Healthcare organizations that stick to their marketing plan during a recession maintain and grow while the competition is hiding. And studies show they also enjoy a bigger up-side when the economy improves.
We've published several articles about healthcare marketing in a weak economy. (Check the links at the bottom of this page for items you may have missed.) Some of these ideas can seem counter-intuitive, but they work.
In the face of an economic downturn, maintaining (or even expanding) your healthcare and practice marketing effort simply doesn't "feel right." The impulse of many is to hunker-down in the locker room until the storm passes. Don't do it.
While the competition is out of the game, take advantage of the opportunity for some open-field running. When others are quiet, your marketing message is uncontested and your marketing "voice" is clear and your Return-on-Investment is stronger.
Media rates are negotiable; your message stands out in a less-cluttered environment at a lower cost, and you increase market share.
Going "silent" sacrifices your previous marketing investment. What you've put into building your branding message is lost without continuing support. Patients may think that you and the organization or practice has disappeared because you're silent and market share erodes.
Conversely, a continuing marketing effort maintains your connection with the community, your recognition is brighter on everyone's radar and it inspires greater confidence.
There's an up-side during and after the recession. Several economic studies of recessionary periods–from the 20's through the early 90's–show there's a payback when the economy improves.
Perhaps the best known analysis of the economic downturn of 1974-1975 was by American Business Press. Businesses that advertised during the recession had the highest growth during and following the recession. During the 1981-1982 recession, a McGraw-Hill study had similar findings. Businesses that cut advertising increased sales by 19% following the recession, but those that continued to advertise reaped a 275% increase.
Buyers are more selective. Even in a recession, the market demand for healthcare services continues. True...individuals will look carefully at purchases, and they might even delay their decisions...but they are likely to "buy" from someone. Healthcare organizations that remain visible communicate trust and patients gain confidence in knowing you'll be there for them in the future.
Communicate high value, not fluff. Prospective patients are looking for strong value in all their purchase decisions. Carefully review and adjust your marketing message to emphasize how you deliver solid value. More than ever, prospective patients want reassurance that you clearly understand their needs and deliver effective solutions that directly answers these needs.
Ask patients for referrals. Satisfied patients are a great source of referrals, but you have to ask them. It's a simple process that is effective in any economic climate, but it can be easily overlooked when the office is busy. Because decision-makers are more selective in soft economic times, the referral of another patient carries added weight. Make it a habit to ask for referrals at every appropriate opportunity.
When economic times are tough, the one thing that you don't want to do is throw in your marketing towel and head for the sidelines. There are near-term and a long-term benefits to sticking with your game plan. Click through on the links below for other helpful articles.
Additional articles from Healthcare Success: