Monday, June 30, 2008

Q. We’re opening a branch in a new area. How do we tailor our marketing to build community awareness?

A. When creating marketing materials, the first question you ask should be “Who is my target audience?”

There might be multiple answers: Patients, caregivers, discharge planners and, if you’re in an area where managed care dominates the insurancescape, case managers.

To cover all bases, it’s advisable to address all those constituencies.

One of the most interesting ideas I’ve seen recently came from an HME provider in Pennsylvania. She commissioned a watercolor of her new location and used it as the cover for an announcement card, which was mailed. It was a very beautiful piece-the kind of thing that could very well be tacked up on a bulletin board in a case manager’s office.

Adapting that idea to a budget could mean taking a photo of your new establishment and using that as part of the announcement.

An open house is never a bad idea, and while you’re at it, check with your chamber of commerce to see if they do ribbon cuttings at new businesses. Don’t forget to send a press release (editorial coverage is free) to local media outlets.

Book appearances at service clubs (always seeking programs) and assisted living facilities, and get a list of health fairs in your new area. This might be a bit out-of-the-box, but do not rule out organizations with younger members. Those individuals have parents and grandparents.

One-time newspaper advertising is expensive, so check out contracting for a specific number of column inches. Cable TV advertising and radio can be reasonable. If you do purchase advertising, ask your account exec, regardless of the medium, for demographic information, so you can put your dollars where they will have the greatest impact for your business.

Carolyn Cole is vice president-corporate communications for The VGM Group in Waterloo, Iowa. Reach h