By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Every industry has its share of truly moronic comments, witless ideas and brainless advice. And healthcare advertising is certainly no exception. Over time, it becomes a bit easier to identify silly comments for what they are. Providers have an excuse, after all healthcare marketing isn’t their profession. However, healthcare advertising agency people should know better.
Extremely stupid ideas are often infuriating. Ridiculous and foolish notions can be amusing. But in any event, the biggest benefit is to recognize a red-flag danger signal when you hear it. There’s bound to be trouble ahead. Best advice is to stop, backup and chart a sensible way to avoid the inevitable business or marketing mud puddle ahead.
We haven’t captured all the foolishness, but here are some of the absurd things that should sound a loud distress signal for anyone within earshot.
Scary things we sometimes overhear from healthcare advertising agency people…
“Our goal is to win awards…” – Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with healthcare advertising agency awards. But when “winning awards” is the goal, it leaves out the more fundamental purpose of healthcare advertising—to win new business for the client.
“I only work on strategy…” – This was overheard when a colleague approached an agency executive with a question about helping the client. The (now-departed) exec should recognize that goals, strategy, tactics and performance are interrelated elements. You can’t “work on strategy” without considering all that follows in the process.
“We are the most creative healthcare advertising agency…” – Nobody has an exclusive hold on creativity. An agency arrogant enough to claim exclusive superiority is underestimating the competition. (See also: “hubris” and “pomposity.”)
“Sure, we can do healthcare…” – A comment most often uttered with little or no actual healthcare industry experience. And given with the (naive) hope of learning to “sell healthcare” is no different than used car advertising or real estate marketing. (Hint: Insist on a specialist. Effective healthcare advertising and marketing requires current and consistent, hands-on experience.)
“We have the magic bullet (or exclusive formula, or secret sauce)…” – Efficient and successful healthcare marketing and medical advertising is never a pre-packaged or automatic answer. Nor is it guesswork or trial-and-error.
“We’re a big agency and we’re big on flashy projects…” – If you don’t hear these actual words, you’ll see the behavior, and most of it’s wasteful. This is when (some) agencies love to pour money into the production side of advertising…let’s say in creating a fancy advertising device or broadcast ad for example. But the cost of the creative materials eats away at the media budget, and that reduces its effectiveness. Alternatively, a good (but simpler) direct response ad is more effective and less costly.
“You can’t measure the real impact of advertising…” – Be wary of a so-called marketing “authority” who wants you, or any client, to believe that advertising results can’t be quantified. The impact of advertising isn’t vague or elusive, and you’re not buying smoke-and-mirrors. In fact, your budget is a serious business investment with results defined as a measurable, quantifiable, Return-on-Investment.
From the provider side of the table …
“Everyone is our target audience. We do it all…” – Your real target audience does not want “everything.” They are individuals with highly specific needs. Trying to be everything-for-everybody invariably reaches nobody effectively. In fact, trying to be all things to all people is unproductive and an expensive waste of resources.
“Why would I market? I am already busy…” – “Being busy” isn’t the only criteria for success. What’s more, there are dozens of ways that marketing can improve a business picture. For example: working smarter, not harder; improving the mix of patients and cases, building a professional and organizational reputation; effectively answering aggressive competition, and many others.
“I’m happy to go-along and get-along…” – Often, this is the provider who seems content to be the “best kept secret in town.” Typically, the problem is a matter of risk-avoidance. (AKA: head-in-sand approach.) There is no risk in being plain vanilla (in the minds of colleagues.) And when one practice looks like the next, there is no marketing differentiation. There is no risk in being a commodity. Consequently, there is no distinction (or success) in being the same.
“I know good advertising when I see it…” – Effective advertising is best judged on its performance, not on its appearance. The most common problem with the “when-I-see-it” evaluation is that the viewer applies their own value system, and not the values of the target audience.
“We should see overnight results, right?” – Neither the client nor the healthcare advertising agency has properly shaped performance expectations. Meaningful results are rarely seen “overnight.” Marketing efforts and advertising campaigns require time to gain traction when reaching the intended audience. The amount of time will vary with the circumstances. Direct response advertising, for example, may be a matter of days or weeks. Branding and brand messaging will require a much longer time line; many months, even years depending on the goals.
The three essentials of healthcare marketing…
Weird and wild comments like these—from healthcare advertising agency people or providers —are fair warning that something is wrong…or will soon go wrong. They are words of warning that the ship is turning away from the essential elements of marketing. Each practice has a plan with it’s own mix and emphasis that advance these ingredients:
- Attract new patients to the practice or hospital
- Engage and retain existing patients
- Reactivation of previous patients
Stay alert for the totally silly things that you might hear in business or healthcare marketing. And when they hit you squarely on the nose, take it as a serious warning signal that your best plans could go sideways.
If this post reminds you of things you have heard, try giving our healthcare advertising agency a call.
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, CEO