Social media is amazing, creative, fast, targeted and all the good things you want with any part of a comprehensive marketing plan. However, be very careful not to be seduced by a social media pitch as a panacea for all that ails your position in the market. If you want an effective marketing plan beware of the fast-paced, razzle-dazzle, audio-visual presentation featuring the major, and some far from major, social media blitzkrieg.
Marketing is most effective when it includes a comprehensive approach starting with research specific to the intended outcome of the plan. Know what you are seeking to achieve. Conduct a situational audit that includes the internal environment and its ability to manage new business, your capacity for response and growth management and organizational readiness to carry out the plan. An external audit is crucial to understand competitive forces, psycho-social purchasing behaviors of your targeted market, emerging trends that could fade you out and the overall strength of the economy. Remember bell-bottom jeans, beanie-babies, and K-cars? Know the external environment and that of your industry.
Avoid the impulsive agency practicing the READY-SHOOT-AIM approach on your dime and time. Instead, hire the marketing firm that knows your industry very well, such as Success Stories, Inc. in New York. All they do is healthcare with some not-for-profit and life science company work, too. I recommend a medical practice, senior living/senior care, urgent care, hospital systems, behavioral health provider and even a medical school stay away from advertising agencies that have tire, auto, shopping mall, gas stations, grocery stores, and attorneys as their prime clients. Why? Wouldn’t a mix of different clients be good? It would be great for the firm, but not for you as the assigned representative will learn your healthcare specialty on your clock!
A good marketing plan, based on audits, research and focus groups, is a comprehensive plan that utilizes all meaningful marketing tools. Too often, marketing is misrepresented. One might use advertising and marketing as interchangeable or public relations as marketing, or sales as the marketing plan.
Marketing is the all-inclusive, umbrella term that embraces sales, advertising, public relations, promotions, media relations, research and social media – the marketing mix.
I was invited by a developmentally disabled services company in the region to respond to an Request for a Proposal (RFP) for a comprehensive marketing plan. Truthfully, they desperately needed one. There are two clear leaders in the field with well-known names, great locations, signage, messaging, and rock-solid programming. They are the go-to providers. The RFP came from #3 in the market as determined by budget size and number of employees. Amongst several firms, my day came to present my proposal. It was a SoVeryBuffalo™ kind of day. The entrance was covered with snow, cigarette butts, slippery ice spots and an outside buzzer. I’m a rugged sort of fellow so I was fine, but I was forming impressions with each step. I gave a professional and thorough presentation, including that I have 35+ years in behavioral health with a list of VIP clients: DENT Neurologic Institute, Catholic Health, UBMD, UB Dental School, BryLin Hospitals, Rochester IPA, Fidelis, American Psychiatric Systems, maxIT, Excelsior Orthopaedics, Barnabas Health Systems along with three local references.
Weeks went by after my “thank you for the opportunity” letter with a P.S. that said, “I’m confident we will work very well together and achieve more than you expect.”
No response. Call. No response. Sent a slightly funny email. No response. Finally spoke to an insider I know. She said, “Oh yeah, they went with a really cool and funny young group of people who just started a social media company. Someone didn’t call you?” Nope. No call. No letter. No business. They put all their marketing eggs in a social media investment.
Sad for me. Perplexed by their choice. I was told the new CEO thought they were cute and very modern.
The lesson of the story is, if you really want a marketing plan, don’t hire just a social media firm. It won’t work.
Two years later…they are still #3.
by Thomas P. McNulty
McNulty is a professor at Hilbert College where he teaches in the Masters of Public Administration program. He teaches Financial Resource Development and Marketing for Not For Profits-Healthcare Track. He has been consulting for healthcare, life science, not for profits and start-up companies since 1990. He’s held senior executive positions in managed care, hospitals, behavioral health, employee assistance programs and is a public presenter on a variety of healthcare management topics. He created Spotlight on Hope, Inc. – a 501 c 3 in 2005.