In this series of blogs for IVF unit managers I have been sharing my 30 years of media and marketing experience. COVID19 has impacted every sector of business including the assisted reproduction industry. The situation continues to evolve globally and the marketing department has taken centre stage for crisis management, communications and marketing strategy. As the lockdown starts to ease, it’s a balancing act of monitoring your local situation and monitoring the countries where you are targeting patients.
In today’s blog, I want to look at the impact of COVID19 on your media buying strategy. I want to explore how your media planning and messaging has to adapt to this new landscape to reach infertility patients. Firstly, we have to see the positives and negatives in this situation. Every cloud does have a silver lining, but only when we balance the negatives! We have to identify what the opportunities are and how they can be utilised to enhance your marketing efforts.
Don’t go dark on potential patients
Since this crisis management blog series started, I have argued to not suspend all marketing. My reasoning was simple, patients needed support and communication when clinics were forced to close. Sadly, not all clinics heeded this advice and went dark on their patients. A complete communications blackout! Here at The Fertility Hub, our own patient survey showed 68% did NOT feel supported by their IVF provider. This has now been supported by a recent paper presented at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) Virtual Annual Congress.
Sharp increase in mental health issues for IVF patients
Evidence was presented from UK and Italian patients. They found that delays and uncertainties in treatment have been and remain a source of anxiety and depression for many patients. Dr. Babu Karavadra, University of East Anglia, UK presented a study of 422 patient experiences. He found 92% of patients reported a negative impact. Dr. Karavadra said, “I hope that service providers will use the findings to appreciate the patient’s perspective when fully resuming their services and be mindful of patient concerns.”
Professor Jacky Boivin, Cardiff University presented a separate UK study of 450 participants, which also revealed 1% of patients expressed suicidal thoughts. The psychological impact of the COVID19 shutdown was also evident in Italy. They saw a sharp increase in mental health problems among patients whose IVF was interrupted. Co-Chair Professor Françoise Shenfield said, “Clinics should consider how best to manage patient uncertainty as they reopen. It’s important to realise how anxious patients are and to help them as much as possible.”
Take away messaging
These studies all had resounding themes of anxiety, depression, uncertainty and fear. Clinics need to address this in their advertising and messaging. Now is the time to promote your support services of counselling and any specific mental health programmes that you are offering. That means marketing budgets cannot be frozen if you want to reach these patients. The simple fact for any business in the COVID19 era, is that operational costs will increase, however revenue will decrease.
Media has taken a beating
The media as a whole industry has taken a huge financial beating. With all sectors freezing marketing budgets, mainstream media are reporting huge losses for Q1 & Q2 for 2020. Sadly, many publications have closed their doors. The hardest hit are the specialist publications in sectors still suffering, such as entertainment, music and hospitality.
As a publisher, I am sad to see so many colleagues filling my LinkedIn newsfeed begging for employment. These are very sad times. All of that experience and knowledge is gone and many lives ruined in the process. However, some media have adapted to the change and are reporting huge financial gains for Q1 & Q2. As an IVF clinic you need to adapt your media buying, planning and messaging to reach your audience. The patients are still out there, you just have to change how you are reaching them!
On the up
First and foremost, online traffic increased across the globe by 70% for Q1 & Q2. If your clinic wasn’t digital before, it HAS to get online now. In my role here at The Fertility Hub, I am astonished at how many IVF units don’t even have an email address on their website. So many just have a phone number. Making a call to a clinic is a nerve-wracking experience for a patient, make it easy for them!
Drive traffic to your site
Just having a website isn’t enough, you have to drive traffic to that online shop window. To drive traffic to your site, you need a complete media strategy of where you will advertise your site.
Online events have replaced in person events. Recent media coverage suggests we could be living with COVID19 for years to come, a depressing thought but a reality we have to face. Online events allow clinics to express their personality to patients. Patients are information hungry and infertility as subject matter is very content rich. Always remember as you see success with one patient, another one receives an infertility diagnosis, we work in an ever-replenishing market!
Podcasting is also seen a huge surge in downloads. People’s listening habits have changed, podcasts were downloaded and listened to on the daily commute, however lockdown globally has seen them downloaded at all hours of the day. We launched ‘Inside Her Information’ this month across all streaming platforms and are excited to work with all different experts in the field.
Getting more for your marketing budget
With many markets in decline, you can take advantage of digital ads that use an auction system. With less advertisers, you as a clinic can get far more impressions and in turn clicks to your site. Although I do see such terrible wastage. I am based in London, when I search IVF, I am presented with Google ads showing me clinics that still have air travel restrictions in place. This is where you can save money. Do not just resume your marketing pre COVID19. I’m not saying don’t market to patients who can’t travel to you at the moment. But a search word like IVF is a high premium search word, so keep a presence but not on one of the most expensive search terms!
While you focus on your global market becoming a local one, things like radio and TV are desperate for advertising revenue. Build your relationship with your contact at that media house. Ask for their rate card, then work out what you would like to spend. Then negotiate. Don’t expect it to be completely free but do expect a lot more thrown in for good will.
Facilitator vs. Publisher
It is important for clinics to understand that the role of a facilitator differs greatly from a publisher. I am asked time and time again if clinics can have a profile page on The Fertility Hub and then pay a commission on patient referrals. The simple answer is no. We are a publishing platform; our knowledge and background is medical communications.
We invest heavily in our marketing to drive patients to our site for information. A facilitator is working with patients to find them the right clinic and are there for the whole process. Our role is to specialise in marketing to infertility patients and to publish information for both patients and healthcare providers in assisted reproduction.
If we invested our time in creating a new business as a facilitator, then our core business would suffer and we have invested too much time to let that happen. We also know that a patient takes on average at least 2 years to decide on a clinic for their treatment, we would be bankrupt if we spent our money marketing to patients to then wait 2 years for each commission to pay. It’s like asking if you are willing to treat a patient free of charge and they only pay when you get them pregnant? It’s a business model that would see you close your doors within a year!
Drive a hard bargain
In short, media as a whole are suffering from the impact of COVID19, so please be supportive and by all means drive a hard bargain! You need all forms of media to reach patients and we as publishers need you to support our businesses so we can continue to provide these platforms.
The Fertility Hub has a wealth of content. We have adapted that content to create more patient seminars and podcasts in addition to the main patient site. We have seen a continued growth in traffic and more engagement since the start of the pandemic. Please request our media kit here to see how The Fertility Hub can help you reach patients.
Next free seminar for IVF clinic management
Finally, our next Crisis Management, Marketing and Communications Seminar for IVF clinics is on July 28 2020 at 5pm UK time. This 40 seminar with a Q&A session will cover:
- Video marketing tips
- Use of podcasts
- Cost effective marketing
- Digital marketing.
The seminar is free of charge so please sign up here.
I’m always happy to speak to you about your clinic’s individual challenges, so please feel free to drop me an email and arrange a call.
Veronica Montgomery, Patient and Clinic 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.
Part thirteen – Digital marketing during COVID19
Part fourteen – Best practice on your website
Part fifteen – How I.T can enhance your marketing efforts
Part sixteen – Let’s talk strategy