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Re-Thinking Healthcare Advertising Offers

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Black and white image of little boy wearing a hat shouting in a megaphoneThe New Normal for Medical and Hospital Marketing in Tough Economic Times

Don't dismiss offer-driven media options automatically. The nation's economic headwinds have produced new, value-sensitive consumer buying patterns and an opportunity to re-consider the way things work in society's "New Normal."

The terms "advertising offer" and "healthcare marketing" sometimes seem like misfits. To many, the stereotypical image of "an offer" related to professional services seems somehow less than professional.

And in old-school terms, you'd be right. Offers are not suitable for everyone, and they're not appropriate for many medical products or services. But before you dismiss this topic out of hand, in the right situations, there are ways to construct compelling offers that are highly professional.

For some products and services, offers are a good fit and they work. In fact we're seeing an up-tick in response to offer-driven media, so it's worth it to think creatively and consider using what works. What's more, the marketing landscape has changed.

Don't lower price; increase value.

By definition, remember that an offer is about presenting value. (An offer does not mean a discount.) The greatest value and compelling benefit of an offer—to you and the prospective buyer—is in presenting a bite-sized introduction to your practice or service gateway.

It is the offer that lowers barriers, motivates someone to reach out to you and to become acquainted. It is an easy way for a prospective patient to take a low-risk first step.

What's the right offer for you? Give us a call if you're having trouble with this one—it can be a real challenge to answer, and the offer can make or break the marketing effort.

And why are well-considered offers enjoying something of a revival? Actually, there are a number of valid reasons to re-think offers in healthcare advertising. It has a lot to do with the national economy.

So many of marketing's fundamental ground rules have changed—or are changing—in healthcare that we've labeled this dynamic "the New Normal." It means: The time-honored assumptions and consumer behaviors of the past have changed. The principle agent of change has been the long period of tough economic times, and marketing professionals, providers and organizations need to adjust accordingly.

We see examples of the New Normal daily in our work with healthcare organizations of all types and throughout the nation. New rules are at work in marketing for hospitals, individual and group practices, medical providers and pharmaceutical organizations of every stripe.

Why the concept of advertising offers is worth re-thinking.

No matter where you are in the healthcare spectrum, you can probably relate to New Normal indicators such as:

  • "Purchase decisions" are made more slowly (if at all). Prospective patients, patients, buyers or consumers rarely act quickly in the New Normal for elective or other medical care. The cost of medical services or products is a primary concern in seeing a healthcare provider. And spending decisions are approached cautiously, and may be delayed, perhaps indefinitely.
  • Value is of greater importance. Consumers have higher expectations about getting the greatest value in exchange for the expense. Even with medical services (unless the need is truly urgent), they are likely to "comparison shop" for the best cost-benefit ratio.
  • Socioeconomic distinctions are softer. Cost sensitivity and cautious buying are now typical of nearly all income brackets. In the New Normal, upper-middle and even moderately wealthy consumers have joined lower-middle and middle-income groups in being price and value minded.

These and other shifts in consumer attitudes and buying habits are likely to be permanent changes in American society. These new standards apply across the board and it's now socially acceptable for people to be vigilant about spending and demanding of value.

Offers deliver a strong payback.

Although offer-driven advertising isn't right for every healthcare marketing and advertising situation, it is worth re-examining as a possible strategy where it may have been rejected or neglected previously.

When it's a good fit, the right offer generates new business. And because the "purchase decision" has been carefully considered, the new buyer is likely to become a champion, refer others to the value they've discovered, and be the source of repeat business.

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