Links for COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Websites
Links for COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Websites
One of my favorite shows on TV is House Hunters International. It is one of the reasons I learned how to use the DVR settings on the cable box and one of the reasons I know how to use the Cablevision On Demand menu. Sometimes I watch the whole episode, commercials and all. Sometimes I skip the commercials. Sometimes, if the buyer or renter is particularly annoying (and oh, can they be annoying) I will skip right to the end and just watch the last five minutes of the show. This is the beauty of House Hunters International. Each segment of the show functions as its own mini-episode.
What exactly do I mean by that? Each segment has the same format.
The only thing that changes is the property. So, when I’m watching an aggravating couple who happen to have a four million dollar budget and they are looking for a charming flat in Paris, I can skip to the last segment and I will feel like I haven’t missed a thing.
The show gets it. By “it” I mean they get that people record their show. They get that someone might turn on the show in the middle of the episode or almost at the end. They plan for it. They want me, the viewer, to get up to speed asap. They don’t want me to feel left out or confused – and then, horrors, change the channel. It might seem repetitive to someone who watches the show from beginning to end but if you are watching it “live” you still have commercial breaks so it’s nice to have a little review post-commercial. House Hunters International understands that TV viewing is not like reading a book.
A website is not an online book.
What does this have to do with marketing? It has everything to do with online marketing, websites specifically. Your website is not a book. Your website does not have a beginning, a middle and an end. Your website should be like an episode of House Hunters International. It should not alienate me. It should not make me feel like a dummy because I landed on the “Services” page and not on the “Home” or “About Us” or “Our Story” page. Each page should give me enough information so that I feel like I know what’s going on without having to rewind.
Websites have words and pictures just like books. People read websites. People read books. But – people do not read websites like they read books. They do not start where you think they should start (like Home or About Us or Our Story) and go, nicely and neatly, from page to page, left to right. You should not ever think that a website has a beginning, middle or end. You should think of it as though it is an episode of House Hunters International!
Your website visitor should be able to land on any one of your “segments” (pages) and know, or feel like they know, what your story is. At the very least, they should know where you are located (including your CITY, STATE AND COUNTRY), how to get to your office, what types of services your provide and what your phone number is (AND THE AREA CODE!) Sure, you can and should have a Contact Us page but would it really be a big deal to put your address and phone number on the rest of your pages? No, it would not be a big deal and it sure would make it easier for the person in Reading, Washington to decide whether they want to continue looking at your site whey they see you are located in New York City.
Want to create a better online experience for your website visitors? Watch a couple episodes of House Hunters International…
For the nomadic Native American tribes, the buffalo was more than just a source of meat. They used the hide to make clothing and tents. The horns were made into cups, toys and spoons. Hair was used for saddle pad filler, rope and ornaments. Hooves were turned into glue. Thread was made out of the sinew or tendon. Even the brain was used for tanning the hides. Nothing was wasted.
It took a great deal of effort for the hunters to be able to take down a buffalo. They were not about to do all that work and not make full use of their efforts. The same should apply to your marketing strategy.
Take a look at your marketing efforts. You have probably spent a lot of time and money updating your social media, organizing events, mailing collateral, making brochures and keeping your website updated.
Picture each marketing activity as a…buffalo. Ask yourself, am I using all the buffalo?
For all that effort you need to make sure you are taking advantage of the alternative uses to your hard work. Concentrate on making those efforts worth your while. Consider the all alternate uses for your facebook photos. There are various ways they can be rearranged and reformatted to find new homes in print and online.
Trade shows, health fairs, chamber of commerce events are great places to spread business news. Incorporate pictures from your social media platforms into materials you distribute at these events. Use the pictures you take at these events to post on your online marketing outlets.
Direct mail marketing is a great place to re-use photos that you’ve used in your social media marketing efforts. Have a picture on instagram or facebook that has gotten a lot of attention? Use that as the front of your postcard. It is so easy to make and send postcards these days and, if the picture was popular online, you can drive people who may not be familiar with your online marketing efforts, to your online outlets by making sure to include the urls of your facebook and instagram accounts!
