Archive | June, 2012

Rumor: Direct Mail is Dead

28 Jun

Is direct mail dead?

No, but you need to follow some basic rules to ensure proper care and feeding. There’s a lot you can do to increase the likelihood of getting consistently solid results.

Some guidelines for effective direct mail:

  • Write to the people most likely to respond. Your top priority is to present your message to the right people. Who are they? Just take a look at your existing customers for the answer. Ask yourself questions like: Where do they live? How old are they? Carefully reviewing your database will give you some important insight.
    Of course, mailing to your existing customers will be the best list of all, but we’ll save that discussion for another post.
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  • Use a marketing formula known to work. The AIDA model of marketing is one example. AIDA consists of 4 different phases: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. Attention is the phase that sparks the interest of a consumer. It could be a unique design, special pricing, or a great offer. The Interest phase creates a desire for the product or service. Consumers want to know more about the product/service, its functions and features. Stimulating an action to buy is the Desire phase. After considering the functions and features of the product/service, desire may grow. Leading to the final phase, Action, where the consumer purchases the product/service. Since desire triggers action, the consumer will only buy when they finally conclude the product/service fulfills their desire.
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  • Mail constantly. Frequency of marketing, especially in direct mail, leads to awareness and response. People are in different stages of acceptance regarding their hearing loss. The chances of you sending a mailing to someone, at precisely the time they are contemplating a solution to their difficulties are exceptionally slim. It takes numerous “touches” for a potential patient to warm up to the idea they need to act on their situation. The good news is they are seeing messages like yours frequently; the bad news is they are seeing messages like yours frequently. If you aren’t keeping your messages in front of them they will have no choice but to act on your competitors offer.
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  • Test! Most people send just one mailing out and then base their conclusions about direct mail on that one result. You should develop an annual plan, then review it quarterly. Analyze the response, for sure, but also be certain to look closely at the target mailing area, the offer, the call-to-action (CTA), and the frequency of your efforts. Try new messages and packages until you find a combination that works. As long as you’re not sinking your last dollar into your marketing, a poor response is no big deal, because you learn something with each effort. When you identify a winning solution, stick with it. Don’t jump around to other things simply because you are bored with the material, let the results drive the process. Use that winning formula for the majority of your volume and continue to try other options to improve on the results.  If something does better, then switch.
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  • Pay attention to details. There’s an order things have to happen in for your mail to generate responses: it has to be delivered, then opened, then read, then acted upon. Consider your efforts with each stage in mind — make sure your list selection is well-tuned, an attention-getting tactic is obvious, there is a compelling offer that jumps out, and finally end with a strong call-to-action to close.  The majority of consumers who respond to direct mail prefer to be told specifically what to do next, don’t leave them hanging with a soft close!

So, to conclude… is direct mail dead?

No, the fact is, direct mail still works. Any problems you may be experiencing are likely to be caused by faulty implementation or poor execution, not the strategy. It isn’t rocket science and the biggest thing stopping most business owners from using direct mail successfully is an irrational fear of failure. While it might not be the stronghold that it once was, due to cost escalation and falling response rates, it is still an effective channel for hearing healthcare marketers to reach out directly to key prospects (and customers) in a robust marketing program that generates positive ROI.

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Developing a Business Website

14 Jun

It’s likely you have a website for your business already — statistically speaking, most businesses today have a web presence of some sort. Great! Can you say one way or the other if it is working for you? Is it designed to be informative, does it provide consumers with relevant content, and has it helped increase interest and sales in your practice? On the flip side, if you happen to be a business without a website, do you know what it takes to make it successful?

Designing a great site is more than nice colors

Website templates and simple build-your-own software has made it relatively easy to develop a functional website quickly. However, these options typically suffer from many disadvantages as well. Just like desktop publishing and photo editing software have given anyone with a PC the opportunity to become their own Art Director, these web tools have afforded business owners the option to develop a site for themselves.

If you have little experience with website design, or design in general, you should consider utilizing the services of an Internet marketing professional. Why? Because your business is counting on it; because you are probably already facing time and schedule challenges in your life; and (most importantly) because you may be inadvertently limiting your new site’s visibility, or causing an unseen barrier to the growth of site visitors and subsequent sales.

