Marketing Plan is Doomed Relying On Social Media Alone

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.

Healthcare Marketing is More Critical Now Than Ever Before

Healthcare marketing can strengthen a provider’s foundation and community position during these rapidly changing times. For many, the last two years were about wait and see. They were about who would be in the Oval Office, what things would be untouched and how much would really change. Major trends in healthcare continue to emerge, they include:

  • People are living longer
  • Medical treatments are faster and more effective
  • Hospital beds are for short-term stays
  • Telemedicine works and is a hit with patients
  • Home health monitoring equipment is very cost-effective
  • The Life Sciences field is booming with solutions
  • Obesity is at epidemic levels leading to a myriad of complex medical conditions
  • Male infertility  is now a global birth rate problem
  • Mental illness is on the rise, but little attention is offered (Depression is the #1 reason employes call in sick)
  • Physicians are aging out and in short supply

    Is Anybody Out There?

    Is Anybody Out There?

All of these issues scream marketing opportunity. We know who is in the Oval Office and the Affordable Care Act is law. The number of people who signed up for “ObamaCare” did not meet expectations, but the rules are in effect. So, the wait and see is over.

Healthcare providers that are not re-building their organizations or practices are facing uncertain futures. Your core competencies are still your core deliverables, but how are you creating distinction in a world of consumer healthcare shoppers?

Marketing is not billboards, full-page newspaper ads, or TV commercials. Some of that might be appropriate, but most often it is not necessary to have a strong marketing position. Marketing is communication, messaging and getting people to think about the choices they are empowered to make.

I often say, marketing is storytelling. Who are you? What do you do? Who do you do it for? Where are you? Today, I add, why are you different? Creatively crafting the answers to these questions can give any healthcare organization a great start.

Creative marketing is very important, too. On a daily basis, we are exposed to an average of 2,500 marketing messages. How will you make your organization or practice stand out? If your logo doesn’t grab my eye, you loose. If your brochure is jammed with too much to read, you are lost. If your web site was done by your grandson, you don’t have a prayer.

Marketing does not have to break your bank. At Success Stories, Inc. our firm has been extremely sensitive to costs, but our rule is you must stick with the program. Start and stop efforts waste lots of money, time and can be very irritable to your target audience. The “Ready, Shoot, Aim” method is simply a rush to nowhere.

Public relations are very effective when done correctly. Remember when I mentioned storytelling? Public relations and working with the right media, including social media, gives you the opportunity to tell great stories. It is not something you can ask your office manager to do and your time is far more valuable. There are several nuances to making public and media relations work.

Today, the Internet offers lots of very creative ways to reach people, but you need a professional to help you navigate the web to find the right match for you.

Yes, there is so much more such as mobile apps, videos, hospitality training, patient and referral follow-up and new things everyday.

The critical message today is, if you are not actively involved in marketing, call us. If you are doing some marketing but know you need a boost, call us. The healthcare field is moving fast, so be ahead by being professionally prepared and well-recognized in your community.

thumbnail-3.aspxSuccess Stories, Inc. is a healthcare, life sciences and not for profit management and marketing firm since 1990.