To spend or not to spend

As the economy requires companies to tighten their belts and more carefully monitor budgets and expenses, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer organizations are cutting back. In the healthcare IT industry, we’ve seen a somewhat lower HIMSS turnout, layoffs and smaller advertising budgets—if any at all. So this begs the question for marketing folks, to spend or not to spend?A recent NPR story from All Things Considered discusses how some companies are defying the norm in this economy by continuing to advertise and make marketing initiatives a priority. Google, unlike other media companies driven by ad revenue, has actually continued to see increasing profits, especially from smaller businesses. But why? Google’s ability to connect advertisers to their target audience by pairing ads with search terms relevant to the product or service offered is providing companies with the ROI and reports necessary to justify the expense.As Google shows in this example, it’s all about connecting with the right consumer, or in our case the right business. Companies with ad budgets often struggle with the print to online media ratio as well as identifying the top media targets for their ad dollars. At this juncture, the most important thing is getting the information to the right audience to maximize exposure. Perhaps you are dead set on advertising, but have a very limited budget. Instead of sprinkling an ad here and there across numerous publications, pick the one that reaches your key decision-makers and maximize your visibility through online and print opportunities—perhaps even complement your buy with smaller sponsorship opportunities for one of the publication’s e-newsletters or webinars.

The NPR story also briefly mentions the phenomenon of social media and recent boom of Twitter. While some organizations continue to focus on more traditional routes, others are utilizing free tools like Twitter to directly communicate with their audience and have an actual dialogue. Companies across the country are embracing the technology as a way to promote their news, upcoming webinars, sales and so much more.Ford Motors, for example announced that its CEO Alan Mulally would take to Twitter one afternoon this past December and directly answer questions via live Twitter feed. The response was huge. And it’s not just major national companies that are household names embracing this new tool. In the healthcare industry we are seeing businesses from NextGen to McKesson to organizations like HIMSS and MGMA jump in head first. One thing’s for certain—we will only continue to see more and more companies take to social media regardless of economic times.Whether you decide to invest ad dollars, utilize staff resources to take on social media, or a combination of both, the key is seeking out and connecting with your audience.