Help Your Company Crack the QR Code

QR Code WaxHave you noticed all those strange little black and white boxes that are popping up all over the place? Marketers, take notice. Those boxes are Quick Response (QR) codes, two-dimensional codes that can store everything from URLs to messages. All it takes to read is a smartphone. Once the code is scanned, your phone will automatically pull up text, photos, videos or URLs.

Before you dismiss this concept as another hot marketing trend, take a look at these facts:

  • One in two Americans has a smartphone
  • By 2020, the number of people using mobile phones will reach 6 billion (nearly 80 percent of the world population) and 4.7 billion people will access the Internet, primarily through their mobile devices.
  • U.S. consumers are replacing their laptops with smartphones and tablets (like the iPad)
  • App development is growing even faster – there are almost 400,000 iPhone apps as of March 2011

The future is here, folks

QR codes are just the beginning in mobile advertising. The possibilities are endless and QR codes can offer your company a great way to stay ahead of the competition.

All you need to create a QR code is a code generator, available free online. There are several sites such as mobile-barcodes.com that generate the codes for free.  After you’ve created the QR code, you can link all your printed marketing collateral to a URL or online service by generating a hard link.

Here are a few ways you can use QR codes in your marketing strategy:

Business cards – Instead of cramming all of your contact information on your business card, just include the basics and use QR codes to direct people to your website, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Marketing materials – Include QR codes on all your marketing materials. Use these codes to direct customers to your mobile website, services page, coupon, or place where they can learn more about a promotion or sale. You can also place codes in your email signature, blog posts, online newsletters and website.

Sharing content – There’s no limit to how and what you can share. Generate QR codes that make it easy for your audience to share content, such as special event information, books or magazine articles. When mobile users scan your code, they will be prompted to share content you suggest on their Facebook or Twitter accounts.

Integrating QR codes into your marketing strategy, along with social networking, can turn a routine visit to your company’s website from a one-way communication into a two-way conversation.  And that’s a win-win situation.

Posted in Business Development, Content, Creativity, Integrated Marketing, Interactive, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Mobile, Online marketing, Social Media | 1 Comment

How to monitor your hospital’s brand on the net for FREE: Setting Google Alerts

When it comes to monitoring your hospital’s brand, the more resources you have, the better. One of those resources is Google Alerts, a service that sends you an email summarizing what the Internet is saying about your hospital or brand. The great thing about Google Alerts is that the summaries can be as basic or as broad as you want.

The benefits of Google Alerts are the ease of use and time savings involved. Without this technology, you’d have to spend countless hours online looking up articles, going to forums, visiting your competitors’ websites, following links within each webpage and checking out Twitter and Facebook. You could scan through thousands of pages of link reports, but obviously, that would take way too much time. You need something simple and affordable (FREE). Google Alerts picks up mentions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and many other social networks.

You must have a Google email account (www.google.com) to access this function. After that, the process is easy. At the Alerts service screen, you can select the kinds of content you want Google to search for: video, blogs, discussions, news or real-time. Once you decide on an option, you will then decide on frequency – for example, once a day, once a week, the minute it happens. In addition, you can set the volume and decide where the alert should be delivered.

Google Alerts is a good way to keep an eye on the competitive hospitals in your market. If you have a specific competitor, you can enter the hospital name or enter your industry with company or companies attached. When the alert is delivered, it will be a summary, so you can quickly see and analyze the data

Google Alerts is also a good way to keep track of keywords related to your industry and stay on top of all sorts of information you can use to your business advantage. When you can tell in real time what people are saying about you, you can acknowledge positive comments or counteract adverse comments to turn around public opinion or improve customer service. Google Alerts will save your hospital time and effort in the long run while having a positive effect on your bottom line. In future posts, we’ll cover other free listening tools as well as paid tools.

Posted in Branding, Healthcare Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Interactive, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online marketing, Public Relations, Research | Leave a comment

Ask Mom – She Knows

You may remember an early scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the classic, feel-good, Frank Capra movie starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey.

George, a young boy, is in a quandary about how to handle a delicate situation involving Mr. Gower, the pharmacist. Gower, distraught after learning that his son was killed in the war, had inadvertently put poison into a prescription. Thankfully, George noticed Gower’s error but wasn’t sure how to head off this potentially deadly situation.

In need of inspiration, George looks up and sees a classic pressed tin, tobacco sign hanging in the pharmacy: “Ask Dad, he knows.” George proceeds to run over to the Building and Loan to ask his father the important question of the day. His father’s busy and we all know the outcome.

In health care (and other) marketing, we’re probably best going against George’s inclination by focusing our attention and asking Mom, not Dad. After all, women make an estimated 80 percent of all healthcare decisions – for her kids, her husband or partner, oftentimes parents and of course, for herself. Consider the facts:

There are approximately 82 million moms in the United States. They control up to 85 percent of all household spending. Many refer to themselves as their family’s Chief Financial Officer.

Single moms now account for the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Forty percent of women also are involved in providing caregiving-related services for an elderly relative.

Charleston, South Carolina-based AIO Design, a firm that specializes in mass marketing to affluent women, reports women 50 years of age and older make 80 percent of the buying decisions for households that have 80 percent of the nation’s money.

Though long considered a niche market, U.S. women constitute the no. 3 market in the world. Their collective purchasing power exceeds Japan’s economy. Women account for $7 trillion in consumer and business spending and control 60 percent of all personal wealth in this country. Some other interesting statistics:

  • While women comprise slightly more than 51 percent of the U.S. population, they make or influence 85 percent of all purchasing decisions
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, one in 11 American women owns a business. In fact, women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men.

So as you’re planning your next campaign, product or service launch, be sure to skew your messaging to women. Results should follow. Mom knows.

