Aperture is Key to Healthcare Marketing Success

Many marketers look at targeting as a one dimensional exercise in finding the right person. But true targeting is three-dimensional. It requires finding not only the right person, but also the right time and place where the message will be noticed and well received. The perfect combination of person, place and time is an aperture or decision-point moment.

And many healthcare marketers are discovering that for over-the-counter products and prescription drugs, the ideal aperture moment often is in the physician's office at the time a condition is diagnosed or a prescription is written.

Even the most brilliant message will fall on deaf ears if the target is not ready to listen and in a position to act. For example, a person vaguely aware of depression might pay little attention to a TV ad prompting one to ask your doctor about an anti-depression drug. There are simply too many steps the consumer must take — from deciding to actually do something about the problem, to making the doctor's appointment, to actually visiting the doctor and asking for the prescription.

Thus, the doctor's office would seem to be a better location to deliver the message. But even a well-crafted anti-depression product ad in the doctor's waiting room may not motivate the patient to broach the subject. In the waiting room, patient's minds are not focused on their health condition, but rather on filling out paperwork or reading magazines. But take that message to a location only fifty-feet away — to the physician's exam room — and you've found the aperture or decision-point moment to prompt this very personal discussion in the location where the doctor and patient interact.

If you identify and leverage these aperture or decision-point moments, you can assure yourself an audience that engages in and acts on the message you provide. Moreover, you've honed your medium not only to the best consumer, but the best moment, so you can afford to bring optimum resources to bear.

Of course, just having marketing materials or samples in the physician's office doesn't guarantee an effective or measurable program. But properly designed aperture marketing program can be measured cost effectively and reliably — not based on GRPs or CPMs, but rather in bottom line results. For example, the results of a healthcare aperture program, which informs patients about prescription medications while they are in the doctor's examination room, can be quantifiably measured by tracking and comparing the number of prescriptions written by participating and nonparticipating doctors. Determining the optimal aperture. Aperture moments can vary widely according to the product, category, brand and consumer. Some conditions, such as smoking cessation, have multiple aperture points and marketing messages must be tailored to the specifics of the situation.

And, determining the optimal aperture isn't always as obvious at it might seem. Take the decision on over-the-counter acne medications for teenagers. A dermatologist's exam room might seem like the place to reach teens before they make their brand decision. But, by the time a teenager visits the dermatologist for acne, the condition has generally progressed beyond the nuisance stage to an acute skin problem and most likely, OTC medications have been tried unsuccessfully.

So, where do you find the optimal aperture — the moment when teens begin to worry about their appearance and start to search out products that can improve their complexion and combat acne? For early adolescents, pediatricians and family practitioners‚ exam rooms might be a better environment to deliver the acne brand and prevention messages. It's a key point-of-receptivity — a time when both younger teens and their moms (the ultimate purchaser) will see them and be interested.

Though a dermatologist's office may not be the best place for OTC acne medications, it may be the best place for messages about anti-aging and sunscreen. Patients‚ concerns about their condition create the optimal aperture for messages about specific physician-recommended brands.

Effective aperture marketing requires, before anything else, thorough consumer research that allows the marketer to glean insights into the dimensions of time and place that make up an aperture and consumer involvement with a decision. Without such understanding, consumer targeting becomes decidedly one dimensional, resulting in flat approaches that may not break through to the consumer, and often don't deliver results for the marketer. But, armed with an understanding of aperture marketing, savvy marketers can directly influence targeted customers at the precise time and place that involvement and intensity with the brand are at a peak.

Tom Campbell is executive vice president of On Target Health Solutions, Cincinnati. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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