Developing the essential elements for an online marketing strategy in today’s health and human service field has gone from “cutting edge” to “essential.” Why? In the age of the internet, web-based channels are the easiest and most effective way to communicate with donors, payers, referral sources, consumers, potential employees, and community stakeholders. For most organizations, this means “best practice” use of both your website and social media.
But when I speak with many executive teams about their marketing plans, the “online” portion is minimized (or non-existent). If your organization falls in this group, it means you practically don’t exist on the world’s most commonly used channels for finding health care information. (If you want to learn more about those stats, check out Maximizing Your Web Site & Use of Social Media to Build Referrals, Using Social Media as a Consumer Outreach & Marketing Tool, and How To Calculate Your Organization’s Social Media IQ: Facebook, Twitter, Blogging & More.) And if your organization does not exist (or has a minimal presence) in these key online channels, you’re consistently missing out on revenue-generating opportunities.
If you think your organization or budget is too small to have a successful online marketing program, think again. Last month at The 2016 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute, I had a great discussion with Jean Drees, Executive Director, Marketing & Community Affairs, Harbor Behavioral Health during our session, Take Your Marketing Online: Using New Digital Marketing Strategies To Your Advantage. We talked about a lot of the things that hold organizations back from moving their marketing online – from a simple lack of understanding of social media and websites, to budget and operational concerns. But Ms. Drees made the important point that organizations that want to take their marketing strategy online can do so in steps – and on a budget.
Harbor Behavioral Health is a provider of community-based behavioral health services based in Toledo, Ohio. In January of 2015, Harbor formed a joint operating company (JOC) with ProMedica, a large regional health system. This partnership includes a digital marketing strategy focused on the Harbor website, search engine optimization, social media, and thought leadership in the form of blogs, online content, online directions, and resources for consumers.
While Harbor’s marketing budget has vastly expanded with the ProMedica partnership, this wasn’t always the case for Ms. Drees and her team. Her advice for organizations looking to start an online marketing program — without major resource investments – included four key points:
- Have a plan – Know what your “basics” (website and social media channels) need to be, how much money you can invest, and the return-on-investment (ROI) you need to cover that initial cost.
- Understand your budget – It seems simple to say, “we have allocated resources to our online marketing strategy,” but when money is tight, you need to know exactly what you need and what you can pay for it. This often means hiring the necessary online marketing staff, including someone to helm the project.
- Know your voice (and your audience) – Before you can communicate effectively online, you need to know the audience you wish to reach. Your tone, topics, and communication style will be different when talking to payers, as opposed to consumers and community members. If you’re on a tight budget, prioritize your online initiatives based on your key audiences and communicate in the style they would come to expect.
- Use best practices – Small investments in the correct areas can bring the return necessary to expand in years ahead. Do your research and be sure that you understand the latest best practices in using video and search engine optimization. This may mean hiring someone new to manage online marketing, or getting new training for some of your existing staff. My rule of thumb is to use 20% of your content to promote your brand, and dedicate 80% to content that really interests your audience and engages them in conversations.
I think this serves as a great starting point for any organization (no matter how small, or how tight your budgets are) on the path to developing a fully fledged and functioning online marketing strategy. (For my work in how to develop a detailed digital marketing strategy, check out Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – Second, You Need A Plan.) Remember, any investment you can make in your online marketing strategy is a step in the right direction. As you implement and manage an online consumer marketing strategy, and meet with greater and greater success, the more sophisticated that campaign can become (and the more money you can invest in it). For more, be sure to join me on September 20 at The 2016 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat for the discussion session, “What Is Your Digital Marketing Strategy? An Executive Guide To Taking Advantage Of Online Marketing.”