My first column, focused on "the right media," the first of six successful directmethods, as outlined by Bob Stone, the guru of direct marketing in his industry bible, Successful Direct Marketing Methods. In this column, we'll move on through the next two big keys to success: the right product and the right offer.
In the long run, no marketing effort will succeed without a good product, one that meets the needs of prospective customers competitively. How do you find out what the right product is? Research the market. Listen to your customers. Survey them at meetings (e.g., evaluation forms that ask, "What topics would you like to see addressed by our CME program?"), in mailings, and at every other opportunity to find out what they want. Then give it to them.
Fight Physicians' Keyboardophobia But that's not all. Attend industry meetings such as the Alliance for CME annual conference. Read socioeconomic and clinical medical journals and monitor reports such as the Institute of Medicine's recent blockbuster To Err is Human. One implication of the IOM report for CME providers is that there is a great need for courses teaching physicians how to use handheld prescribing devices.
Go to bleeding-edge seminars such as E-Healthcare World, which reportedly drew over 7,000 attendees, a good proportion of whom were physicians and other health professionals. The message for medical educators? You can make money and do much good for humanity by teaching typing to physicians--perhaps better labeled "cyberliteracy" or "medical informatics subcertification," for the benefit of the intended audience's self-esteem.
Yes, amazing as it seems, the most intelligent and dexterous of humans, who master virtually any task, remain on the wrong side of the digital divide due to acute keyboardophobia. This must be changed, and you can help!
In any event, the right product is key. The best promotional program can't save a bad product. Ultimately, the marketplace decides what lives and what dies.
The Right Offer In direct marketing, an offer is defined as the proposition you make to the prospect--the deal, if you will. The successful offer overcomes human inertia to generate response.
The offer can be any one or a combination of the following suggestions: * Optional features, such as free cassette tapes of a CME conference with attendance
* Future obligation (e.g., Book of the Month Club)
* Incentives, such as a free, appropriate, legal gift, possibly informational
* Time limits: Respond by next Tuesday
* Quantity limits: Only the first ten responders will receive....
* Guarantees: Satisfaction with this product guaranteed or your money back
* Get a Friend: Give us the name and number of a doctor who could use this free video and we'll give you...
Calibration is crucial. Make the offer too good, and you're no longer selling the product--instead, you are spending a lot of money to give away goodies to respondents who couldn't care less about it. Don't make the offer good enough, and you might as well not bother.
What is your offer? First of all, you have to be careful in your legal, regulatory, and ethical environment. It's prudent to clear all offers with legal counsel and screen them to make sure they comply with American Medical Association and Accreditation Council for CME guidelines, et al. But there surely are some appealing offers that can be made even within these rigorous constraints.
Let your imagination and experience be your guides, and the results of your tests be the final judge.