How do you sell it if you can't see it?

How do you sell it if you can't see it?

By Jenny Orr on July 29th, 2010

Intangibility. The absolute biggest challenge of advertising in the field of healthcare.

feel for the marketing folks at healthcare technology companies. They’re consumers, they see the Coke ads, the Nike ads, all the slick auto advertising, and they want something cool too! And they deserve it. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start talking budgets. I’m also not going to start using intangibility as an excuse. It is possible to do great ads for intangible services and products (within a budget too!). It’s more of a creative challenge, but it is possible.

I guess you could argue that technology products aren’t completely abstract. You could use a computer to represent technology. Of course, we’re not selling PCs, we’re selling software, middleware, systems, portals, whatever, so let’s fill the screen with a big blurry screen shot of 3pt type or show a group of administrators pointing and smiling at a computer screen. Obviously, this doesn’t work, so we focus on the benefits.

So the next challenge of healthcare technology advertising is that just about every competing company touts the same benefits. Increasing revenue is a big one, especially for a Clearinghouse. So let’s show a giant dollar bill or a big stack of money. Our audience is smarter than that. This type of advertising might seem to work in a focus group due to its obvious message, but what is it really doing to your brand long term? It cheapens your brand. It lacks intelligence. So what is another benefit of many healthcare technology companies? Let’s say Electronic Medical Records is the “product”, then the benefit is often efficiency which hopefully leads to better patient care. Is this a stretch? And even if it’s not a stretch, how do you show “efficiency” in an ad and still stand out from the competition? Happy patients are often seen in healthcare advertising and we used to be able to get away with that, but the stopping power just isn’t there without some kind of creative spin in this world of advertising overload. It’s too common.

So what’s the answer? The answer is dig deeper.Dig past the obvious, dig for something unique to your company, something to grab attention first and foremost. Think about the ad’s environment. What will stand out in the healthcare environment? Think of objects that can represent the benefit that have nothing to do with healthcare and look for ways to relate it back to healthcare immediately with the copy. Or think of healthcare or technology objects that you can play around with or put in unexpected situations in order to get the point across in a way that’s not overdone and cliché. This article, "Ten Myths About Selling Intangible Services," brings up a very good point. It says that “The biggest difference between selling "things" and intangible services is the pivotal role of trust. Trust is even more critical to selling intangible services than it is to selling things.” Oh how true this is! So, if you can find a valid truth, and execute it in an interesting way, you have a winner.

Here are a few examples:

Capario, one of our clients, offers customized, easy-to-use revenue cycle management solutions. What does this mean? What’s the benefit? Well, the benefit is improved cash flow for physician practices. So do we show the doctor drowning in a stack of cash or do we dig deeper to find a concept that would lift a brand by portraying its personality, get attention, and get the point across in an intelligent and believable way? The nugget, the believable piece of information was, that according to a recent independent study by KLAS®, claims submitted via Capario are paid on the first payer submission at least 90 percent of the time. Awesome. It makes our job much easier when the client really has an excellent product or service to sell. But how do we visualize that? Just a big headline that says “according to a recent independent study by KLAS®, claims submitted via Capario are paid on the first payer submission at least 90 percent of the time.” Not bad, but would you stop to read it? OK, how about a pie chart with the same statement? Not bad, but would you remember it, would it make you “like” Capario, would it make you think that Capario had a nice “brand personality”, make you want to get to know them? We had to keep digging. Why does our target audience care so much about getting paid? Well, it makes their life easier right? So what have we got? We’ve got a factual statement, a pie chart, and the concept of “easy”....GETTING PAID THE FIRST TIME. EASY AS PIE. We literally made a pie chart out of a cherry pie which tied in perfectly to Capario’s brand colors and style. Click here to view the ad. OK, so admittedly it’s not rocket science, but it’s an interesting visual, that stands out in the technology space, while still giving a clear and believable message with a little bit of personality. By the way, we also gave away a cherry red Dell computer which again, was a perfect tie-in to the brand and this particular concept.

Another one of our clients is the AMGA. The American Medical Group Association. This client is different to most of our clients because they are a membership organization not a technology company. The intangible benefit of “networking” was our challenge in this case.See the 2 ads we developed: one for Medical members and the other for Corporate. Both ads visualize the intangible in a way that’s unique but not so far removed that the message isn’t immediately understood.

Another one of our clients which was recognized in a KLAS® report is Precyse Solutions. I like this ad because it uses the dictation devices to make their more intangible product and service tangible and combines it with the typical “thumbs up” imagery to create a simple believable message in an interesting way.