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Digital marketing during COVID19

Welcome to part 13 of this blog series on Crisis Management, Marketing and Communications. It seems poignant that this particular blog is number 13, unlucky for some! I have chosen to focus on digital marketing because this element is the most crucial to get right. The landscape is changing before our eyes and we as marketeers have to be on top of this evolving situation. Budgets are tight and there is no margin for error or wasted marketing dollars. Today, I want to highlight where digital marketing can let you down if you get it wrong.

“We’ve come a long long way together, through the hard times and the good!”

Praise You, Fat Boy Slim

Looking back over the last three months, I am reminded of this song. Assisted reproduction as an industry has been through a huge shock. Clinics were forced to close in many parts of the world. The patients were left high and dry, desperately looking for a clinic to treat them. Some cautious clinics chose to pause all marketing, some bold clinics increased activity online.

Let’s look at those two groups and the outcomes.

The cautious

By pausing online marketing this group of clinics saved money in the short term. But missed out on all the potential patients who were looking online during lockdown. Globally, there was a 30% increase in online traffic!

The bold

By increasing online activity this group saw an increase in new patient enquiries and benefited from the extra traffic. But this is a long-term strategy, especially when your target market is overseas patients. With many travel restrictions still in place, these bold clinics will not see an instant return on investment.

Personally, I would have fallen in the bold group. It is an interesting time to be in marketing. As the world went into lockdown, the entire marketing strategy had to change. Ad delivery needed to switch from mobile to desktop. There was no longer the two windows for commuting in the morning and the evening on mobile. Many potential patients worked from home or had no work, therefore they had time to research clinics.

Now we have moved on to the mixed phase, as lockdown eases some people have resumed the commute, some are still working from home. Some don’t have a job to go back to, some work in sectors such as hospitality, which is making a slow come back. You need to be monitoring activity on your site daily and recognising the ever-changing trends. These trends tell you how and where to place your spend, if you aren’t monitoring the change it can be disastrous for your budget and most importantly response.

Redefining the business objectives

The marketing plan that was drawn up at the end of 2019 is now null and void. As is the marketing budget! There have been many crisis management meetings over the last 3 months and it is now time to sit down and rewrite the plan. The finance department have a major headache balancing the books. Those 2 months of closure meant no revenue stream. Reopening is happening but there is a backlog of those patients who were already scheduled. This means those two months revenue can’t be replaced. Going forward we have social distancing, which means less patients in the clinic at any one time. So, the budget going forward also needs to be down sized.

Cost effective marketing

In last week’s blog I looked at some effective marketing and communication methods that require little investment. But there still needs to be some budget available for online spend. The trick here is to ensure that spend is effective. Take advantage of the global downturn of ad spend on platforms that operate on an auction system. With less advertisers competing for the same audience, you can get a lot more coverage for less money.

Global is now local

Don’t just push play on your paused campaigns! Just because the clinic has reopened, it is not business as usual. Review all previous campaigns. If you are targeting overseas patients, bear in mind the travel restrictions in your country and theirs. However, you do want to keep a presence here, so you can reduce spend but not stop altogether. Reinvest your savings in local online spend. At least 1 in 8 in your town or city will be suffering with infertility!

Look at added value

Placing an ad and hoping for the best is no longer an option. You are going to have to justify every penny that you spend going forward. Your marketing needs to be very targeted; you can’t afford wastage in mainstream media at this time. Here at The Fertility Hub we have completely overhauled our sponsorship opportunities for clinics. We recognise we have to do more for our advertisers and add value. Now our packages are more flexible and offer further exposure than just on the main patient platform. We have added podcasts, patient seminars and banner ads to the marketing mix. Clinics can mix and match packages and we are now allowing monthly payment plans to make advertising affordable at this difficult time. Be bold, ask what else you can have for the same spend!

Get your offline patients online

By cutting back on the wider marketing net, you need to engage patients who you attracted through offline channels. You should collect data when patients enquire on how you reached those patients. By analysing your prospective patient database, you can identify those patients who didn’t come through your usual digital platforms. Lockdown has got most people online, even the reluctant ones! Use outbound messaging to reach those patients and target them for events that have now moved online. Measure your response, you’ll be amazed even Grandma is on Zoom now!

Review what is and isn’t working

Now we are 3 months into this crisis, you have some good data to see how response has changed in this period. It’s a good time to see what has worked for you and what hasn’t. It’s out with old and in with the new! It’s really hard to change old habits, we are all guilty of believing that we are at the top of our game. But, it’s now a new reality and we must adapt and think outside the box to reach patients and stand out from the competition.

This cloud does have a silver lining

The nature of this crisis has forced us into isolation and our only way to interact is online. This change has to be recognised in your operational policy. Are you using What’s App to talk to patients? Many people are happier to chat over What’s App than a formal conversation. It’s a great way to handle patient enquiries, it’s personal and you can quickly determine where a patient is at on their journey and then move them in to the clinic system. It is extra time for your nurses, but every member in the team is now responsible for marketing and getting new patients into the clinic. This is the new normal! We have no choice but to embrace this change and use it our advantage.

Next seminar

I have serialised these weekly blogs into a seminar. Part one aired on May 28th and part two will air on June 30th. This seminar covers protecting your brand, online marketing, online seminars and the power of newsletters. To view the last seminar and register for the next one, please click here.

As ever, my door is always open to discuss your particular challenges in more detail, please do drop me a line.

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.

Part twelve – Cost effective marketing.