent one media. You could end up dealing with several competing reps…each looking out for their slice of the budget.

Myth: “We can just set it and forget it.” Fact: Even an elementary plan has several moving parts; not the least of which is the follow-up and performance monitoring. Did the media deliver everything you purchased? What results were achieved and what was the ROI? What adjustments are needed for greater effectiveness?

The bad news is that without professional help, media buying is complicated and financially dangerous…in wasted resources or lost opportunity. The good news is that advertising is often more affordable than you realize, and typically there’s no additional cost to getting the professional help of a media buyer.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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