What's In, What's Out

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, May 14, 2008

Marketing methods, techniques, and modes of delivery go in and out of style—sometimes so fast that it's hard to keep up. I only recently learned that starbursts in direct mail are out. One of our marketing folks actually used the word "passé" when I suggested we use a starburst in one of our own direct mail efforts. Whoops. But there are plenty of ideas that aren't outdated. Here are five that are "in" (for the moment, at least):

1. Outdoor: Back in
Billboards and other outdoor methods were on their way out, but now they're back in again, thanks to some new and emerging technologies. In fact, outdoor ads are one of the industry's true bright spots, Richard Schaps, CEO of Van Wagner Communications said in a recent interview.

This is the dark horse in my personal in list. It makes you wonder whether phone book ads are the next media poised to explode.

2. Hey, [insert name here]: You're in
I'm currently enamored with personalization, which is definitely "in" at the moment. I like getting direct mail pieces with my name incorporated in the message or design and I often post them on a bulletin board in my office that displays standout ads. (I took down all the ones with a starburst on them).

At some point, however, personalization will drop off the hot list. No matter how well you do it, your message won't stand out if every other piece that hits your customers' desk is personalized, too.

3. ROI: In the money
Proving a return on investment for your marketing has been and always will be in. But it's especially hot in a cool economic climate. If you want to keep your staff and your budget, you'd better make sure marketing is listed in the ledger as a source of profit, not an expense.

4. Segmentation: In the zone
Targeted efforts are in for the same reason that tracking and personalization are hot. In tight financial times, you can't afford to fling your message at a wide audience and hope that the right people catch it.

Meanwhile, inadequate customer data is the key obstacle facing marketing executives, according to a CMO council study. About half of the chief marketing officers in the survey said they have "fair" to "poor" knowledge of their customers.

5. Web 2.0: So in it's out
Thanks to HCAHPS, soliciting patient feedback is way, way in. And thanks to social media and Web 2.0 (a nickname I'm hoping will soon be out), the conversation is starting to go both ways. It's not just about collecting data. It's not just about talking to or even listening to your customers. It's about building relationships with them.

To that end, I'll admit that I had a hidden agenda when I chose the five items on my in list. I was hoping some of you would disagree with me . . . and tell me so.

What do you think is in? What's decidedly out? Leave a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of the page or e-mail me, and I'll share the responses in an upcoming column.

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at gshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.
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