There are more vehicles than ever for promoting an organization’s services. In my case, a healthcare marketing firm – in your case we might be talking about a hospital or a medical practice. Yet marketing an organization has become more challenging than ever and requires a nimble touch. Here’s what I mean:
- Blogs are great for reaching an audience, for positioning a company as a thought leader, and for providing valuable information to prospective clients, customers or patients. But the “selling” on a blog by nature needs to be very soft. If you are constantly promoting your company and selling your services, your blog has essentially become a website and will quickly lose its relevance. This is true of my blog and it is true of hospital blogs. Being a resource for your readers should be your first priority. The art of using a blog as a marketing tools comes in the way you are able to weave in information about your services (wellness programs, etc) without compromising the value of the blog as a resource.
- Twitter is another great tool for promoting your brand and your expertise within a specific industry (healthcare or healthcare marketing, for example). But those people who are constantly selling on Twitter are missing the point and eventually alienate followers. As with blogs, the selling on Twitter needs to be subtle.
- I love LinkedIn Groups. They provide a great forum for networking and establishing a firm’s expertise. Thought leaders flourish on LinkedIn by leading and participating in discussions. But I am turned off when people use more overt sales tactics on LinkedIn Groups and in group discussions. It just doesn’t seem appropriate for the venue. That’s my bias.
You get the idea. These tools require subtlety and patience when it comes to promoting a business. And people don’t assume, just because you are active in all of these forums, that you are hungry to add new clients, customers or patients. It is an interesting phenomenon. As an example, I was speaking at a healthcare marketing conference in Boston earlier this year. At the end of my keynote address, several marketers from area hospitals came up to talk to me. Each one asked a version of this question: “Is your company open to taking on new hospital clients?” The reality is, people don’t automatically assume that a company is looking to expand or grow. Even though I am constantly doing things that I hope will give people the message that Jennings is looking to add new healthcare clients, it is not obvious. And that’s because the tools I’m using aren’t directly asking them to consider hiring my firm. In fact, much of my engagement on these platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc) never involves mentioning my company.
That’s why it is still so important to integrate conventional marketing tactics into the overall marketing strategy. Each platform, whether it is conventional or digital, is unique. Some are more appropriate for “passive selling” while others lend themselves to “active selling.” A more traditional channel like direct mail allows an organization to be more direct in the way it sells its services in a manner that is highly appropriate. It may not break through the clutter, but that’s the challenge you face with any marketing tactic.
My message is to put a great deal of thought into how you use each medium. Most social media platforms are not designed for active selling. They are there for you to build community and engage followers. Hopefully you’ll use that platforms to create brand ambassadors who can go out into the world and advocate on behalf of your brand. It is also important to recognize that social media tactics need to be integrated with traditional marketing tools to form a complete marketing communications program.