Sapient Lets Marketers Get Specific With Online Changes

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Building on the recent growth of direct-to-consumer marketing in the healthcare industry, Sapient Health Network (SHN) recently unveiled improvements to its Web site to provide marketers with more targeted advertising opportunities.

As an online consumer-health information service serving 100,000 members, SHN, Portland, OR, offers disease-specific information and chat rooms related to 12 illnesses.

For marketers, the site has traditionally offered the opportunity to conduct targeted market research, such as surveys and focus groups, and distribute tailored advertising using specific sections of its database. With the introduction of its newest software improvement, Release 30, marketers will be able to create targeted advertising that is segmented by several factors, said Paul Sonnenschien, vice president of marketing at SHN.

"Before Release 30, we could target banner ads to consumers based on a medical condition, such as hepatitis C, but now we can target based on aspects of a medical profile below the disease level," he said. "For example, now we can target hepatitis C sufferers between the ages of 25 and 38 who were diagnosed five years ago and have pursued these certain therapies."

The new targeting techniques will allow companies to segment their advertising using information that consumers input as part of the member-profile forms they fill out at registration.

As the site is personalized, members will see advertising targeted to their specific conditions, no matter what part of the site they visit. To maintain members' privacy, Sapient does not release any names to marketers and handles all analysis of data in-house, Sonnenschein said. It also asks members for their e-mail addresses, but not their names, and their ZIP codes, but not their addresses, to help them remain anonymous.

One of the first companies to try the new targeting technique, American WholeHealth, Reston, VA, operates several integrated health centers that combine traditional medicine with alternative therapies. Company executives were drawn to SHN by the combination of the geographic targeting capabilities and access to patients with chronic illnesses.

"One of the pluses and minuses of the Internet is that it goes everywhere. We wanted to precisely target our advertising to markets where he have a presence," said Bill Eggbeer, American WholeHealth's vice president of marketing and product development. "We were intrigued by the potential opportunities of how Sapient can help us find patients, as well as give us access to a value-added service for our current customers."

American WholeHealth, which serves people with chronic illness and those who generally want to take a more holistic approach to health, found that Sapient's areas covering fibromyalgia, diabetes and women's health issues overlap with the types of services it provides in its clinics. The company has been using banner advertising to attract visitors to those areas who live near its clinics in Boston, Denver, Chicago and Bethesda, MD.

The disease-specific content that Sapient delivers to its member is compiled from other Web sites and publications and from its own research. The company plans to launch efforts to increase the size of its membership base and the number of illnesses it addresses over the next year.

The member surveys it conducts on behalf of companies often can generate responses from 300 to 500 people within 36 hours. Separately, the focus groups that it conducts on behalf of clients take 10 working days.

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