General, Marketing with Mansfield

Now’s the Time to “GPS” Your Marketing for a Successful Year

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?

General, Marketing with Mansfield

What Email Newsletter Marketers Know That You Don’t!

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.

Mistake? Or No Mistake?

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.

Reason for sending?

What does constitute a reason for sending an “oops” email? Something that has the potential to have a negative impact on the recipient:

  • Broken link – this is a big deal.
  • Day or date of an event mistake – definitely send one.
  • Venue mistake – of course.
  • Incorrect directions – absolutely.
  • Sent the email to the wrong list – HURRY!

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!”

Reference:

McDonald L. MediaPost. 2011. Available at www.mediapost.com/publications/article/141444/fake-oops-emails-stop-it-already.html

General, Marketing with Mansfield, Orthotic Prosthetic Continuing Education

Who’s a Winner? You’re a Winner!

Who doesn’t love a winner? Everybody loves a winner! Everybody loves to win. Winning something – and talking about it – can be a marketing bonanza. Even just making it into the qualifying rounds or final stages of a competition can get you great buzz.

Step One. Determine Eligibility.

The first step is to find some awards you are eligible to win. The Small Business Association is always a good place to start. Also, check out awards offered by your national trade and professional organizations. Your local chamber of commerce is another association that routinely gives out awards. Don’t forget to just…google!

Do you have a resident on staff? There are several awards available for O&P residents, too.

Research these organizations and others like them, but then go beyond professional and trade associations and do a little research on your vendors– big and small. Do you use Dell computers? They have a small business award. Have a business plan? The Miami Herald has the Miami Herald Business

Step Two. Plan Your Challenge.

Doing any renovations or remodeling or upgrading of computer or fabrication systems? The Cleantech Open runs the world’s largest clean technology business competition and are looking for the best clean technology ideas from around the world, according to their website.

Step Three. Toot Your Horn. Loudly.

Alright, you’ve found some awards for which you, your staff and/or your company might be eligible. Submit the application and make sure you monitor your progress. A Google Alert would be a great way to keep tabs on the contest so you know when the winners are announced. Hopefully you win but even if you’re nominated as a finalist or receive some kind of ranking you can still toot your own horn.

Step Four. Write a Release.

Submit it to trade publications. You might not even have to write it yourself. In many cases, the award organizers will actually supply the winners with a press release template for the award.

Of course you are going to put it in your email newsletter. This gives you a chance to share the award and with the people who are most interested in you and your business: your subscribers. You don’t have to be nearly as politically correct as you have to be in your press release. Make sure you link your announcement back to the original announcement or news story in which you were featured.

If there’s an image or logo that goes along with the award, use it. Whatever it is, if it has a symbol that people will recognize, make sure you put it on your letterhead, your website, your front door, your window, your service vehicles … use it.

Step Five. Link. Link. Link.

This where all that social media marketing comes in hand: Draw traffic. You need to link to the website listing the winners. Link to your announcement. Make a photo gallery of you receiving the award, of the award itself. Tweet it. Put it on your LinkedIn page; your Facebook page. Use links and use photos. People want to click and they want to look. Make sure they can do both.

Step Six. Keep Me in the Loop.

Last but not least, make sure you tell me. I am a one-stop word-of-mouth-marketing guru. I’ll tell everyone. Email me. Elizabeth@cecpo.com

General, Marketing with Mansfield

Pro Tip: Use Treats as Strategic Marketing

IMG_4131(1)We have a lovely neighbor named Agnes. Agnes is an expert on…cat treats. In our little community, she is the go-to pet sitter. She has a couple of her own cats and is a big proponent of catching feral cats and having them spayed or neutered.

Whenever she spent time with the late “Slinky” (Tom’s cat), she always came armed with cat treats. Slinky was the epitome of a scaredy cat. He refused to come out from underneath the bed for anyone other than Tom. Not me, not the kids, absolutely nobody – except Tom.

As a cat lover extraordinaire, Agnes made it her mission to coax Slinky out from under the bed and establish a relationship with him. Treats were the number one weapon in her “we are going to be friends no matter what” arsenal. These were especially compelling since I can honestly say that “treat time” was not a regular part of Slinky’s day.

When used strategically, treats can be an effective marketing tool. I think most people associate treats with some type of food or beverage, which is perfectly reasonable. But, treats can also come in the form of… time off, gift cards, events or other non-food experiences. The key to treats is to use them wisely. Do not overuse. Overuse = nothing special. Once a treat moves from unexpected surprise to expectation you have lost the “specialness” of the gesture.

