Welcome to part twelve of the blog series on Crisis Management, Marketing and Communications. It’s hard to believe that 12 weeks have passed so quickly and yet how much the assisted reproduction industry has changed in this time. We started off the year with goals and optimism of how we could help couples achieve their dream of a family. Who could have imagined that by March, clinics would be closing their doors and patients would be left in turmoil?
Thankfully, clinics are reopening and adapting to the new normal for the foreseeable future. This means less patients as social distancing is observed and many new guidelines to keep patients and staff safe from COVID19.
So, there is a gaping hole in the budget! No revenue for two months yet the overheads still had to be paid. The forecast for revenue is now slashed as there will be less cycles and there is a back log of patients to reschedule. It’s a logistical nightmare, but clinics are rising to the challenge.
The bottom line is that there has to be cuts, because as a business the books don’t tally. One area where cuts are usually made is in the marketing budget. Now, throughout my blog series and seminars I have argued many reasons why marketing is an investment and not a cost. But I do appreciate that cuts have to be made.
That said, in today’s blog I want to focus on the cost-effective marketing tools that keeps new patient enquiries coming in. Marketing teams have to use their budget wisely and see a return on investment.
Let’s look at the tools to hand and how we can implement them to stay within the new shrunken budget!
A dedicated member of staff for marketing
Not all IVF units have a marketing department. The cost of a dedicated marketing specialist is a sound investment in these challenging times. It’s a rocky road ahead for the economy and you need somebody with extensive marketing experience to steer your ship through this storm. If you do have a marketing team, they must work closely with finance and be prepared to justify how every penny is spent and show results. All staff have a role to play now in excellent patient service and must be go the extra mile to keep patients engaged with your clinic.
This is a free resource to get your message across to patients. Publish regular content, daily is ideal as patients see your name popping up on their news feed. I’ll talk more about digital advertising in next week’s blog. Today I want to focus on communication that doesn’t cost you anything but time and some thought of what patients are interested in.
Use your social media platforms to share positive news, useful reading, video content and most importantly share your innovation and creativity. Competition will be tough, dare to go where no clinic has gone before! It is also worth remembering to use all social media channels, not just one or two. Patients have their favourite and don’t look at others. Also look at the demographic of patients ages and which platforms reach that target age group.
The beauty of PR
Public relations is a communications strategy that gains you exposure through a trusted source. Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for! Again, the only financial cost is the time and salary of your PR specialist.
PR is a mirror, it’s the image you want to portray of your clinic to patients. In order to gain publicity, you can generate your own news that is of interest in the mainstream media. Alternatively, you can piggyback current news.
The news is still mainly dominated by COVID19, is your clinic involved in that conversation? Please see my previous blog on PR to get some pointers on pitching to journalists.
SEO and your website
You will improve your search engine ranking with paid ads, but what can you do that doesn’t cost anything? One way is to work on relationships with other organisations associated with infertility. By linking to other sites and them providing back links to your site is great way to drive traffic to your site.
It is also worth cleaning up your site, check each page for readability and see how it scores for SEO. You will be surprised how many bad pages you have that effect your ranking!
The internet has been our lifeline during COVID19 lockdown. Remember, different parts of the world are at different stages of the crisis. Therefore, a good way to connect with patients is through an online seminar. They probably need to be shorter than usual.
We are spending so much time on video conferences calls, you want to aim for around 40 mins. Anything longer and the audience will switch off! The main outlay here is time and some budget to promote the event. Remember this is not a sales pitch. This should be educational and useful to prospective patients. Always get patients to register and include an opt in for your newsletter.
This is a free resource! You have a database of patients and we know that infertility patients spend a long time to decide on the right clinic for treatment. Your newsletter should also be GDPR compliant, patients must opt in to receive communication from you. Especially if those patients are anywhere in Europe. You must also include an opt out if they no longer wish to receive your newsletter.
It’s all about doing your research. Do you ask patients how long they have been trying to conceive? Did you note the date they joined your mailing list?
I have known patients make an enquiry and not act for two years. In some extremes I have known patients make contact after 5 years and with one couple it took 10 years to finally commit to treatment! Your newsletter database holds a wealth of information if you record it properly on sign up.
Make sure you have a valid reason for sending the newsletter, don’t just send it because you haven’t done one for the month. Hopefully, your marketing agenda is jam packed with a lot of content and you have too much to say each month!
Research across all platforms shows that 80% of consumers engage in video content. The current crisis works in your favour, many people are at home and looking for engaging content. They also have the privacy to watch content on infertility.
Video is easily captured on your smart phone and can be very short. You can use it for teaser content to sign up to your seminars or to promote a blog post. Video makes other content more personable as it puts a face to that content. The production doesn’t need to be polished, therefore your only outlay is time. Also don’t be afraid to go live on social media channels!
Podcasts are easy to produce in house and our current situation has seen a huge upsurge in listeners. This a great way to engage with patients for weeks, months and years to come. I wrote a blog last week on podcasts, please take a look here.
That covers the main aspects of marketing that have no external financial outlay. Next week I will look at how to get the best from your digital marketing. I will be hosting part two of the Crisis Management, Marketing and Communications Seminar on June 30th at 5pm UK time. Please sign up here.
Finally, please do get in touch if you would like to talk about any aspect of marketing and communications, I am happy to share my experience with you.
Veronica Montgomery, Clinic & Patient Liaison Consultant
The Fertility Hub
Previous blogs in this series
Part one – COVID19 Crisis Management for IVF Clinics
Part two – Marketing and Communications During COVID19
Part three – Financial Implications of COVID19
Part four – The use of PR during the COVID19 pandemic
Part five – Protecting your brand during COVID19
Part six – Online marketing during COVID19
Part seven – Using online seminars to build trust.
Part eight – The power of newsletters during the COVID19 crisis.
Part nine – Video marketing tips during COVID19.
Part ten – Covid19 – The Indian Perspective.
Part eleven – The use of podcasts.