As marketing initiatives become increasingly self-serving, it behooves an urgent care clinic to differentiate itself by “playing the education card.”
Many employer decision-makers are still strikingly naïve about the value of a well-integrated, proactive approach to their company’s health and safety activities.
Educational information does not come off as self-serving and is perceived as a “kinder and gentler” form of marketing. In our information-saturated world, it is imperative to find a way to stay in front of prospects in an unobtrusive, yet memorable manner. Education can do this.
An urgent care clinic that positions itself as an educator inevitably is also viewed as an expert—an important image to foster.
Although invariably there is intrinsic value in providing such programs, seminars’ value vis-à-vis their opportunity cost is often questionable. Seminars consume scarce financial and human capital—capital that may generate a greater return to an urgent care clinic if expended on other activities, such as direct sales or targeted mailings.
Offering live seminars, however, can be valuable under certain circumstances, such as:
- if your clinic is a recent entrant to the occupational health market
- if your clinic is far from the occupational health market leader and needs attention
- if there is a hot new topic (e.g., a new federal or state regulation).
Should your clinic develop a seminar, remember the following:
- Ask prospective participants what they want to learn about, rather than assume that you Educational session topics should be market driven.
- Offer the seminar at a hotel, restaurant, or conference We have found that midweek, morning sessions tend to be well attended.
- Forget the “if it is free, they will come” Charge enough to cover expenses and create a perception of value. When I am invited to a “free” investment seminar, I never attend because I assume that the session is little more than a thinly veiled sales pitch. Your clients/prospects are likely to feel the same way.
- Go first Find an attractive venue; offer quality food service and recruit knowledgeable, engaging speakers.
- Publicize the event well in advance and through multiple modalities. Use direct mail, e-mail blasts, calls to prime prospects, and even radio spots in appropriate A big turnout makes your program look good; a dismal one has the opposite effect.
- If need be, throw it into fifth If attendance looks disappointing a week out, do something about it.
Emerging Educational Tools
E-mail is a rapid, low-cost mode of communication. Yet,
there is a thin line between using e-mail to your advantage and irritating prospects with “spam.” Your clinic is less likely to overstep the boundary if your e-mail mes- sages are educational in nature. Prospects are much more likely to open and read e-mail—and to remember the sender (a central marketing principal) if they feel they will learn something.
Here are some basic rules:
- Your clinic is likely to see greater benefits if you e- mail a brief (i.e., a few sentences) “educational piece” once a week than if you send a lengthy mes- sage twice a The secret of effective mass communication? Keep it simple and keep repeating it.
- Offer tangible “to do’s” (e.g., track consecutive workdays without a reported work injury by posting the number of days in a prominent location) rather than trivial facts or meaningless statistics. Make your prospects want to forward your e-mail to other colleagues within or outside of their
- Aggressively build your e-mail address book. Marketing is a numbers game if you have 1,000 email addresses rather than 500, you reach twice as many people, and it won’t cost you any
Many urgent care clinic websites tend to be one-dimensional and inherently fact-based. Use your website as an educational tool; with the right approach, doing so may not even add much additional effort or cost.
For example, our company e-mails a “Tip of the Week” to thousands of occupational health professionals, including urgent care clinics. We have found that maintaining a complete library of those tips, organized by subject (i.e., marketing, financial management, etc.), on our company’s website (www.naohp.com) is beneficial both to us and to our customers and prospects; many of them access our website routinely for program management ad- vice and thereby become more familiar with our broader range of services. Your clinic should do the same.
Providers of occupational health services are, by definition, educators whether they are educating at the employer, individual worker, or coworker level. We are, af- ter all, not selling a hard commodity, but rather an intricate concept: worker health and wellbeing.
The nature of your educational outreach depends on market size, market leadership, program maturity, and consumer preferences. Once your clinic has defined your position in the market, it is advisable to craft education into your broader marketing strategy.