"Lehigh will take care of you," her friend said. "I can't put a price tag on that," Lewis says.
Show them value
"People are still spending money on things that matter to them," Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin notes. She is CEO and creative director of Tribe, an Atlanta-based branding company that specializes in niche marketing. "The key is to make it a prudent financial decision." The message should be, "spend money now to save down the road."
For healthcare, emphasizing preventive care and wellness as a way to avoid expensive surgeries or complications down the road is a good tactic, she says.
Tribe's research into two audiences that are important to healthcare organizations—affluent patients who can afford to pay for care and baby boomers who are increasingly in need of it —found that although they are cutting back on spending, they will respond to offers of increased access, special amenities and perks, and anything that makes them feel as though they're getting a little extra for their money, she says. Small improvements, such as offering a beverage to waiting patients, can make a big difference.
Spend it wisely
Stewart Gandolf, founding partner of HealthcareSuccess.com, a healthcare marketing consultancy based in Irvine, CA, says it's a mistake to disappear from the market. But, he says, organizations could be a lot smarter about where they put their marketing dollars.
In a tight recession, you have to ask yourself: "If I spend a dollar today, what am I going to get back tomorrow?" he says. Look for efforts with direct-to-the-bottom-line impact—and abandon those that don't.
For years, one of Gandolf's clients, a large physician practice, made large donations to a local charity. "And the charity's good. And we believe in charity. But our feeling on this is that's a second purpose," Gandolf says. "That's not your marketing budget." The practice cut back on the donation—at least for now.