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6 Reasons You Should Embrace your Regulations

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We live in an extremely regulated society.

Every industry has its list of rules, its book of policies, its irritating disclaimers and its over-the-top enforcements. And it guarantees that today’s communicator will reach a frustrating crossroad where she realizes that she can’t even say what it is her product does.

We all deal with it in some form or fashion.

Over the past eight years, I’ve worked as a marketer in areas heavily regulated by the FDA (nutrition), EPA (pesticides) and FTC (network marketing). To be honest, I can’t remember the last time that I could say what one of my products actually did. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But here’s a fact: it’s a sure thing.

How Well Do You Play By the Rules

So that’s why you should embrace your regulations. It’s easy, maybe even therapeutic, to rant and complain about how your regulations don’t make any sense. It’s logical to try to argue against them with, well, logic. But none of that matters. What matters is realizing the rules to the game, and finding a way to play by them well.

Think about it: basketball has rules. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like what a foul is. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like the idea that I can’t move around with the ball without dribbling. Nobody cares that I don’t understand why I can’t spend three seconds in the lane. It doesn’t matter what I think about the rules; I have to play by them. So I concentrate on excelling in the area that’s within my boundaries.

Your industry has its rules, and for you to excel, you must play by them. No, you actually must embrace them. And here are a few reasons why:

  • Regulations are the great equalizer. Sure, you may feel like they’re holding you back, but they also hold everyone else back. You’re not alone.
  • Regulations limit competition. Most people give up at the thought of sticking to tough regulations. Which thins out your competitors. That’s a good thing.
  • Regulations give you clear opportunities. As a communicator, having these boundaries is a good thing. It means that it’s not necessarily the best marketer who will win, but the best marketer within these specific boundaries will win. That’s a big difference.
  • Regulations give your product a chance to do the work. Yeah, certain rules may make it a little harder to use claims that actually compel a prospect to try your product, but once they do, there’s no regulation against their personal experience. Which means the product that creates the most, and best, personal experiences wins.
  • Regulations keep you honest. Fess up: if someone wasn’t watching, you’d definitely be a bit over zealous in your description of your product. And you’d fall short of those promises in the consumer’s eyes. Which is not good.
  • Regulations don’t matter to your customers. Seriously, when was the last time you read the small print? Or didn’t snicker at the outrageous side effects mentioned in some drug commercial? Face it: we are oblivious to this stuff, as are buyers. We all think regulations are nuts, so we ignore them.

So, give your regulations a big hug. Accept them, and start figuring out ways to fully leverage them. Become the best player who knows how to play by the rules. Those types are invaluable.

Do you have interesting ways you’ve dealt with regulations in your industry?

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healthcare marketing

4 Essential Content Marketing Ingredients for HealthCare Organizations

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Patients are better informed today than they were just ten years ago.

Instead of consulting a doctor, they first check the Internet. With all the health-related content that is available online, they are more aware of their specific condition and thus able to make better choices about their treatment.

Unfortunately there is also a lot of false and harmful information out there that can be extremely dangerous for them to follow.

That’s why healthcare brands have a responsibility to educate and empower consumers with accurate, readable content that will guide their health and wellness decisions. However patients won’t call your office or hotline number to ask questions and get the answers they need. Instead they’ll go online to look for helpful content.

If they don’t find what they’re looking for on your website or they will simply move on to a competing brand’s site. For successful content marketing, here are 4 essential ingredients for healthcare organizations:

#1. Separate fact from fiction

Help your audience to make sense of medical news separating fact from fiction and enabling them to understand what you offer before they become sick.

Make sure that only qualified health care experts create content on your site. If you outsource your content marketing process, make sure that a medical professional reviews and approves articles before they are published on your website.

#2. Publish consistently

Don’t let your content get stale. Patients will keep coming back to your website when they know that you have something new to share.

A website that is not updated on a consistent basis not only loses out on SEO, but quickly becomes irrelevant as patients go elsewhere to find fresh content.

#3. Help don’t sell

Of course your website should include information about the services you provide. If it didn’t it wouldn’t be very useful. However that doesn’t mean you should abandon sound content marketing principles such as engaging your audience with interesting information.

Remember that patients are looking for genuine answers not ads. To be successful in content marketing, provide information that helps to solve problems without trying too hard to sell your services.

#4. Be open and responsive

Many healthcare organizations engage in content marketing with the idea of teaching or educating. However they forget that even in a class-room setting, students learn best by asking questions.

Too often for example, they don’t want to enable comments ocontent marketing tips, health-related content, healthcare content marketing, healthcare marketing, medical contentn their blog for fear that someone might say something that is legally problematic. Before you start your content marketing campaign, talk to your regulatory department and find out what policies to put in place to address potential problem areas.

However once those policies are put in place, it’s equally important for healthcare brands to speak like ‘a real person’, showing empathy, giving helpful answers and advice, and responding to questions in a human voice.

 Your Turn

Does your hospital or practice use content marketing? What other advice can you share? Please leave your comments in the box below.