A lot of my readers work in patient care facilities. Any place that relies on human beings to provide care or services to other human beings is subject to waits and delays. That is not a criticism, just a fact of life. While discussing marketing tactics with a business owner – we’ll call him “Chad” – recently, he brought up an excellent example of how he uses “treat” marketing when the waiting room backs up and starts becoming crowded.

He said that now that so many people travel with their own coffee, he does not provide a coffee station in the waiting room anymore. Instead, when he knows they are running behind and people are getting antsy, he walks out into the waiting room and asks his office manager if she would mind going next door and getting some coffee and donuts. She takes the individual coffee orders and brings back treats for the office.

IMG_4130

What I loved most about that story is he, as a skilled marketer, realized and appreciated the value of taking a regular old perk (the waiting room coffee station) and turning it into a treat by offering it strategically.

If “Chad” had coffee and donuts out every day, even if they were Krispy Kreme and Starbucks, nobody would feel “treated” if he got behind. The coffee and donut run is, hopefully, a gesture that is appreciated and is not an expectation. Are you strategically using treats? Let me know!

Marketing with Mansfield

Forest, Meet Trees! Why You Need to Market to Your EXISTING Customers.

SeeingForestI got a call from a salesperson friend of mine in O&P. They had an interesting anecdote they wanted to share. The company they work for had received an unsolicited testimonial regarding a component they sell and the happy customer/patient wanted to know if they’d be able to “be active, like the amputee guy I saw on TV?

The sales-friend was taken aback. The patient’s prosthetist is a well known and respected practitioner. Capable, compassionate and talented. The patient using their component was certainly physically able to be just as active as “TV guy.” Sales-friend’s first thought was “Why are they asking us and not their prosthetist?” Their second thought was “I better call Elizabeth and let her know!” (What a good friend!)

So here we are – getting ready to talk about why it’s so important to market to your existing customers. By market I mean, of course, let them know what services you provide, what products and services there are available, what your other patients are up to. It’s also important to solicit feedback regularly. I wonder if the patient who yearned to do more only realized that it was possible AFTER watching ‘TV guy” do his thing?!?!

Your current customers – referral sources, customers, patients, family and friends – are as close to a captive audience as you can possibly get. Whether they are physically visiting your office or if you are providing them with written or digital communications, they are most likely receptive and interested in information you can share with them. For any business to grow, it needs new customers but it also needs its existing customers to remain and to stay happy and satisfied.

If the yearning-to-do-more patient happened across information, word of mouth or marketing materials for another practitioner, one that they felt offered them something they weren’t able to get, even if it was as simple as encouragement to pursue their dreams, more than likely they’d be a lost customer. People like to feel like they belong! They like to feel like they are understood. Sharing testimonials from a wide range of patients with the rest of your patients is an excellent way of marketing to your existing customers.

I am a big fan of using short, sweet, “in their own words” types of testimonials in marketing materials. Facebook, websites, Instagram and EMAIL NEWSLETTERS are where you want to use these accolades. It’s content you don’t need to create yourself! It’s more authentic. What’s more effective? “We provide our patients with the highest quality orthotic and prosthetic devices.” Or “My prosthetist, J.P., worked with me every single day after school until I was confident enough with my running leg to try out for the track team.”

A lot of people in healthcare professions are in them because they really truly want to help people, to make their lives better. They are uncomfortable doing what they feel is bragging or boasting. “I’m just doing my job” when someone thanks them for changing their life for the better.

As my grandfather used to say when he wanted to change the subjet – “Let’s get off that kick!” You need to work harder at letting your existing customers know how you can make their lives, and the lives of their friends and relatives, even better. Take an active role in communicating your successes to your captive audience and have them help you grow your business. Let’s get ON that kick!

General, Marketing with Mansfield

Pro Tip: Don’t Bash the Boss Behind Their Back…At Work!

hotdogs2__2__720Recently we took a trip out of town for a birthday party. Friends and family were all gathering for a multi-day celebration. All the lunches and dinners were going to be a chance for everyone to get together but one morning we checked Yelp for a nearby breakfast option.

