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By Monica E. Oss

Last week in New Orleans as part of our strategy and innovation week, OPEN MINDS Executive Vice President Timothy Snyder and OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Kristi Hamilton addressed the challenges of building a digital marketing strategy in their session, Finding The Path To Online Marketing Success: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Best Practices In Website & Social Media Marketing. Digital marketing is more important than ever in health and human services because that’s how consumers and referral sources (and donors, if you’re a non-profit) find your organization—and how they develop their first opinions about the “quality” of your services (see Best Practice Online Marketing On A Budget! and Online Ratings Are All Wrong. Consumers Don’t Care.).

OPEN MINDS Executive Vice President Timothy Snyder

There are many components to developing and implementing a “best practice” digital marketing strategy—both strategic and tactical. One of the key components is that your digital presence (website, social media, email communication, etc.) reflects your brand and communicates it to new audiences. (If you’re asking, “does my organization have a brand?”, the answer is yes.  A brand is your organization’s “identity” with customers and the community. It is the synergistic combination of your name, positioning statements, online reputation, slogans, logos, images, and more—that distinguishes you from your competitors in the minds of customers. Whether you have consciously built and managed your organization’s brand or not, you have one.)

Branding matters because it is an integral part of the emerging value equation in health and human services. If your organization is not going to compete on price alone (i.e., you don’t want to be the low-cost service), you need to compete on the combination your service benefits/performance, your marketing benefits/ease of use, and your reputation/brand.

How do you make sure your digital strategy is supporting your competitive advantage by building your brand? My colleague, Mr. Snyder, presented his seven-question preliminary checklist for brand optimization in the digital world. If you can answer yes to each of these seven questions, your organization is well on the way to building a brand that can compete in any market:

  1. Do you have clear definitions of your online target audiences? Consumers, consumer influencers, other provider organizations, payers, health plans, donors, community members…there are lots of potential people who will hear your story and see your brand.
  2. Do you have a clear organizational “story”? Your history and mission are key to developing an understandable identity that must be clearly conveyed to your audience.
  3. Have you built an online presence? To effectively build consumer relationships, your organization needs to be active online. This includes having a website that is mobile responsive, easy-to-navigate, and easy to find; as well as a comprehensive social media strategy deigned to reach your target audiences through a variety of platforms.
  4. Do you have recognizable brand collateral (logo, website, and marketing communication materials)? Visual advertising is key to immediately differentiating your organization from the competition and highlighting your unique selling proposition.
  5. Have you developed an online communication strategy for each target audience? Audiences aren’t all looking for the same kind of information, presented in the same way, and your content should reflect these audiences.
  6. Have you developed engagement strategies for each of your target audiences? Having a great image and services is necessary, but once those are in place provider organizations need to keep consumers interacting with the organization on a regular basis to build an ongoing relationship.
  7. Do you have a reputation management plan in place? It’s unavoidable that online reviews of your organization and services will occasionally be negative, and all brands need an online reputation management system to monitor the websites that post reviews, and that your consumers use.

Everything on this list adds up to a high quality online brand that can drive value within your organization. As we reviewed this checklist, it’s clear that there are plenty of organizations that have been able to build a comprehensive brand strategy—and many more that have not. Looking for an example of health and human service branding in action? One organization our speakers discussed was Simplura Health Group. Simplura has an easy-to-use website that articulates their story and their values clearly, in a way that speaks to their audience. They use “TRUST” as a “theme” to convey their purpose to their audience online with a distinctive visual brand.

The reality is that in our current market, most consumers will gain their first impression of your organization online—your best bet to keeping your organization competitive is to work on developing a strong online brand and protecting your online presence. For more, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. The Framework For A Marketing Strategy For Addiction Treatment Programs
  2. Want More Referrals? Step Up Your Web Marketing Game
  3. Marketing Is Dead! Long Live Marketing!
  4. When Consumers Find Your Organization Online, Will They Pick You?
  5. Marketing Is Strategy In Action
  6. Therapists & Online Reviews – Where Is The Ethical Line?
  7. Jumping The ‘Strategy-To-Execution Gap’?
  8. Financing Innovation & Business Development Amidst The Mergers
  9. Engaging Your Team To Make Organizational Change A Reality (Coffee Break Case Study)
  10. Untangling The Access Issues For Addiction Treatment

Couldn’t join us this week? Join Mr. Snyder on August 14 in Long Beach, California for The 2018 OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute, and his executive seminar, “How To Develop A Successful Marketing Plan: The OPEN MINDS Seminar On Marketing Strategy.”

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