Just one year ago, I formed the business and have been consulting for six months with some amazing healthcare organizations. Time flies when you’re having fun.
I’m currently working with two healthcare organizations that have formed within the past year. Both have very ambitious goals driven by their duty to provide a return on their shareholders’ investments and to improve the healthcare experience. Both companies are equally challenged by competitive marketplaces and strict government regulations.
It can be overwhelming coming into a start-up situation and trying to figure out what to tackle first, so here’s my approach to creating a winning marketing strategy for a start-up company.
Plan and Align
As the saying goes, when you fail to plan you plan to fail. Every company needs a roadmap for how to grow your business. Your brand strategy will serve as the guide for how to accomplish your aggressive marketing goals. Sit down with the senior management team and align on the values and mission of the company first. This isn’t just writing fluffy, feel good words about what kind of company you want to be when you’re successful. It’s important to determine from the beginning who your target market is, how you’re going to communicate with them, and how they should feel about your brand. This will help your team align on what kind of marketing strategy to adopt. If your executive team is not all on the same page with this strategy, you’ll waste a lot of time. Take this example:
Your company sells a prescription drug that helps people with a specific condition which only 10% of the population actually are afflicted with. But your CEO wants to place billboards all over town to sell this incredibly innovative product. THIS IS A WASTE OF MARKETING BUDGET! I have nothing against billboards but if you’re selling a niche product, save the billboards for consumer products that almost everyone needs- food, shelter, entertainment and beer. Communicate to your executive team that while billboards may get some visibility in your market, they’re incredibly difficult to track the performance. The most effective strategy for a niche market is direct marketing tactics like targeted digital campaigns like Facebook, Google Ads and BingAds. Consider direct mail, and email marketing if you have the ability to purchase a targeted, opted-in database of your target audience. This takes your strategy from a shotgun approach to shooting fish in a barrel.
Setting your plan in motion takes the right team. You can’t do it all alone, or at least not at any acceptable rate of growth. Align with subject matter experts to execute your plan. Hire a trained graphic designer to design your logo and brand standards- not your buddy that likes to draw or play around in Photoshop. Get a professional web design company to build your site. Make sure they understand SEO (Search Engine Optimization) so that your site can actually be found when people are searching and not just when they type in your URL directly. This is really important because your website can look great, but if it’s not built properly and optimized to include the keywords that your customers are searching for, you’re dead in the water.
If you’re promoting your brand online, hire a certified Google Ads specialist for your search engine marketing campaigns. Oftentimes, digital marketing experts are also skilled in social media management- but that’s not always the case. Make sure the person monitoring and posting on your social media channels understands the tone and value of your brand so that they’re not providing invaluable or inappropriate content to your audience on your social media accounts. This could really create some issues. For instance, if you have a very conservative audience and your social media profiles feature scantily clad models promoting your products or service, you may be turning people away. Do the research to find out who your audience is and what they like. As I said, hire people that know what they’re doing. This brings me to my next point.
After you hire the experts to do what they do best, hold them accountable and measure their performance. Set key performance indicators (KPIs) for each channel of marketing and track how they’re performing. Here are a few examples of KPIs you should be measuring on a regular basis.
Website traffic- Your website traffic should be increasing at a steady rate month over month, depending upon your SEO efforts and media spend.
Conversion rate– This is the percentage of people that came to your website and acted EXACTLY how you want them to. Conversions may be different, depending on your product or service. It could be requesting an appointment, filling out a form to contact them, or downloading a white paper. Conversion rates vary by industry, so find out where you stack up by looking up your industry average conversion.
Open rate– You should be communicating to your audience on a regular basis. If you use email marketing, you’ll want to make sure people are opening your emails. Clever or direct subject lines typically help your open rate to be as high as it needs to be.
Click-thru– If you’re using email, you’ll also want to know what the audience is clicking thru to your website. This is typically under 20% of the open rate, so don’t be alarmed if not everyone is clicking thru to your site on every email.
Cost per lead– Track the cost of each lead you get by media. This is really easy to do for digital marketing strategies but can get complicated when you add in TV due to the challenge of attribution. No matter what you’re doing, make sure you have a unique tracking code of phone # on each media.
Sales or Production– At the end of the day, if you’re not selling enough, it’s time to re-strategize. It could be the marketing strategy, or the product or service may need tweaking. But make sure your goals are realistic.
Not all campaigns are going to knock it out of the park immediately. That’s just reality. If you have a tactic that’s not performing comparable to industry standard or up to your CEO’s expectations, don’t panic. Review the plan to make sure you’re not missing any tracking for attribution before you pull the plug on a strategy completely. If you have a robust Google Ads campaign that’s been running for a couple of weeks and you haven’t received a single click- check the parameters of the campaign. Make sure you don’t have a setting checked off to exclude an audience or market. This actually happened to a company I worked for and the agency responsible was very embarrassed that they didn’t check to see that they excluded the U.S. market for more than a month. Wow, that was a miss but it was an easy fix!
Hopefully you’ve set up a strategy that attracts your target audience and drives so many leads that you need to hire more people and get more inventory. If that’s the case- repeat, repeat, repeat! But don’t forget to go back and continue to measure and tweak to continue to keep up with your changing marketplace. Markets change, media changes- and so should your strategy.
Need some assistance in building a winning strategy for your start-up or middle-market business? Contact Heart & Hustle today.
About the Author
Stacey Harrison is the lead brand strategist and designer at Heart & Hustle Brands and has provided creative direction for healthcare, industrial, and financial services brands for 20 years. She started Harrison Creative Group in 2017 to serve businesses that need a professional brand image on a budget. In 2021, the company rebranded to Heart & Hustle Brands to walk in the shoes of clients that experience a change of name or brand refresh.