Media is constantly changing and a good marketing strategy works with the flow of change. Not against it. Video channels – like YouTube and Vimeo – are hugely popular all over the world. If you haven’t had time to make an actual video, you can take those same photos and turn them into a slide show – voila! – instant video. Now go upload it to your YouTube channel.
Keep that website fresh
Adding the photos to the news or photo gallery section of your website – make sure you tag those photos! This will not only be useful in getting the word out about the information you are sharing but will also show that you update your site regularly. Nobody wants to see obviously outdated pictures or info on your website. Keep it fresh!
Pictures are worth a thousand words. Use them. They are easier on the eye and generate a lot more interest especially now that everyone is using their phones all day, every day. It’s super easy to link those photos to your website, facebook page, etc., so make sure you do it. Don’t waste ANY of that buffalo!
Just as the nomadic Native Americans turned buffalo skulls into headdresses, I am sure you can come up with even more uses for your marketing efforts. I can’t wait to see what you do with your tatanka!
Orthotics and Prosthetics, as a field, is MADE for pictures. So get your smartphones or your old-timey digital cameras and, after everyone you intend on photographing, has signed their release forms, start snapping (or clicking) away!
While you are taking new pictures have someone else head to the basement or the attic or your archives and have them dig up all the old pictures they can find. It does not matter how long you have been in business – you have “old” pictures. What to do with all the pictures??
Find your platform
First, figure out which platforms you want to use. Facebook, of course, because you know how to use it and it is so easy to put pictures into albums. Kids, pets and high tech are album categories you should absolutely be using. Everyone loves kids, pets and cool gadgets. If you do not believe me, go take a look at Facebook. What about staff? Patient-of-the-month? Birthday celebrations? Awareness days? Put your thinking cap on!
What about Instagram? It’s huge. If you’ve got pictures it is where you need to be. Thousands and thousands of pictures are being shared every second. Instagram photos can also be shared on Twitter and Facebook. You can kill a lot of marketing birds with the Instagram stone.
Throw it back
Second, get nostalgic. Everyone loved “Throwback Thursday.” They still do even though the actual term “Throwback Thursday” might not be as cool anymore. Here is where those old photos are useful. Who doesn’t like seeing guys in short shorts and knee high socks or girls with the sky high 80’s hair? Throwback is fun. I know O&P patient care facilities and vendors that are second, third or even fourth generation. If you are a first generation facility it doesn’t matter. Start a “this time last year” album. Uh, you were a baby once, right? You’ve got baby pictures. Use them. Remember everything doesn’t have to be work-related. Just throw back to the past. School pictures. Prom pictures. College. O&P school. Start throwing!
At CEC, we love using throwback pictures as part of our clinical course presentations. What a great way to really introduce yourself to your audience – and get them to know, like and trust you – when they see you are brave enough to share your baby pictures with them! (Cute baby, right?)
Before and after
Third, use before and after photos. Orthotics and Prosthetics is all about changing people’s lives and bodies. Before and after pictures are easy pictures to take and the results are obvious to see. Patient in a wheelchair – patient with a running leg – patient running. You can also show a patient with severe plagiocephaly – patient with a plagiocephaly helmet – patient with a gorgeously shaped head. Another option? Patient with Charcot ankle collapse, unbraced, and same patient with orthoses. I do not have to tell you what makes for a great before and after photo. YOU do it every day!
Share and share alike
Fourth, do not be stingy. You do not need to create new content for every single platform that you want to use. Use the pictures for both. More importantly, make sure your followers can share your content and that your customers can share their content with you. If you have got an Instagram-addicted mother who just loves taking pictures of her baby with the Spiderman cranial remolding helmet on, it would be a shame not to let her share her photos. Many hands do make light work so do not feel like you have to do it all by yourself. Friends, family, patients, coworkers can all help lighten that marketing load. The entire concept of social media marketing is that it is SOCIAL and it revolves around SHARING so do not make it harder than it has to be!
