August 11, 2009 Features

Marketing During an Economic Downturn

In an uncertain economy, those in charge of running a hospital, clinic, or private practice often switch into survival mode, cutting expenses perceived to have little effect on the bottom line. One of the first expenses on the chopping block is often the marketing budget.

The speech-language pathology or audiology practice across town, however, is relying on its competition's reduced public awareness programs. Although economic downturns are a natural part of long-term businesses cycles, clinicians can strengthen their brand, distinguish themselves from the competition, and increase market share by taking advantage of competitors' decreased marketing activities.

Sharpen Your Strategy

Sharpening your marketing and public relations efforts may help you and your organization not only ride out the recession, but also to emerge from it even stronger. Keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Retain high-value clients. New business is important, but don't lose focus on high-value, existing clients. Losing loyal clients can be costly. Retain these valuable clients by finding ways to offer a special value that rewards existing clients for their loyalty.
  • Change your mindset. View marketing and public relations as strategic assets and investments, not as a drain on profits. Look for low-cost marketing and public relations opportunities, such as outreach to referring physicians.
  • Be visible. Now is the time to be everywhere. Participate in health fairs and speak at AARP meetings, civic organizations, and professional associations. Get yourself on the agenda for an upcoming panel discussion conducted by your local chamber of commerce, Rotary Club, or industry group.
  • Try public relations. PR helps companies build trust and maintain relationships by delivering tailored messages to key publics through a variety of channels. Advertising can be expensive; during economic downturns, consumers rely more on personal recommendations. An effective, low-cost strategy is to reach out to your local community health reporter and pitch a story about the benefits of speech-language pathology and audiology services. Favorable publicity and the unbiased, third-party endorsement of the press lends credibility to your services.
  • Advertise wisely. A fast and effective way to raise awareness is through a small, inexpensive advertisement in your local paper or cable television company. With advertising revenues down, local newspapers and cable television stations may be willing to negotiate prices. In addition, more than 80% of seniors regularly read the newspaper, making print ads an effective medium to reach this market.
  • Use the Internet and social media. More consumers are using the Internet to research health care information. Update your Web site to reflect your services, provide information about insurance options, and offer testimonials. Use social media tools to promote your services. Post information about your company and services on a blog, Twitter, or Facebook.

The United States has experienced nine other recessions since World War II, and like with any other economic downturn, a full recovery from the current recession will take time. These tips may help you and your organization get through the days ahead.  

Greg Weimann, an ASHA public relations manager, can be reached at gweimann@asha.org. 

cite as: Weimann, G. (2009, August 11). Marketing During an Economic Downturn. The ASHA Leader.

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