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marketing communication

Mobile Marketing: 5 Simple Rules for Launching an SMS Campaign

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Is mobile marketing taking over?

The simple answer is ‘Yes’.

But let’s consider the evidence shall we:

 i) There are 6.8 billion people on the planet

ii) 4.0 billion people own a mobile phone

iii) 91% of them have their phones within arm’s reach 24/7 (Morgan Stanley)

iv) By 2013 the primary way of accessing the Internet will be via mobile browsers (Gartner)

And there is plenty more research to support why mobile should be your top content priority. Just check out Jamie Turner and Jeanne Hopkins latest book on mobile marketing, ‘Go Mobile!’

Using SMS (texting) ads is by far the cheapest and simplest form of mobile marketing. Take a look at how easy it is to create an SMS ad:

So if this is something you’ve been thinking about lately, here are 5 simple rules to help you create your SMS campaign:

 #1. Key words

This is the word that users text in to the short code (see below). Keywords should be short (8 characters or less), memorable, easy to type, and relevant to your brand.

#2. Short code

Users text the keyword to a 5-digit code called a short code. Decide if you’re going to use a dedicated (or branded) short code e.g. COKE (as in the Coca-Cola Company), or a shared short code such as 12345. Keep in mind that a shared short code is cheaper but a branded short code is more effective especially for big companies.

#3. CTA (Call to Action)

Your CTA must include the keyword, shortcode, and benefit to the user in just one simple sentence e.g. “Text KEYWORD to SHORTCODE for your chance to win a free iPad”

#4. Response

After your users respond to your SMS ad, send them a cool message that not only confirms receipt but also makes them feel special for taking part in your campaign. e.g. “Awesome! You rock!”

#5. Opt out

Be thoughtful and give users a simple way to opt-out if they don’t want to receive your messages any more. For example after each SMS message, you could add, “Txt STOP to optout.”

Key Takeaway

SMS  is the most far-reaching data application tool and has proved to be extremely successful as a marketing tool for business. It is easy to use, compatible with all networks and devices, offers a world-wide audience, is personable and cost-effective too. So if you’re wondering about using SMS to connect with potential customers, this is your time! Remember too that with SMS you are only limited by your imagination. Again, for more tips on mobile marketing check out Turner and Hopkins’, “Go Mobile!”

Over to you: Are you using SMS messaging to connect with customers? Please share some tips that have made your campaign successful.

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Marketing

How To Add QR Codes to Your Marketing Campaign

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You may have seen these 2-dimensional images at Walmart, Starbucks, on your airline boarding pass, on T-shirts, or even on your favorite bottle of wine.

QR is short for Quick-Response. It is a fairly new concept in the US but is expected to become a marketing trend in 2011.

When you scan a QR code with your smart phone you’re immediately linked to digital content on a web page that gives you additional information about a particular brand.

Some benefits of QR codes

  • With the explosive use of smart-phones QR codes are convenient and can be read by millions of consumers without the need for a special scanner.
  • Instant information: QR codes deliver to the consumer instant information about a brand or product. In turn the brand is also able to collect information about the consumer who scanned the QR code no-matter where they’re located in the world.
  • Printing costs reduced: At a very low price one QR code can be reprinted a thousand times over and distributed across multiple promotion channels. If details of the promotion change, there’s no need to reprint the code, just revise the details on the destination link.

How to generate a unique QR code for your business

There are numerous QR code-generating sites on the web. Some popular ones include Kaywa, Kerem Erkan (for more fancy features), QR Net, Likify (which is specifically used to generate Facebook page ‘Likes’) and many more.

How to read QR codes

You will get more mileage from your QR marketing campaign if you explain to your customers how to read a QR code (remember this is a fairly new concept in the US).

Consumers will need to have a smart phone app that reads QR codes. There are several free apps such as i-nigma for iPhone, Bar code scanner for Android and others. Consumers may also search their smart phones for other free or paid QR code apps.

Where to display QR codes

QR codes are normally incorporated into offline marketing campaigns on printed material. Interesting places to display QR codes include:

  • business cards (of course)
  • marketing collateral material e.g. white papers
  • event tickets
  • sales receipts
  • product labeling
  • store window display
  • packaging material
  • as stickers on your laptop (great if you work from Starbucks)
  • and many more…

Why Should I Scan a QR code?

That’s what most consumers will think when they see one. So give them an incentive to scan your QR code. Next to the image you may display a short message such as ‘Scan this code for a free pastry’ or something relevant to your brand. Try different ideas to see what works best to attract consumers.

What kind of information could QR codes link to?

Be sure to create a designated landing page to link to your QR code. That landing page could contain information such as:

  • coupons and special offers;
  • free downloads (e-books, music, etc);
  • product demos (e.g Realtors can easily provide virtual tours of for-sale properties by adding a QR code to the signage);
  • customer feedback forms;
  • ‘Like’ our Facebook Page;
  • contests;
  • and many more.

QR codes are capable of holding a vast amount of information. I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface as far as the potential they have for marketing and social activities. I’m curious to see where this is all heading.

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