Healthy communication

Informing and empowering customers to make the best purchase decisions is a worthy goal for marketing communicators. I agree with a recent essay from Captive Health that this is essential for health care communication as well. Educating patients about how to avoid disease and manage ongoing conditions is not only the right thing to do, it also saves money.  In fact, the author argues that providing information should be considered part of medical therapy and therefore standard practice.

In most aspects of life, informed decisions result in better outcomes. We know that if a customer chooses to buy a particular product or service based on inaccurate or incomplete information, she will regret it later. So while marketing communicators want to share positive messages about their clients or companies, it’s important to recognize that audiences are savvy and want the full picture. We’re all consumers of health care services so we want to know what our medical options are and the pros and cons of each.

According to Captive Health, more education for both health care providers and patients is needed to help them engage in fruitful discussions about medical management options together. The more we talk to our health care professionals about the risks and benefits of various interventions, the more informed we’ll be to make healthy decisions. It’s not easy to prioritize honest dialogue throughout the health decision making process when appointment times are tight and budgets even tighter. But the improvements in health outcomes and financial savings that arise from empowered patients demonstrate why better health communication is a worthy goal.

I’ve written in a previous blog post that effective communication helps customers clearly understand what they’re buying into so they are happy to take action and even recommend the same to others. What might happen if you give your customers all the information they need to make the right decisions for themselves? Educating and empowering your audience to do what’s best for them may be the right thing to do and may earn you more loyal business in the long run.

Captive Health report

Marketing: A dark art?

Recently, I heard marketing described as ‘a dark art.’ What a shame that our profession is so misunderstood and maligned. This reputation for trickery and obfuscation is undeserved. My guess is that people who feel this way have experienced unsuccessful marketing campaigns and are fearful of sorting out the reasons why the programmes failed.

Professional marketeers and communicators bring ethics and transparency to their work. We aren’t misleading or mysterious and our intention is not to dupe people into doing things they shouldn’t. Certainly in the health care field, there are numerous regulations to stop dishonest sales techniques. But the communicators I admire avoid deception because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of industry rules.

We are paid to develop persuasive messages and make sure the right audiences see them at the right time to encourage action. Yes, we research audiences and identify their motivations to sell products and services, but there is no hidden agenda. The last thing we want is for audiences to feel bullied or tricked into making decisions, then regretful afterwards. The ideal result is for an audience to clearly understand and buy into our marketing messages so they are happy with the intended action and even recommend it to others.

All this pushes consumers to be more savvy, which is no bad thing. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if people carefully analysed their purchase options and made educated choices? The more shrewd audiences become, the more honest marketing campaigns need to be. One could suggest this creates a virtuous circle between communicators and their audiences.

Despite comments about marketing as a dark art, I will continue aiming for transparency and honesty in my communications programmes. It makes good business sense because this is what clients want. The Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) published a report demonstrating that the top three attributes clients look for in consultants are creativity, honesty and trust. So let’s continue being genuine and transparent and carry on the professional reputation of the marketing field.


Five tips for 2015 communication planning

It’s the time of year when our thoughts turn to wrapping up work for the holiday season and looking ahead to business growth in the next year. Most businesses need thoughtful planning to grow and develop so take some time to create a 2015 marketing plan. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of a plan as it can be as simple or as detailed as suits your business. Yours may be scribbled thoughts on the back of an envelope or a detailed document outlining activities and timing. Whatever works for you, here are some questions to consider when developing your marketing ideas.

1. Assess 2014

What marketing activities resulted in expansion of current business or new leads? Which ideas felt the most effective? Look at the amount of time you spent on different types of marketing and think about which activities were the most efficient in producing results. Where did you invest your marketing time and money? Did you communicate with the right target customers and if not, why not? Did your business grow in the direction you wanted it to? If you have time, ask a few of your new clients how they heard about your business and why they chose to engage with you.

2. List target clients

Based on your existing client base and your thoughts about new business, decide which new clients you’d like to reach in 2015. Do you want to gain more of the same type of work or do you want to add customers to your roster from new industries? Do you have specific expertise that is not being used by your current customers and, if yes, would you like to work with new clients in that area? Be as specific as possible by listing companies and individuals you’d like to work with and which of your services or products would benefit them.

3. Mix and match

With the 2014 assessment for reference, list the marketing activities you will implement in 2015. If something worked well, don’t reinvent the wheel but update and repeat that process. Also be open to new communication avenues that you haven’t considered in the past. Your decisions need to be guided by your audiences so you’ll need to do some research into what will work for each of your new target clients. For each new target, think about their influencers, where they learn new information and how you can get your messages in front of them. You’ll want to position your products or services as solutions to your target’s business challenges so take some time to understand their needs. Match up your list of new target clients with the marketing approach you’ll use for each.

4. Strengthen existing relationships

It is so much more efficient to gain more business from existing clients than to recruit brand new customers.  Make a list of the existing clients that you really want to keep and grow in 2015. Think about why they chose to work with you and make sure you’re still going above and beyond for them. Perhaps 2015 is a good time to offer a feedback session where your key customers can tell you what they feel is working and what could be improved. If hospitality is appropriate, take your top clients out for a new year’s lunch to find out what new business challenges they’re facing. Offer as much support as you can, even if it means referring the client to an associated business. Choose one new service or product to introduce to each existing client in the course of strengthening relationships next year.

5. Make the time

Have you just found your wrinkled 2014 marketing plan at the back of a notebook and thought, ‘Those were some good ideas – I wish I had implemented them this year’? Do you recall a distant but energetic conversation with a mentor or peer about exciting new communication approaches? Let’s make sure 2015 is different and that you’ve got solid results from your marketing efforts one year from now. Make time in your own way. You might mark one day a month in your calendar and spend it communicating with new target clients. Or you could spend several days in January planning different messages to use in your client communication through the year. Perhaps scheduling in-person meetings with your existing clients will strengthen those relationships. Or just keep a visual reminder of your 2015 marketing ideas in your office.

Good luck writing your 2015 marketing plan. I’m wishing you all the best for successful business communication in the coming year!

new year