Telehealth: The 7 Deadly Sins of Telehealth Marketing

Evan Nasseri
February 18, 2013 — 1,259 views  
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Do you experience any of these challenges with your telehealth program, product, or service:

* Painstaking process of getting people to buy-in to your telehealth or telemedicine program?

* Slow uptake for your telehealth technology or service?
* Difficulty getting hospitals or other customers to join your telehealth network?

While you could cite a variety of reasons for these struggles, it's highly likely that you have a marketing problem.

This article covers some fundamental marketing mistakes ("sins") that are common to many industries in addition to telehealth and telemedicine. If you find that you are guilty of any of these sins, you have a golden opportunity to eliminate them from your marketing strategy, so that you can edge out your competitors and get the PR, patients, and profits you deserve.

Telehealth Marketing Sin #1: Field of Dreams
The movie Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner is built around a central premise that if the character played by Mr. Costner builds a baseball field on his farm, then legendary baseball players who have long since died will emerge from the cornfield in their youthful form to play on his field. "Build it and they will come" says his advisor played by James Earl Jones.

Let's face it. "Build it and they will come" only works in the movies.
Yet too many people are guilty of thinking that if they start or build the next great thing, everyone will be lining up to use it. Marketing is a fundamental requirement for the success of any "business" or "venture".

Even Apple doesn't subscribe to the Field of Dreams. They put a lot of time and money into market research, strategy, developing market buzz, etc. before the launch of the iPad 3 and its predecessors.

So if you are a telehealth company, telehealth consultant, or telehealth program, you absolutely need to market and promote your offering in order to attract and win customers, patients, participants, etc.

How do you know if you are suffering from the "Field of Dreams syndrome"? Just answer these questions ...

1. Do you find yourself wondering why everyone just doesn't get what a great solution you have to offer?

2. Did you put out a single press release about your new product or program and get surprised by the lack of response?

3. Do you find yourself procrastinating about putting together a newsletter, sales letter, promotion, etc. for your telehealth solution?

4. Are you "uncomfortable" selling yourself or your services?

Telehealth Marketing Sin #2: Random Whim Marketing
Statistics have shown that a potential customer has to see your ad an average of 7 times before they even notice it. Assuming they are even interested in what you're selling, they have to see the ad another 7 times before taking action.

That means you have to get your message in front of the potential customer an average of 14 times before they might even think about getting in touch. This is why ad agencies typically suggest that you run ads for 13 issues.

So your #1 goal is to make sure people recognize and remember your telehealth solution. This is why consistency is key.

While you may not have the budget to run an ad 14 times, the real lesson here is that your marketing materials need to create consistency in several forms:

* A consistent look and feel, so people learn to recognize you and your brand

* A consistent message, so people remember what you do, who you do it for, and why you are better than your competition

* A consistent delivery schedule, so people see your name and message often enough to recognize you, remember what you do, and have you at the top of their mind the next time the problem you can solve hits a critical point for them

Are you guilty of Random Whim Marketing?

1. Do you tend to market primarily when business is slow or an opportunity happens to present itself?

2. Have you avoided putting together any formal marketing plans, strategies, or goals?

3. Are you putting together advertising and marketing materials at the last minute?

Telehealth Marketing Sin #3: Me Too Marketing
If you are guilty of Me Too Marketing, potential customers don't have a compelling reason to do business with you instead of your competitors.

You need to define your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) by answering the customer's question (which may be spoken or unspoken): "Why should I do business with you among all the choices I have in your category, which include doing nothing?"

What is it that makes your products, services, or business different from everyone else's? Search online or in your region (if it applies) to see what your competitors are saying in their marketing.

If your marketing materials and sales promises sound just like your competitors, then you are guilty of me-too marketing. That's OK. Now spend your energy changing your strategy and figuring out what's different or how you can be different.

Telehealth Marketing Sin #4: Being Ego-centric

Humans are egocent by nature. We approach everything from our own perspective. And we spend most of the time thinking and talking about what's important to us.

It's only natural since we all spend our time dealing with our own life, family, health, and body.

But guess what? Your customers are no different.
While you, by your nature, want to talk about yourself and what you do in your marketing materials, your clients really want to talk about their issues so they can get some resolution and move on. What your clients really want to know from your marketing materials is "What's in it for me?"

If you came across a website whose message was something like this:
"Acme Telehealth is the premier developer of robust tele-presence applications for small to mid-sized hospitals to practice telehealth. Our company is made up of fifty of the nation's top engineers who specialize in creating powerful tele-presence technology and decision-support software for telehealth in multiple disciplines..."
- you'd likely click away.

But what if you end up on a page that says:
"Hospitals ... Get started with your telehealth solution in 30 days and become the clinical center of excellence in your region. Designed for small to mid-sized hospitals, this full function solution takes all the mystery out of telehealth and enables you to get started with a complete playbook, equipment, and tools."

If you didn't have a telehealth solution already and were thinking about it, you'd at least want to take a look.

Telehealth Marketing Sin #5: Focusing on features
This is absolutely the worst way to talk about your offering and ties into the ego-centric nature of most of the unremarkable marketing that is out there.

Unless you're talking to IT staff who assume the benefits of specific telehealth features, the worst strategy you can take is talking about the technical features of the telehealth solution: technical protocols, bandwidth, security, software and hardware specs, etc.

The basic formula is this:
1. Choose a product or service (or your business as a whole) and list all of its feature

2. For each and every feature, ask yourself, "So what? Why would someone want this?" The answer to this question is the benefit.

To put it another way, don't just tell what it is; tell what it will do for your client.

Telehealth Marketing Sin #6: Missing the target
The basic question is this: "Who is your target market?"

If your answer is like any of the following ...

* "I don't know"

* "Anyone with money"

* "Anyone who will listen to my pitch"

* Something really broad like "hospitals" or "physicians"
... stop all your telehealth marketing and advertising right now! And don't spend any more time, energy, or money marketing your business until you've found the real answer.

Why? Because you are definitely guilty of "Missing the Target".

People buy telehealth products or services that solve a problem, fill a need, or help fulfill a dream. And everyone's problems, needs, and dreams are different.

If you try to speak to too broad a market, chances are that you won't be speaking to anyone with any specificity that makes sense.

Telehealth Marketing Sin #7: Marketing Insanity

What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results.

If you answer "Yes" to any of the following questions, you are probably guilty of Marketing Insanity:

1. Do you do marketing or advertising without tracking results?

2. Do you have several months' data showing you that you are not on track to reach your goals, but you haven't done anything about it?

3. Do you find yourself complaining about the same problem three or more times without making a change

4. When you are presented with a new idea or system for your business, do you hear yourself saying "I don't want to change anything", or "it will never work for my business"?

The Last Word
It's clear that these 7 deadly sins of telehealth marketing can apply more broadly to many industries and areas. That is because the tough job of marketing has many common pitfalls, regardless of industry.

And because marketing is a tough job, you have a potential edge over your competitors who are likely guilty of one or more of these sins as well - and unaware of it. You could be one eliminated sin away from edging out your competitors and getting all the telehealth-related PR, patients, and profits you want.

It is a fact that in virtually every industry, better marketers win!
Great telehealth marketing strategies can have a powerful impact on the growth of your telehealth program, product, or service.

In addition to superior marketing, there are a number of other strategies that are absolutely critical to being successful in telehealth and telemedicine. That's why it's important to make sure you address them all.

Evan Nasseri