During the COVID19 crisis, I have been writing a blog series on all aspects of crisis management, marketing and communications. With many IVF units closed, it’s been a terrible period for devastated patients with the postponement of fertility treatments. Unlike other industries, assisted reproduction is seeing an upsurge in patient enquiries, yet clinics are unable to meet that demand. However, at different stages clinics are now starting to reopen, which is fantastic news for the industry as a whole.
Marketing is an investment
Finance directors are having a tough time balancing the books with high overheads, but no revenue stream. Cuts have been made where possible, but this blog series has reiterated that marketing should NOT be one of those cuts! Each of the blogs has given a good argument as to why marketing is not a cost, but an investment. I have over 30 years media and marketing experience, spending the last 16 years specialising in marketing to fertility patients.
In the last 5 weeks, I have covered crisis management, marketing, financial implications, PR and protecting your brand. Today, I want to cover digital marketing as this is one of the most important elements of your marketing assets. With many of us in lockdown, online is one of our only links to the outside world. Other mediums that perform well would be radio and TV. However, these come with a much higher price tag and there is a lot of wastage for IVF clinics.
Your online presence has many factors to monitor and improve during our current situation. Let’s start with your shop window, your clinic website. Now is a good time to invest in your SEO. It’s a job we are all aware needs doing, but it slips down our list of priorities in normal times!
One way to improve your site’s ranking is through back links. Now is a good time to reach out to other organisations who attract potential patients. Search keywords in news and see what comes up, it’s not your competitors! These third- party websites are a great resource that can drive relevant traffic to your site. As these other companies are not in competition with you, there shouldn’t be a problem in linking to your site. Now is the time to work on relationships.
Spend some time on Google Analytics, compare behaviour on your site pre lockdown and now. Do you need to change your ads to reflect changes such as the device people are using to view your site? Pre lockdown many patients would have used their mobile device while commuting. Check to see if this has changed and are you now getting more desktop traffic? This is important for Google ads so that your ads are being seen.
Also use Google Analytics to set markers for key events such as government announcements. You can also set up alerts if you experience a drop or spike in traffic. All of this information keeps you in touch with current trends and how you can adapt your marketing message to address this behaviour.
IVF clinics starting to reopen
Last week, I covered protecting your brand and covered a dedicated landing page for operations during the COVID19 crisis. There is good news for IVF clinics as governing bodies have reviewed guidelines on resuming ART treatments. The European Society for Human Reproduction (ESHRE) updated guidelines are here. The American Society for Reproduction (ASRM) updated guidelines are here. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) are reviewing their guidelines this week and will announce a date that UK clinics can reopen.
Start marketing now
If your clinic has suspended marketing activity during this period, it is time to START! There are huge cost savings to be had at the moment. Paid advertising such as Google ads, Facebook and Instagram all operate on an auction system. With a downturn in marketing across the board, ads are performing well and you are getting a lot more bang for your marketing buck. However, if you wait until you have an official date then you are back to competing for the same patients. Also, the price will be driven up again in the bidding.
At this time, Facebook is reviewing all adverts manually. This means ads are taking longer to start running, so make sure you plan ahead. If you do need to change an existing ad, duplicate it and make your changes if absolutely necessary. Leave the previous version running while you wait to get the updated ad approved. Also review all your call to action on ads, are they running with ‘Call now’? Are your phones manned? Or will the patient be left frustrated when told your clinic is closed and they should in fact now email!
Advertise across all platforms
Patients are human and each has different preferences of where they like to get information. Some people prefer Burger King over McDonalds. Some people prefer Pepsi over Coca-Cola. Some people prefer Facebook over Instagram. With that in mind, it is important that you include ALL social media platforms to reach your audience. And with constantly changing interfaces and algorithms you have to pay to get your message across.
The same applies with specialist websites for infertility patients. The more places you have a presence, the more likely a patient is to trust your brand as they see your name frequently is all different places. Ask patients to talk about you in chat forums and share their experience of your clinic. Use testimonials on third party websites to endorse your brand.
Adapting to the new normal
Even when clinics have a date to open, there will still be many challenges. If your core business relies on patients from overseas, it may still be some time until you can physically see those patients. Your marketing will now need to focus on your local market and plan for international patients at a later date.
A new reality is calling and as marketing professionals, it is up to us to accept that call or carry on as we were and decline it! In a previous blog, I spoke about the possibility of clinics offering a payment plan. This enables clinics to book cycles in 12, 18 or 24 months time, patients then spread the cost making monthly payments. There was a very good response to this from clinics.
As part of National Infertility Awareness Week, The Fertility Hub launched a patient survey to get their views on the current situation. We are still collecting data, but two keys things stand out. Patients are worried about paying for treatment and don’t feel supported by their current IVF provider.
We launched The Fertility Hub Payment Plan last week to patients and are getting many enquiries. If your clinic would like to participate then please get in touch.
Next week, I will look at online seminars. In the coming weeks I will also cover newsletters, video and podcasts.
There will also be a special webinar in May for IVF clinic managers. This will incorporate all of the marketing topics that have been discussed in this blog series plus some extras! This will give you a chance to ask questions and discuss the current situation in real time. Registration opening soon.
Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss any aspects of marketing at this time.
Veronica Montgomery, Clinic and 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