We scrolled past a bunch of nearby restaurants and came up with a café that had perfectly acceptable reviews. We hopped in the car and drove over to a long strip mall that had all kinds of little stores and restaurants. It was hot! We were pretty hungry and we grabbed the first parking spot we could find. It was right in front of a place that specializes in hot dogs. I’d seen it listed on Yelp and the reviews were fine but I didn’t really consider it for breakfast since hot dogs… but it had a breakfast menu posted on a chalkboard out front and it sounded good so we went in.

It was tiny. There were bar stools at the counter, a couple of tables and a few low stools at a makeshift counter by the window. The staff was super friendly, the food was delicious and the whole dining experience was terrific. However, I write a marketing column so…even when I’m not actually writing the column, I am always thinking about what the next topic should be and, most importantly, how it will relate to O&P.

The friendly staff? They were lovely and attentive to us and to all the other customers and there were clearly a whole bunch of regulars. But, they would NOT stop talking about their boss. It was pretty clear the boss was the owner.  We were so happy with the food and the service that we went back the next day for breakfast. Saturday morning – we went earlier than Friday and it was jammed. Were the staff talking about the boss again? They absolutely were. In addition to talking about him, and actually mentioning him by name, they were also talking about his business partner or significant other. What did we learn after two breakfasts? He’s very strict and the staff does things all day long that they’d get in trouble for IF he knew that’s what they were doing.

An example? Someone froze the barbecue topping they use and the boss would lose his mind if he knew that it had been frozen because that is a major no no. Everything from the way they cleaned the grill, to how they prepped certain dishes and what the boss’ take on it would be was discussed in full detail right in front of all us paying customers. This town is a tourist destination and it’s pretty busy down there year round but not all the people in there were from out of town.  I know because the place was so tiny that you were eavesdropping on everyone in there just by being in the room.

When we left the restaurant on Saturday morning I knew our breakfast adventure would be the topic of the next column. I learned a lot about “Boss guy” during our two meals and I’m fairly certain that he would be looking for a whole new staff if he knew he was the main topic of conversation every day at work and that the customers could hear every word.

It shows a lack of respect for the customers if you think they are so invisible or unimportant that you can air all your dirty work laundry for them to hear.  How disrespectful is it to the guy paying you while you’re supposed to be working for him? What about the “no no’s”? What is one of those customers was the health inspector or, god forbid, some kind of blogger or online columnist?!

Like I said, the food was so good we went back a second time and the staff were friendly and the service was great. I’m sure there are some business owners out there in O&P land who have friendly staff, that provide good customer service and whose devices and services are top notch but who have no idea that their employees are publicly venting, either in person OR ONLINE about things that they shouldn’t be. If I were “Boss guy” I’d send a couple friends from out of town in and have them give me some feedback and then do some (re)training!

Have you had a similar experience? How’d you handle it? Let me know!

General, Marketing with Mansfield

No Marketing Department? So What!

Any worthwhile marketing plan uses different tools and strategies to achieve its desired outcomes. Advertising, direct mail, email newsletters, education-based marketing, webisodes, tweets, tv commercials, facebook ads, etc., are all used in an attempt to reach the target markets.

But some of them can cost money, sometimes lots and lots of money.  If you don’t have a marketing department or a marketing budget, not to worry. You just need a marketing plan. That plan should include press releases. While the marketing landscape has changed enormously in the recent past, one thing never changes and that is the need for content.

All of the channels – not just your “typical” old-school channels like an actual television channel or radio channel – but ALL the channels need content. So, put your thinking cap on and start brain storming about how you can make someone else’s job easier. Someone whose job is to create content.

Say that you’re the owner of an orthotic & prosthetic patient care facility. Say that you have an adorable puppy or an endangered bird or a miniature horse that required some type of prosthetic or orthotic device. You could post the story on your business facebook page, of course. You could show the before and after photos on your instagram account. You could tweet about it. You could send out updates in your email newsletter. BUT, you could also send a press release with photos to… your college alumni magazine or your hometown newspaper or the humane society where the dog was adopted from or the marketing department of the zoo or… there are so many “content-craving” channels out there that need to be fed. Don’t ignore them just because it’s so very easy to feed your own channels.

People expect that you’re going to be marketing to them, targeting them, utilizing your own content channels – like facebook or instagram – but by sharing your content with others you can boost your credibility. Sure, the zoo magazine or your alumni publication might have a slightly different focus or angle to the story but so what? We all can use help getting (and keeping) the word out there. Don’t be afraid to spend a little more time and effort making someone else’s job easier – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results!