Finding a qualified provider can be challenging as well. It may be tempting to consider your nephew’s friend, who is “good with computers” and has put together some “really cool sites” for his/her band and a few neighbors. Sure, it may seem like a prudent way to keep costs down – initially. How about for the long-term? Who will make updates, corrections, revisions?  How will you manage the care and feeding of the content on the site, or will you leave that information static? What about technical concerns, such as broken links or hosting issues?

We recommend working with a professional or agency that specializes in Internet marketing solutions beyond just web design.  Often, that expertise is of extra value, as they can combine other useful features into your site to ensure its success and continued existence. There are other considerations involved in developing a business website. One critical objective is understanding not just what you want your website to achieve, but also what your customers expect from your business.

What do your customers want from your business?

Addressing this question does not need to be difficult. There are some quick ways to assess your needs. First, you should understand what the competition is doing. Researching a competitor’s website can provide you with important insight. Looking at their website(s) from a customer’s point of view you’ll want to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Some things to look for are: Is information easy to find? Does the site look appealing? Is the website one of the first listed in a keyword search? Is it clear and easy to contact a representative and schedule an appointment, or are there many steps involved?

Now is the time when you will come to realize the benefits of using professionals. After an initial concept of your site has been designed and laid out, the content can be written. They can create concise, informative content that captures attention and provides potential customers with the information they seek. Equally important, the content will incorporate keywords that ensure your website is optimized for search engines (known as SEO), crafted to improve the site’s ranking, and getting you positioned ahead of your competition.

Measuring success

Creating a site without reviewing its analytics is like sending out a direct mail package and not tracking its response.  Site analytic tools can provide you with a wealth of vital information regarding your website, including how many visitors per day, what keywords and searches were used, how long they spend on the site, and more. This data can be put to good use, helping to regularly tweak the site and its content – making it more appealing to visitors and keeping you a step ahead of your competition.

AHAA has established a partnership with WebArt, a professional web development company, to assist all Associates in the creation, refinement, and management of their digital marketing efforts.  WebArt will work directly with you to implement a web strategy and customize a development solution to match your specific requirements.  Together AHAA and WebArt have created several exclusive packages for site creation, optimization, and advanced digital marketing.

Contact AHAA Marketing [communications@ahaanet.com] or check out WebArt by clicking here.

Intro to Digital Marketing

7 Jun

AHAA’s recommended digital marketing strategy is centered on the development of highly relevant and flexible websites built upon a Content Management System (CMS) platform. CMS websites allow the user (Associate) to make routine changes or updates to their own website (e.g.: store hours, employee bios, headshots, newsletters, blog posts, etc.) These sites are rooted in consumer intensive content and communicate the Associates’ clinical service message. The results of this approach are sites optimized for search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) helping to drive traffic to their website.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization improves page ranking.

An important addition to any website development is the incorporation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Focusing on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) through content, keywords, and tagging (keywords inserted within the code for the site) encourage search engines to find and competitively rank your website higher than competitors relative to specific search terms. Different search terms will have different results rankings. Optimization improves the search results for several key words or phrases by emphasizing those words within the content or structure of the site. This type of SEO is known as organic and helps raise website page rankings and remain at or near the top of the search listings. Using organic optimization requires continuous SEO management and is necessary to keep a viable online presence.

Another optimization strategy is Search Engine Management (SEM) and a tactic known as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) web managers help businesses increase their online presence. Paid links appear as the first few search results from the search engines (usually in a shaded box) and also in a narrow, vertical column along the right-hand side of the results page. PPC requires a monthly budget as the advertiser is charged a fee each time a consumer clicks on a paid link. Keyword fees are negotiated and bid upon by multiple advertisers, with highly sought after words drawing higher rates. This type of optimization is best added to a website once a strong organic SEO methodology is implemented.

AHAA has created a website development program that allows Associates to create a new site, revise an outdated one, or supplement their current site with additional services and support.  Contact AHAA Marketing at 800.984.3272 to discuss your goals and objectives or speak with your Associate Manager to get more details and pricing.  A capabilities presentation and a portfolio of websites are also available.