Here’s a top 7 list for O&P marketers.
7. Create information that educates. People enjoy doing business with those they know, like and trust. Create a top ten list such as that you can distribute to patients and referral sources alike. Sharing information that educates, and doesn’t just try to sell, establishes trust and credibility.
6. Ask for feedback. Everyone loves to share opinions. What they don’t like is to fill out boring, cookie-cutter forms. Make the form (paper or online) fun and easy. Don’t ask stupid or leading questions. Get creative. Then “talk” about any changes you made based on the feedback. Changed your hours? Let everyone know that it’s a result of the feedback. Open on Saturday mornings now? Let everyone know! Offering a different line of prosthetic socks or types of skin cleaner – let everyone know.
5. Record a podcast. Who doesn’t have a smart phone or access to a computer? Recording a podcast of FAQs (“Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Wearing a Scoliosis Brace”) and submitting it to iTunes puts you in front of the millions and millions of iTunes podcast subscribers.
4. See #7 but change it to YouTube. My mom is having trouble with carpal tunnel syndrome. She just watched a bunch of Bob and Brad videos on YouTube. Bob and Brad are “the most famous PTs on the internet.” Bob and Brad get it. They know people watch YouTube to learn….and who better to teach people about O&P than YOU! (They’ve got over 1.5 million subscribers, just fyi.)
3. Hold a contest. The prospect of winning anything is alluring. Do you need a name for a new product or service? Ask your target markets to come up with a name for the product and then pick the winner. Are you launching a new Web site? Tell your target markets that you will donate a can of food to the local food bank for every unique hit your Web site gets in its first month. Not only will you engage your target market to participate, you’ll be doing something newsworthy.
2. Got jobs? High schools, colleges and vocational tech schools all have career fairs. Put together a visually stimulating display of orthoses and prostheses and participate in a career fair as an unique way to market your company.Some manufacturers or sales reps might be able to provide you with an interactive upper-limb prosthesis display that people can actually use. Having students connect with O&P technology at a local level creates buzz.
1. Create a speakers’ bureau…starring YOU. With all the advancements in technology and the current media fascination with anything related to O&P, knowledgeable speakers are in demand. Offering to speak at non-O&P (think physical therapy, occupational therapy, rehab-adjacent, Rotary, churches, etc., etc.,) meetings, events and conferences can give a big boost to your marketing efforts.
Happy almost-end-of-the-year! What will your marketing resolutions be for 2020? The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on the results of your marketing plan and to consider what changes you might want to make for the upcoming year. They key word is “plan.” Think of it like GPS directions for your marketing. When you need to get somewhere, GPS knows where you are but you have to tell it where you want to go and then it gives you options on how to get there.
Know your final destination
I am willing to bet that when it comes to a marketing plan a lot of people don’t start with the final destination, where they want to be by December, in mind. Instead they start heading off “down the road” – destination to be determined.
Awhile back I spent a weekend at Frequent Traveler University. It’s a convention for people who not only like to travel but they also like learning about how miles and points can enhance their travel experience. It was perfect timing because all my travel and loyalty calculators reset to zero at the end of the year (jut the calculators, not the accumulated points or miles.) This is important because in order for me to achieve my travel-related goals for 2020 and beyond, I need to know by the end of the year how to structure my 2020 travel plan.
For example, if my goal is to acquire a Southwest Airlines Companion pass in 2020 so that I can bring a companion along for free in 2020, then I need to determine what strategy I will use to acquire the required number of Rapid Rewards points in order to receive the pass. The final destination would be 125,000 QUALIFYING points.
