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Here’s To Your Health

4 Feb, 2010 By: Bridget McCrea Response

More healthcare marketers are using DR to reach out to consumers.

The challenge that marketers face when investing in print media, says Bosacker, lies in convincing local publications that their offers are direct in nature, and therefore warrant highly discounted rates. In addition, smart media companies leverage both the reader content in the printed media along with local and national publication Web sites to deliver the highest ROI for a client.

For Healthfair USA, at the consumer level, Bosacker adds, it’s not always easy to get people to come out and have procedures and screenings done by someone who isn’t the family doctor. Print media, with the right creative and content, can help bridge that gap. “Healthfair USA has been able to overcome this obstacle by offering full health screenings,” he says, “and by using call center scripts that focus on the fact that the work is performed by qualified physicians.”

The value for the marketer comes with repeat business and/or future screenings, he adds, preferably for a lifetime. “Someone who sees a DR ad, calls up and then comes to the local YMCA for a heart screening, turns into a candidate for future screenings and services,” Bosacker contends. “That kind of lifetime value is very important.”

With a focus on growing Healthfair USA’s business on a market-by-market basis and utilizing as much local media as possible to optimize each of those markets, Ekbatani has an aggressive direct-to-consumer approach planned for 2010. “We’re using DR as a means of more accountable advertising,” he says, “and to optimize each market and grow it to its best possible potential.”

Technology Curve
Healthcare marketers looking to tap into the power of DR would be wise to stick with some of the tried-and-true strategies associated with the medium. These tactics include driving sales at the retail level and on the Web, and developing continuity programs that allow customers to reorder automatically, and without having to make additional phone calls.

Where marketers should use caution, says Pruett, is in areas like social networking, where sites like Facebook and Twitter have yet to prove their real value for marketers. Still, firms continue to throw money and resources at the idea, hoping that something will stick.

“Social networking is a good way to get the brand out there, but it’s very difficult to monetize,” says Pruett, who sees this medium as a “growth area” for marketers. “We’ll continue to see firms build communities around social media — and expenditure on that channel will grow — but the short- to medium-term returns will be minimal.”

Also beware of the sophistication of today’s buyer, says Pruett, who expects consumers to continue asking for more and more information. “This means you’ll either have to work your ad harder, or drive the consumer to other locations for information,” says Pruett. Also making the landscape more challenging for marketers will be increased disclosure regulations introduced by the government, he adds, and the fact that marketers must cater not only to consumers, but also to the physician marketplace.

“If you’re a healthcare provider selling to the physician as well as the consumer, it creates a bit of marketing schizophrenia; the two channels are very different,” says Pruett. “It’s largely an internal issue: DTC and DTP (direct-to-physician) must be delineated internally while making sure their message resonates for both.”

On a positive note, Pruett sees mobile advertising as a growing opportunity for healthcare marketers that want to incorporate DR strategies into their overall advertising campaigns. “The advent of mobile devices for healthcare is an enormous opportunity,” says Pruett, “that ranges from reaching consumers at the point of sale with coupons and videos about products, to giving them the chance to buy both in-store and on the Web.”

More on the Horizon
Look for even more healthcare companies to embrace DR advertising in 2010, says Cmielewski, who expects one-to-one consumer marketing to continue growing during the next few years. Helping to spur on that trend, she adds, will be the new “self-directed” healthcare approach that finds individuals taking more responsibility for their well being.

A focus on issues like obesity, weight management and smoking cessation will likely be at the forefront of those efforts, and is already beginning to crop up on TV and online. Take the New York City Department of Health’s 30-second video that showed globs of fat being gulped from a soft drink can. Aimed at curbing consumers’ cravings for sugary soft drinks, the ad falls under the “social policy” umbrella, according to Cmielewski.

“We’ve seen smoking cessation ads for years, but now we’re seeing a big push around obesity and weight management,” says Cmielewski. “It just goes to show that there’s something for everyone on the marketing continuum.” And don’t expect the opportunities to wane anytime soon. “We’re definitely going to see more DRTV used within this sector, particularly if healthcare reform comes around and if a public option is introduced,” she adds.

What makes DRTV especially attractive to marketers and government organizations is that it reaches the masses in ways that snail mail and E-mail cannot. “DRTV can be used to communicate to the uninsured, many of whom are transient and hard to reach by mail,” says Cmielewski.

The medium could also prove valuable for communicating health plan changes brought about by the new legislation, she adds. “There’s a lot of messaging that will need to get out there now that healthcare reform is at the forefront of the economy,” says Cmielewski. “DRTV just may be the perfect medium for conveying those messages.”

Bosacker says corporate marketers and Fortune 500 firms in the healthcare field will “be using DR more than ever before” during the next few years due to the competitive nature of their business. “These companies will be trying to optimize advertising dollars to be as effective as possible, and direct marketing is the only way to go,” says Bosacker. “Using DR or DRTV, they’ll be able to effectively drive people to the content and produce better-qualified leads in the process.”

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