Posted in health, Healthcare Marketing, Marketing | Leave a comment

Hospitals and Social Media: Who’s Doing It Right?

Healthcare executives are fast learning that social media is more than just a bunch of silly sounding websites. (I mean, c’mon … Plurk? Fotki?)

More and more, hospitals and other healthcare providers are harnessing the powerful viral punch of social media to connect with patients, extend their brand and build goodwill within their communities.

Here’s where a social media strategy can be particularly impactful:

Customer service – Think of social media sites as a giant comment card or patient satisfaction survey. Proactive hospitals monitor social networks for discussions that patients are having about their care and experiences. Moderators then step in to help and resolve problems.

Community Outreach – A simple Facebook page can become a natural extension of your hospital’s ongoing efforts to “reach and teach” (and, trust us, members of your community are on these sites).

Public Relations – You want your local audience to know the latest updates about your company. The web expands your PR efforts from around the corner to literal across the continent. Take it from a veteran reporter, the media is always out there trolling the Internet for stories and sources.

As I’ve watched the incredible development of hospitals leveraging social media sites, I’ve noticed a few that are doing it particularly well, including these:

The University of California-San Francisco Medical Center successfully used Twitter, Facebook and Farmville to find new donors and raise $1 million for a new children’s hospital.

The University of Maryland Medical System discovered that YouTube is a great place to test the social media waters. The system simply re-posts the extensive video content on its www.umm.edu site to YouTube  –  everything from physician profiles and disease overviews to help for caregivers.

Henry Ford Health System in Detroit hosts a series of live surgical Twittercasts (with patient consent). A robotic hysterectomy and robotic partial nephrectomy are among the surgeries covered so far. Tweets provide a running commentary and update of surgery activities, while YouTube video provides snippets of the surgery fed into the Twitter stream. In addition to an estimated 500 followers in attendance, the Twittercasts generated substantial national press coverage.

Check out this link to the nephrectomy site:

http://www.orlive.com/davinci/videos/da-vinci-surgery-for-kidney-disease

Start Talking!

Savvy healthcare executives know that it’s critical to be part of the online conversation. And the smartest ones have found that the conversation increasingly starts on a (silly-sounding) social media site.

Posted in Branding, health, Healthcare Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Interactive, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | Leave a comment

Simple Blogging Tips for Hospitals

Hospitals are experiencing marketing and customer service challenges as they struggle to find ways to address the needs and issues of their patients. Web traffic on the majority of hospital sites has risen exponentially for those that use social media, and a recent report from Ad-ology noted that social media impacts nearly 40 percent of recent hospital or urgent-care center patients, with more than half of 25 to-34-year olds reporting they are influenced by it.

One of the newer trends for hospitals, blogging, should be considered a key tactic within an overall strategic marketing plan. In January 2011, Ed Bennett’s Found in Cache reported only 106 hospitals in the United States maintaining active blogs.

Blogs are important for hospitals for myriad reasons. They can tell the story of your hospital, help prospective patients and their families find you, differentiate you from other hospitals, and drive traffic to your website, to name just a few. Here are several ideas to spark interest and engage your stakeholders:

  • Do you have some exciting news from the hospital front? A new piece of equipment, a new procedure, doctors from another country visiting your hospital, or something else that the hospital has just begun?
  • Are you recruiting for one or more positions at the hospital? Get that information on your blog.
  • Do you have a heart-warming story to tell about a recent birth, a patient success, or one of your employees accomplishing something great? Nothing succeeds more than telling success stories.
  • What about some fantastic photos from the nursery of the new arrivals? People love photos, and statistics show that rich media generates amazing traffic.
  • What about a video? Video is the future of the internet and there are many ways to capture the unique and positive experiences happening at your hospital or in your community for your blog. Video is a big driver for SEO as well.
  • Do you have a doctor or nurse who has accomplished something out of the ordinary?

Dr. Bryan Vartabedian wrote a terrific blog post suggesting what hospitals should think about before starting a blog. He recommends setting up a blog as the hub of all the hospital’s marketing strategy, incorporating traditional marketing with social media marketing. The hospital can post stories on the blog that appear in the hospital newsletter and then set up links to the articles on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The hospital blog will provide content, which in turn will drive traffic back to the hospital website, while the website will drive people back to the blog.

Developing new content regularly is what keeps a blog interesting and ultimately, successful. Lee Aase in his Social Media Pyramid recommends updating content at least once a week. Unlike a static hospital website, a blog needs to be updated regularly, so that people have a reason to go back to it and leave comments. These comments can be extremely important since they can be analyzed to help the hospital provide better, more efficient customer service.

However, keeping up with new content can be difficult for small hospitals or small communications departments that are juggling a lot of other duties. Hospitals today, therefore, are hiring independent contractors and outsourcing the task of writing and updating their blogs to stay current. Whatever the hospital decides to do, keeping the blog current and interesting is a commitment they will have to make in order to run a successful blog.

Think of your hospital blog as the two-way communication between online surfers and you. Through the use of a blog, patients and their families are able to find out what is going on at your hospital. They’ll discover what great accomplishments you’re making, what your doctors and nurses are up to, and learn about how your hospital is interacting with the local community. Your blog will help drive your SEO so that consumers have an easier time finding you when they search for healthcare information and hospital/doctor recommendations.

Your blog will improve customer service, drive more patients to your hospital, and ultimately, improve your profitability. It’s time for hospitals to get serious about blogging! And with only 2 percent engaged, you can jump ahead of your competitors.

Join us for a Complimentary webinar:  Blogging for Hospitals, July 14 @ 4 pm EDT

Get the details and register here:  http://bit.ly/blogging4hospitals

Posted in Blogging, Healthcare Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Interactive, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | Leave a comment