Know your starting point
I know what I am starting with in January 2020. That would be zero points. Remember those point calculators reset on December 31st. You might think that there is only one route to get there – not true. The final destination would be 125,000 QUALIFYING points OR 100 QUALIFYING one-way flights . In reality, there are a plethora of routes that will get me to my final destination. Route 1 is flying. Route 2 is a mixture of flying and shopping. Route 3 includes getting a Southwest credit card (with sign up bonuses) and those are just 3 routes. Some might take me all year to get there. Some might take me a matter of months. Some might be cost prohibitive and some will be relatively inexpensive.
Important NOTE – not all Rapid Rewards points are qualifying points and not all flights are qualifying flights.
The two things I know for sure are – where I am right now and where I want to end up. What I also know is that I would really like that pass sooner rather than later and I don’t want to waste money or time getting it.
Know your route options
Back to O&P marketing…if you know that you have 270 newsletter subscribers as of today but that you want 2,499 subscribers by the end of 2020 which route are you going to take? Just like getting the Companion Pass, there are a lot of different routes with different time frames and different costs. I have clear goals. Get the points to get the pass so that my companion can fly for free so that I can save a lot of money. I know most of my travel schedule for 2020 right now so I can actually calculate how much money I will be able to save depending on when I acquire the pass. That is very helpful in determining my route.
In our newsletter subscriber example, we have a clear goal of acquiring 2,229 new subscribers. We want to make sure that all of our new subscribers are people who are relevant to the success of our business and not just “route detours” for the sake of pumping up our numbers.
What’s your marketing GPS route for 2020?
I have a collection of “oops” emails that I keep in a folder in my inbox. I would like to share some with you. “Oops – Corrected Date/Time Inside: Best Practices for Content Marketing Webinars” is one. I received it from Chief Marketer, a content marketing company in Connecticut. “We forgot something…” from Magazines.com, a company that believe it or not, sells magazines. “Oops! There’s been a slight mistake” from Thrifty Car Rental. “Oops!” from IKEA. “Oops! 5-Star Cupcakes We Couldn’t Wait to Share” from Betty Crocker. There a lot more, most with some type of “oops” or “apologies” in the subject line.
I do not know what you think, but I think that IKEA, Thrifty Car Rental and Betty Crocker have pretty sophisticated marketing departments and consultants. Of course, the people who work there are just that, people, and we all know that humans make mistakes. What if I told you that not all of those “oops” emails were mistakes – would you be surprised?
According to MediaPost, email recipients click on these emails because they are either curious or genuinely interested in figuring out whether the sender’s mistake is going to have an effect on them.
I think it is pretty obvious that a “Best New Cupcake Recipes” email might not appeal to everyone but that an “Oops! 5-Star Cupcakes We Couldn’t Wait to Share” might garner a higher open rate. Either you opened it the first time and are curious what you might have missed the first time, or you saw it, ignored it and are now curious about the mistake Betty made.
I hope you do not think that I am encouraging you to send out digital correspondence with mistakes on purpose. I am not. I hope you do not think that I am advising you to send out these emails if you made a stupid mistake that everyone can clearly see was a mistake. Take the date for example. One of my pet peeves about email newsletter programs is that even though they love to have a date section, one which often stands alone, the section does not update automatically. It seems to me that should be an easy programming fix. Even Microsoft Word knows how to fill in the current date once you start typing. Anyway, my point is that sending out an email newsletter with a November date in the middle of March is clearly a mistake. Especially if everything else in the email is timely. If that happens, you do not waste an “oops.” You just move on. Address it if you want to in the next issue but do not waste people’s time sending them an email over a spelling error.
What does constitute a reason for sending an “oops” email? Something that has the potential to have a negative impact on the recipient:
So you made a legitimate, oops-worthy mistake. Do not fret. The silver lining is that your apology email will probably outperform your original email. Just do not be that little boy that cried “Oops!”
McDonald L. MediaPost. 2011. Available at www.mediapost.com/publications/article/141444/fake-oops-emails-stop-it-already.html