Monday, May 28, 2012

Healthcare Marketing

As technology evolves and HIT demand drives more and more people to start their own businesses, i thought it would be nice to talk about advertising for small businesses. Over the years I have worked with many small healthcare businesses and found that advertising is a huge challenge for small business. The reason for this is simple, advertising is expensive. Still, there are ways to affordable ways to advertise.

Now, I am going to start this post by saying something shocking – but don’t be turned off…wait and here me out. Here is the shocking statement: Contrary to  popular opinion, services like Google Ad Words alone are not likely to produce a return on investment. This is not to imply that you can ignore Google Ad Words, but rather to say that Ad Words ALONE will not work and investment in Ad Words when finances are limited can be disastrous.

First, I will give a brief blurb on Ad Words for those not familiar. Search engines, like Google, have advertisements at the top and sides of the page. These ads are produced based on the words a person searches compared to the advertisement’s purchased keywords. For example, if I search the word ‘tomato’, at the top and sides of the search page, I will see advertisements for businesses who have ‘purchased’ the word ‘tomato’. Each time a person clicks on one of those advertisements, the business that advertised by purchasing the word ‘tomato’  is charged for the word’s use.

So, if people are clicking on an advertised term, one can assume that the person wants that item. Why would that be disastrous? There is one single reason and it is return on investment (ROI). Let’s say a click on your advertisement costs $0.50. Over the course of a month, 1,000 people click on your ad. That will cost you $500. Your tomatoes sell for $0.50 each. Of that 1000 people, only 1 person bought a single tomato. So, your revenue was $0.50 and your advertising cost was $500… where is the ROI?

It can be argued at this point that getting your name out there - in front of the consumer - is worth that loss of $499.50 in the long run. Unfortunately, for a small business this absence of immediate RIO is the primary reason why the marketing/advertising budget is the first thing cut when finances are tight. So, there has got to be a better way and there is.

First, let’s think about why only 1 person out of 1,000 bought tomatoes from you.  There are a lot of possible reasons but two reasons stand out as things you can control and I will discuss both at length in two posts (to keep this from getting too long). The first possible reason is that your website is terrible. The second reason is your brand recognition which I will explain in this post and give tips for improving it in another post.

Let’s start with your terrible website. A terrible website can be defined in two ways. One is a website that is confusing. There are ‘rules’ for good user interface (UI) design. If your website breaks the rules and people cannot find what they want –they will not buy from you. If you don’t know the rules, you can research that but before you rush off to do that finish reading here first. 

The next thing about terrible websites are ugly, homegrown, unprofessional websites.  In many ways an ugly website is WORSE than breaking good UI design rules. If your website it ugly, people will leave the site immediately and your reputation will sink. It does not matter how good a business you have, how affordable your prices, how fabulous your service, etc…if your site is ugly – you lose business. 

Face it, most people like shiny objects – attractive websites, modern websites, innovative-looking websites will take your business away. Don’t depend on your own judgment about your website – you are bias. It is like children’s artwork – to a parent, that piece of artwork hanging on the fridge is comparable to any Van Gogh. To everyone else, it’s just ugly. The best investment a small business will EVER make is in professional web design.

Now, understand professional web design is not a homegrown thing done by a relative who claims to know something about it. You need to hire a consultant who is wholly objective. Interview a LOT of companies or independent designers before choosing who will do your website. The person/company  you choose should understand good user interface design, user experience, and search engine optimization (SEO, search engine optimization is the art of designing a website so search engines can effectively catalogue your contents and product web search results).  

Do your research on these terms before interviewing – understand the topics so you are not deceived by someone who claims to know more than they do. Then spend quality time reviewing the designer’s portfolio. Ask a lot of questions. You can also ask many designers to create a sample page for your website so you can see what they are capable of. Keep in mind many designers will charge for such custom samples (as a precaution). Above all else, don’t be cheap in website design! Spend the money on your site and hold off on the expense of Ad Words for a bit. Once you have a good website, you can start driving traffic for free or relatively inexpensively.

The next reason you only sold one tomato may be your brand image. As a small business, how can customers know you are reputable? Who are you? Before Ad Words can have a positive impact on your sales, you need to build your brand. A brand is the combination of your name, what you do, how you do it, what you stand for, etc. Before people will trust to buy from you, they need to know your brand or at least not be afraid of it. Your website is a major part of your brand, make sure it is professional-looking! Additionally, branding activities can be used to generate website traffic. That, however, is the subject of the next post. 


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