Over the last 6 weeks, this blog series has focussed on all aspects of crisis management, marketing and communications. Today, I want to explore online seminars as a marketing tool to build trust in these uncertain times.
As an industry sector, assisted reproduction has experienced a huge shock during the COVID19 pandemic. Across the world fertility services have been suspended for the last 6 weeks. Thankfully services are now starting to resume again, which is a huge relief for patients and healthcare providers.
However, there is a tough road ahead for the industry as a whole.
Unstable global economies
Firstly, the concern for patients is how they will afford treatment. Unemployment has now hit a record 30 million people in the USA. In the UK, 1.8 million people have made unemployment claims this month alone.
The true unemployment figure in the UK is set to surge. Currently, the UK government is offering a furlough scheme, this gives employers the opportunity to keep staff on and the government is paying 80% of salaries.
This scheme is set up until the end of June. There are currently 6.3 million people in the UK on furlough. The real worry here is that when furlough ends, will these people end up unemployed?
Treating overseas patients
Secondly, many countries are still in lockdown with borders closed. There are many countries who have set themselves up as health tourism hubs. For those who rely on attracting overseas patients, there is no date in sight of when these patients can be seen.
In this blog series, I have stressed the importance of marketing throughout the crisis. Patients are actively researching the right clinic for their treatment. We have seen a spike in traffic on The Fertility Hub and seen a huge increase in patient enquiries.
The situation is improving now clinics can open again. But it does mean that the marketing plan has to adapt to these new circumstances. At the moment clinics can only treat patients who are geographically close to them.
The Fertility Hub Payment Plan
During this time, we have launched The Fertility Hub Payment Plan. This has been welcomed by patients who are worried about affording treatment. The plan allows patients to book treatment with their clinic of choice in 12, 18 or 24-months’ time. This spreads the cost for patients and brings in a monthly revenue stream for clinics. This also allows time for patients to travel again for treatment.
For many IVF clinics the challenge for the foreseeable future is treading water until both the pandemic subsides and the economy recovers.
Patients need information
Infertility patients are information hungry. I have over 30 years’ experience in media and marketing. For the last 16 years, I have specialised in marketing to IVF patients. In my time working in assisted reproduction, I have learned that infertility is an all-consuming condition. Patients cannot get enough information on their condition.
Now is the perfect time to use educational seminars to build trust with patients. Nothing can replace face to face meetings, but in our new reality we have to work with what we have got! And thank goodness for the internet!
Education based marketing shares your expert knowledge. It gives your clinic credibility and builds trust with potential patients. As IVF is a largely self-funded by patients, they do shop around and competition is fierce for their business.
Preparing a series of educational seminars gives you the opportunity to present your clinic and puts a face to the name they see on your website. Infertility is a very personal subject and trust is one of the most important elements for patients.
Infertility is an ever-replenishing market
Unlike other industry sectors, assisted reproduction is unique from a sales perspective. For every success you lose a customer! But every day another patient discovers that they will need help in order to conceive. Therefore, every subject you discuss on infertility has the potential to reach a new audience.
Infertility patients are also on the market for a very long time. They can spend years making the decision to get help. Then they may try a number of clinics before they find success.
When patients register to attend your seminar, this is a good opportunity to understand your audience. Collect the obvious data of name and email address to maintain contact. For clinics in Europe, make sure patients opt in to be GDPR compliant. This is also necessary if you are marketing to patients in the EU.
Use this opportunity to also ask the patient age, how long they have been trying to conceive and if they have received any fertility diagnosis. This will give you a great insight for future seminars that you can host.
Think like a patient
Most of us are aware of the frequently asked questions from patients. But you have to delve deeper into their thinking. Marketing and medical teams must work hand in hand to convey the educational message that patients need to hear.
Also remember this is not a sales pitch, this is free educational content. Patients may attend every seminar your clinic holds but not make an enquiry all year! This is what I call the drip feed. They are now very familiar with your clinic and your staff who present. It may take some time but when that patient is ready for treatment, they will contact you.
How to host
There are many platforms available that take a lot of the technical burden out of online seminars. During the current crisis Zoom has become part of our everyday working life and Go to Webinar is also very popular. Both are subscription services and good if you want to host in real time and take patient questions.
Plan your seminars a few weeks in advance to get attendee registrations in, but don’t set too far in advance. In the current climate the diary no longer features and people will forget they registered. Send reminders out 7 days before, the day before, then again one hour before! Also ensure your seminar is recorded so it can be sent to all registrants afterwards. This gives patients the opportunity to watch again and for those who can’t attend.
The downside of live presentations is the price of your subscription plan increases on the number of attendees. You will always get more people register than actually attend.
Another option is to host your seminar on YouTube. You can now schedule a live premier, so you can send a link to registrations to watch as the seminar goes live and take questions in the comment box. This drives traffic to your YouTube channel and remains there for anyone to discover your content in the future.
Register for our seminar
Registration is now open for The Fertility Hub seminar on Crisis Management, Marketing and Communications. This will be held at 5pm on May 28, 2020. Please register here.
If you would like to discuss any of the content in this blog series, please drop me a line, I would love to hear from you and hear about operations in your part of the world.
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
Part six – Online marketing during COVID19