From the mHealthNews archive

The 7 deadly sins of telehealth marketing

By Nirav Desai

Do you experience any of these challenges with your telehealth program, product or service?

  • Painstaking process of getting people to buy in to your telehealth or telemedicine program?
  • Slow uptake for your telehealth technology or service?
  • Difficulty getting hospitals or other customers to join your telehealth network?

While you could cite a variety of reasons for these struggles, it's highly likely that you have a marketing problem.
This article covers some fundamental marketing mistakes ("sins") that are common to many industries in addition to telehealth and telemedicine. If you find that you are guilty of any of these sins, you have a golden opportunity to eliminate them from your marketing strategy, so that you can edge out your competitors and get the PR, patients and profits you deserve.

Marketing Sin #1: Field of Dreams
The movie Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, is built around a central premise that if the character played by Costner builds a baseball field on his farm, then legendary baseball players who have long since died will emerge from the cornfield in their youthful form to play on his field. "Build it and they will come," says a voice in his head.

Let's face it. "Build it and they will come" only works in the movies.

Yet too many people are guilty of thinking that if they start or build the next great thing, everyone will be lining up to use it. Marketing is a fundamental requirement for the success of any "business" or "venture."

Even Apple doesn't subscribe to the field of dreams. They put a lot of time and money into market research, strategy, developing market buzz, etc. before the launch of the iPad 3 and its predecessors.

So if you are a telehealth company, telehealth consultant or telehealth program, you absolutely need to market and promote your offering in order to attract and win customers, patients, participants, etc.

How do you know if you are suffering from the "Field of Dreams syndrome"? Just answer these questions:

  1. Do you find yourself wondering why everyone just doesn't get what a great solution you have to offer?
  2. Did you put out a single press release about your new product or program, and were you surprised by the lack of response?
  3. Do you find yourself procrastinating about putting together a newsletter, sales letter, promotion, etc., for your telehealth solution?
  4. Are you uncomfortable selling yourself or your services?

Marketing Sin #2: Random Whim Marketing
Statistics have shown that a potential customer has to see your ad an average of seven times before they even notice it. Assuming they are even interested in what you're selling, they have to see the ad another seven times before taking action.

That means you have to get your message in front of the potential customer an average of 14 times before they might even think about getting in touch. This is why ad agencies typically suggest that you run ads for 13 issues.

So your main goal is to make sure people recognize and remember your solution. This is why consistency is key.
While you may not have the budget to run an ad 14 times, the real lesson here is that your marketing materials need to create consistency in several forms:

  • A consistent look and feel, so people learn to recognize you and your brand;
  • A consistent message, so people remember what you do, who you do it for, and why you are better than your competition; and
  • A consistent delivery schedule, so people see your name and message often enough to recognize you, remember what you do, and have you at the top of their mind the next time the problem you can solve hits a critical point for them.

Are you guilty of Random Whim Marketing?

  1. Do you tend to market primarily when business is slow or an opportunity happens to present itself?
  2. Have you avoided putting together any formal marketing plans, strategies or goals?
  3. Are you putting together advertising and marketing materials at the last minute?

Marketing Sin #3: Me Too Marketing
If you are guilty of “Me Too Marketing,” potential customers don't have a compelling reason to do business with you instead of your competitors.
You need to define your unique selling proposition (USP) by answering the customer's question (which may be spoken or unspoken): "Why should I do business with you among all the choices I have in your category, which include doing nothing?"

What is it that makes your products, services or business different from everyone else's? Search online or in your region (if it applies) to see what your competitors are saying in their marketing.

If your marketing materials and sales promises sound just like your competitors, then you are guilty of me-too marketing. That's OK. Now spend your energy figuring out what's different or how you can be different.

Marketing Sin #4: Being Ego-centric
Humans are egocentric by nature. We approach everything from our own perspective. And we spend most of the time thinking and talking about what's important to us.
It's only natural since we all spend our time dealing with our own life, family, health and body.

But guess what? Your customers are no different.

While you, by your nature, want to talk about yourself and what you do in your marketing materials, your clients really want to talk about their issues so they can get some resolution and move on. What your clients really want to know from your marketing materials is "What's in it for me?"

If you came across a website whose message was something like this: “Acme Telehealth is the premier developer of robust telepresence applications for small to mid-sized hospitals to practice telehealth. Our company is made up of 50 of the nation's top engineers who specialize in creating powerful telepresence technology and decision-support software for telehealth in multiple disciplines. …” – you'd likely click away.

But what if you end up on a page that says: “Hospitals: Get started with your telehealth solution in 30 days and become the clinical center of excellence in your region. Designed for small to mid-sized hospitals, this full-function solution takes all the mystery out of telehealth and enables you to get started with a complete playbook, equipment and tools.”

If you didn't have a telehealth solution already and were thinking about it, you'd at least want to take a look.

Marketing Sin #5: Focusing on features
This is absolutely the worst way to talk about your offering, and it ties into the egocentric nature of most of the unremarkable marketing that is out there.
Unless you're talking to IT staff who assume the benefits of specific telehealth features, the worst thing you can do is talk about the technical features of the solution – technical protocols, bandwidth, security, software and hardware specs, etc.

The basic formula is this:

  1. Choose a product or service (or your business as a whole) and list all of its features.
  2. For each and every feature, ask yourself, "So what? Why would someone want this?" The answer to this question is the benefit.

To put it another way, don't just tell what it is; tell what it will do for your client.

Marketing Sin #6: Missing the target
The basic question is this: "Who is your target market?"

If your answer is like any of the following:

  • "I don't know."
  • "Anyone with money."
  • "Anyone who will listen to my pitch."
  • Something really broad like "hospitals" or "physicians."

... stop all your marketing and advertising right now! And don't spend any more time, energy or money marketing your business until you've found the real answer.

Why? Because you are definitely guilty of "missing the target."

People buy products or services that solve a problem, fill a need or help fulfill a dream. And everyone's problems, needs and dreams are different.
If you try to speak to too broad a market, chances are that you won't be speaking to anyone with any specificity that makes sense.

Marketing Sin #7: Marketing insanity
What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results.

If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you are probably guilty of marketing insanity:

  1. Do you do marketing or advertising without tracking results?
  2. Do you have several months' data showing you that you are not on track to reach your goals, but you haven't done anything about it?
  3. Do you find yourself complaining about the same problem three or more times without making a change?
  4. When presented with a new idea or system for your business, do you hear yourself saying "I don't want to change anything" or "it will never work for my business"?

The Last Word
It's clear that these seven deadly sins of telehealth marketing can apply more broadly to many industries and areas. That is because the tough job of marketing has many common pitfalls, regardless of industry.

And because marketing is a tough job, you have a potential edge over competitors who are likely guilty of one or more of these sins as well – and unaware of it. You could be one eliminated sin away from edging out your competitors and getting all the telehealth-related PR, patients and profits you want.

It is a fact that in virtually every industry, better marketers win.

Great telehealth marketing strategies can have a powerful impact on the growth of your telehealth program, product or service. In addition to superior marketing, there are a number of other strategies that are absolutely critical to being successful in telehealth and telemedicine. That's why it's important to make sure you address them all.

As the CEO of Hands On Telehealth, Nirav Desai hosts a web-based show where he interviews leaders in the telehealth industry and publishes an on-line newsletter focused on telehealth marketing and strategy. He also consults with hospitals, health systems and telehealth companies to help them fast-track the growth of their telehealth solutions through better marketing and strategy. You can get his free eBook “The 10 Secrets of Telehealth Success” at http://www.handsontelehealth.com/freebook.

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