September 28, 2011

Effective advertising for your healthcare business

Find out how to convert advertising into commercial strength for your practice.

If you have healthcare expansion plans in the pipeline, or if you’re planning to specialise to maximise business return, advertising can help get the word out. Paired with a strong financial strategy, a well-thought-out advertising strategy can help you deliver on business (and cash flow) goals.
But how, exactly, do you go about increasing public awareness of your healthcare business through advertising? McCann Healthcare Worldwide Australia’s Group MD, Gary Pattison, spills the strategy beans.

Clarify your audience

Defining your audience is the first task when developing an advertising plan, says Pattison, whose agency works with pharmaceuticals and health brands to develop campaigns for prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and other devices and therapeutic brands.

Find out who your target audience is and understand the complex web of what and who influences them, advises Pattison. “Gone are the days of the simple patient–GP interaction,” he says. “We now have a more empowered, educated patient walking into their GP surgery, with Google-prompted diagnosis in hand”.

“We also have the increased influence of the nurse, pharmacist, nutritionist, dietitian and other health professionals. Put the patient, or consumer as you may want to define them, at the centre and consider their current behaviour, the behaviours you desire and the routes of influence you can and cannot affect.”

Define your message and build the creative around it

Once you’ve chosen the target audience that you want to influence, clarify the message or “truth”, as Pattison calls it.

Spend some time looking for this truth, as the creative idea needs to hang on it. “Of course, the creative idea must be fresh, relevant, compelling and cut through – but ensure it delivers directly to the truth you uncovered as this will help maximise the commercial return you receive,” says Pattison.

Define goals, then channels

Don’t initially think of print, online or outdoor ads. To be relevant, think about your communication goals first – before you select the communication channels.

Define the media mix

The media mix you need depends on the challenge you have and the tactics you employ to deliver it. Don’t fall into the trap of using technology for technology’s sake. That’s a common problem, observes Pattison.

“We have clients who come to us wanting an app or a website, and we always take them back to the business problem they’re trying to solve,” he says. “We often don’t end up with the app or website they wanted but a bespoke blend of initiatives to more closely meet their objectives. Ensure there’s value in what you’re offering to your audience. That’s key. If your audience can’t take what you give them (information, direction, new tools) and use them in a useful way, you won’t get anywhere.”

Case study: Pfizer Pharmaceuticals

For Pfizer Phamaceuticals, McCann Healthcare developed an integrated ad campaign targeted at doctors. It was designed to encourage the early screening, detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The truth centred on small things a patient with the disease might do in early stages of the illness and the fact that there may be a misleading and supposedly perfectly rational explanation for their behaviour.

Via print and online ads, doctors were informed about a healthcare professionals-only resource website to learn more about early detection, the tools available and a course of action they can take. The campaign broke from the traditional ‘smiling old people’ creative and developed great cut through due to its simple truth and classic art direction. It grabbed the audience’s attention and cleverly delivered a single-minded idea.

Top four advertising strategy tips

Gary Pattison reveals his top four tips to help make your health business stand out from the crowd:

  1. Align with an advertising agency that understands your goals; one that will partner with you and offer true communications strategies, insight and cut-through creative.
  2. Push your potential. If you have something good to say about your product or service, say it in the most relevant way, again and again, in whatever channels are appropriate. Don’t just stop at traditional media.
  3. Remember, healthcare professionals are waiting to be charmed, captivated and persuaded, the same as every other consumer. When advertising to them, give them the facts – but treat them with respect.
  4. Don’t be afraid to be different. It’ll get you noticed in a crowded market place.