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Healthcare Radio Rules: Low Rates Open the Door to a Highly-Effective Medical Marketing Tool

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

A baker's dozen of helpful tips in evaluating and using healthcare radio advertising

broadcast radio audience healthcare marketingRadio is a powerful media option for healthcare marketing. With rates negotiable to "half-off" or better, radio is worth a close look, even if you've avoided radio advertising in the past as too sophisticated or expensive for your hospital, organization or private practice. Here are some of the most important tips when considering radio healthcare marketing as part of your marketing-communication mix.

Right now is a great time for a close look at local radio as part of your healthcare marketing mix.

Radio rates—the cost of broadcast air time—have always been "negotiable," but in many areas they've gone from "flexible" to amazingly affordable. Professional media planners and skilled negotiators are finding radio rates 50% off the published rate card.

Although radio is not always the best healthcare marketing tool for everyone, it can be powerfully effective in the right circumstances. So if you have dismissed radio in the past as somehow too advanced for your hospital, healthcare organization or medical practice, take another look at your media options.

Winning ways in the radio game

There are over 12,000 radio stations in the US and those that cover your service area are reaching your target audience. To be cost-effective, you need to know the rules of the radio game. Here are a baker's dozen of tips to evaluate radio as a fit for you and to get the most from the opportunity.

  1. Radio works well in smaller market areas. First, the cost for radio time in secondary markets (and secondary stations in larger markets) begins at rates that are more attractive than larger markets. It's also more efficient when the station's coverage area closely aligns to your service area. Unless you have multiple locations, your advertising message and budge is wasted on reaching people who are too far from your front door.
  2. Multiple offices increase the value of radio. When you have several offices a group or healthcare organization can get more bang for the buck because the cost for the advertisement is spread over a number of offices or locations.
  3. Radio rates are always negotiable. Radio stations are selling from an inventory of broadcast time, and they are virtually never sold out. There are always some "availabilities," so negotiate the cost. Their Rate Card is just a conversation starter.
  4. Use a media buying service (like ours). Even relatively modest radio schedules can benefit from buyers who know how generate the greatest effectiveness from every dollar. (Call us; we work with some of the best in the business.)
  5. You need high repetition. Think in terms of 60 spot announcements, per station, per month-and that's for each different ad you might be running. Radio is a "transient" media that requires regular and repeat impressions to work effectively. Generally, that means listeners need to hear your message at least 2.5 times before they act.
  6. Announcements need to be 60 seconds in length. Among the many and various lengths-per-announcement you will most likely want the 60-second length. (Even though shorter spots may be cheaper.) We've tracked and tested this, and the one-minute length is needed to be effective for private practices and healthcare organizations.
  7. The basic creative structure will be Problem-Solution-Why You-Offer-Deadline. In our experience, anything less than 60-seconds is too brief to tell your story. Also, stick to one main message in each announcement. Trying to include everything you do communicates nothing.
  8. Use radio to target a specific demographic group. Price is not the only criteria. A significant advantage of radio is your ability to reach specific audience groups by station format. You want your message to be heard by the target audience that you want to attract. If your target audience is up-scale women, for example, identify the stations and/or time of day that this group is listening. Radio stations measure and report listener profiles and ratings for exactly this reason.(Remember, this may or may not be YOUR favorite radio station. You want the station that delivers the audience demographics that you want.)
  9. Talk radio involves their listeners and can work well. This format is a popular choice for hospitals, healthcare practices and organizations. The audience is usually engaged in what is being said, and different styles of talk radio produce different audience demographics.
  10. Radio announcements need to cut through the clutter. Regardless of station format, radio announcements have no visual element-there is only the audio to command attention, present your message and inspire action. Your creative message needs to be extra good to stand out in the crowd, and paint a mental picture for the listener.
  11. Always conclude with a single call-to-action focus. You may want to mention your web address, but directing people to your phone number is best for immediate response. Outside of regular business hours, be prepared to have the calls professionally answered by a live person.
  12. Use an easy to remember phone number. (And repeat it often.) An example would be 555-2020 for a vision-related practice. Be careful using words in place of numbers: Dial: "H-A-P-P-Y-T-E-E-T-H." These can easily sound contrived and may not be as memorable as you think. The industry rule-of-thumb is to repeat the phone number at least three times in the ad.
  13. YOU'VE GOT TO TRACK. As with every element in your marketing plan, you'll only know how effective your radio budget is when you quantify the results. This is especially helpful if your message is broadcast on more than one radio station. You'll want to know exactly what works best.

[Bonus: See Digital Radio Health Marketing article.]

The final rule...

Don't try to do it all yourself. We can't think of a faster way to get poor results and risk damaging your reputation than trying to be a creative director, writer, producer, scheduler and announcer. That might work for Joe the Mechanic, but have your creative work done by an experienced, professional marketing group that can increase effectiveness of your radio budget. If you need help in evaluating the work that radio can do in your marketing plan, give us a call.

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