Health

Delivering relevant ads to interested consumers via mobile technology bears the aura of the Holy Grail for many marketers, retailers in particular. However, the precision of mobile advertising has been lacking and advertisers have entered the waters only cautiously, spending a mere 1.5% of interactive advertising spending according to a study conducted by Forrester Research.

Recently retailer North Face put a stake in the ground and some muscle behind its mobile efforts with a campaign executed by Placecast, a San Francisco-based mobile ad company. Using a method it calls geo-fencing, essentially a set of defined boundaries around designated locations, i.e. a North Face store, Placecast sends a text to a consumer when he or she enters a geo-fenced area. The key here is that the consumer must have opted in previously to receive text communication from North Face. Therein lies the rub. If North Face has not done an effective job in building relationships with its consumers to the degree that the consumers want pro-active communication from the brand – and appropriately maintaining those relationships — the mobile strategy falls flat.

In the context of the healthcare industry, location-based, geo-fenced text messaging offers intriguing opportunities: invitations to educational events, alerts on public health issues, health screenings available, preventative care reminders, special offers through affinity programs and so on. Unfortunately, some segments of the industry have inherent problems with consumer-focused, responsive communication. Operational challenges create barriers to developing robust customer relationship management systems. Privacy regulations intimidate senior leadership into only half-heartedly pursuing and maintaining conversations with consumers. A shortage of staff and mental bandwidth undermine efforts to integrate consumer conversations into the marketing mix. And budgetary constraints squelch exploring innovative and new media.

For those of us in health and healthcare companies to take advantage of mobile advertising and other emerging technologies as an effective extension of current marketing communications, we need to ask ourselves these 5 foundational questions:

1 – Do we know who are customers are?
Consumers, physicians, ancillary providers, patients, patients’ families, etc.

2 – How much do we know about them?
Demographics, psychographics, behavioral data, previous interactions/experience with the brand, contact information, etc.

3 – What do they need or want from us?
Education, information, specific health services, referrals, etc.

4 – How can we fulfill those needs and/or wants with what we can offer or provide?
Lunch-and-Learn events, health screenings, physician databases, service lines, etc.

5 – Do we have a system in place to manage communications to these customers and track response to evolve the relationship appropriately?
Integration between marketing data and admission data, messaging calendars, measurements and metrics for all marketing initiatives, etc.

If we know the answers definitively, our foundation is solid, we are adept at creating relevant communication strategies and we can measure success… all of which make embracing mobile advertising a far less daunting prospect.

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