Category Archives: Internet Marketing

Internet marketing strategies that are both useful and profitable.

Billionaire’s Advice: Take Perceived Risks – Not Actual Risks

I saw billionaire Wilbur Ross, Jr. on Charlie Rose tonight, and something he said struck me like a thunder bolt. He talked about how his holding company bought bankrupt Cleveland steelmaker LTV for cents on a dollar, and later sold it for billions in profits.

He shared his secrets during the interview:

“We’re in the business not so much of being contrarians, deliberately, but rather we’d like to take perceived risks instead of actual risks. And what I mean by that is that you get paid for taking the risk that people think is risky. You don’t particularly get paid for taking actual risks… We basically spent $90 million for assets on which LTV had spent $2.5 billion in the prior 5 years. And our assessment of the values was that if worse came to worse we could knock it down and sell it to the Chinese. Then we also bought accounts receivable and inventory for 50 cents on the dollar. So between the combination of things, we frankly felt we had no risk…The joke was right when everybody was saying  this was too risky,  it will never work, the big debate within our shop was should we just liquidate it and take the profit, or should we try to start it up. That’s how sure we were that we weren’t actually taking risk.”

What does this have to do with marketing success? Well, too often people assume that successful people take big risks. Actually, more often they do everything they can to mitigate unnecessary risk. Then, once they have done everything they can to cut their risks, they are willing to step up to the plate and try.

That is why direct response marketing principles appeal so much to me. Start with an honest assessment, learn from the experience of others before you, invest a limited amount, test, track and adjust, and then roll out if your marketing hypothesis turns out to be correct. If you guessed wrong, cut your losses, regroup, and try something else. Eventually, you’ll find a formula for success.

I remember being in Las Vegas with a now deceased friend of mine who was a high stakes poker player and businessman. He put down $15,000 to open in blackjack, while I put down $250. He had money to burn so for him it was fun.

However, for me, I told him that while I am happy to invest thousands on a marketing idea that can work, I can’t do it while gambling. The difference is that even if he had a good night, the next night he would still have to start at zero.

On the other hand, once I invest in a marketing strategy, it will either work or not. If not, I stop right away. But if it does work, it will bear fruit oftentimes for years, sometimes for decades.

So as you think about marketing, remember to follow the principles of learning from the experience of others before you, invest a little after you have done everything you can to mitigate risks, then “double down” if successful.

So let the other guy either freeze out of fear about marketing or blow it all in risky endeavors.

Your goal will be to take risks that are either zero or limited – and capitalize big time when your assumptions turn out to be right.

The Mayo Clinic: A Social Media Powerhouse

Few providers worldwide enjoy the stellar reputation that Mayo Clinic has established.

What’s more, Mayo is plenty busy, and it certainly doesn’t NEED patients.

Therefore, you’d probably expect Mayo to be extremely conservative in its approach to marketing and publicity, especially with regards to high risk social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

Well, you’d be wrong. Wayyyyy wrong.

It turns out that Mayo Clinic has caught the social media bug in a big way.

Mayo Clinic Facebook Page
Mayo Clinic Facebook Page

First, there’s a Mayo Clinic Facebook Page with over 13,000 fans. Mayo uses this page as a venue to distribute content and it also gives patients and the public and patients a forum to talk about Mayo.

“Yikes, what if a patient or detractor says something that we don’t like – or is even untrue?”

I just scrolled through Mayo’s Facebook page and today, at least, was a very good day. Patient comments were almost universally positive. Given that this is the Mayo Clinic, I bet most days are very good days.

Next, there’s a  Mayo Clinic YouTube Channel, which is all about patient education. Its description says,”The Mayo Clinic Channel is a place to see what makes Mayo Clinic special, and to watch videos about Mayo’s latest research and treatment advances.

It contains more than 600 videos that have been viewed 1.5 million times. The content is mostly professionally produced patient education, but also includes patient testimonials.

Then there are a number of Mayo Clinic blogs and Podcasts designed for consumers, researchers and physicians.

Finally you, along with 24,000 of your closest friends, can follow the Mayo Clinic on Twitter.

So what does this all mean?

Here are some thoughts.

1. It’s gutsy. After all, Mayo Clinic’s brand is worth A LOT, and the good people at Mayo therefore have a lot to lose if things were to go wrong. But they obviously are confident in their product and reputation, and therefore are not overly concerned that consumers can post negative comments on their Facebook Page or YouTube Channel.

2. It’s realistic. It’s a free country, and patients and the public can comment about Mayo Clinic on Twitter and dozens of other social media channels whether or not Mayo participates. At least this way, Mayo has a strong voice in the conversation.

3. It’s brand building. Mayo Clinic demonstrates its commitment to being leading edge in all things it does by vigorously engaging social media.

4. It sells. I couldn’t help but notice that there is a call to action “To request an appointment…” on the top of the Facebook page.

Still, unlike many marketers I do not think social media is a requirement for EVERYONE.

My partner and I have worked with thousands of healthcare clients over the years, and I can tell you with certainty that many just don’t have the courage, culture, resources, commitment and/or consistency of outcomes to participate.

Still, the misguided arguments against marketing that I have heard ad naseum over the years like “they have to market because they aren’t good providers … or they must really NEED patients” obviously don’t apply in this case.

So if you’ve got what it takes, there are people out there who can help you embrace social media (including my  firm).

Of course, you don’t need to have the resources that Mayo Clinic enjoys, but if you are engaging in social media only because you think it is free, I highly recommend you stop and reconsider the logic in your reasoning.

Also, if you ARE dying for patients, social media is usually not your best first step. It isn’t direct enough to generate lots of patients quickly.

In any event, social media can be a wild ride, but it is often one worth taking.

At least, that’s what the Mayo Clinic seems to think.

For Part 2 of this story, click: Mayo Clinic Interview Reveals Secrets to Social Media Success

Social media empowers consumers – including your patients

At the end of the movie Terminator, a Mexican boy says, “Viene la tormenta.”

Sarah Connor asks the gas station attendant what he means, and he explains, “There’s a storm coming.”

The fact that patients can leave comments about their doctors or health care organizations on rating sites has been talked about to death, and I’ve been interviewed on the topic on a couple of occasions.

My take: the genie is out of the bottle, and while there are all kinds of legal and ethical issues to consider (how do you know that an anonymous bad rating wasn’t made by a jealous competitor), social media is empowering consumers – and your patients – more every day.

While providers like to think of themselves as a privileged class, Google doesn’t see it that way. In fact, Google and other search engines LOVE ratings and social media when they display search engine results pages (SERPs).

Consumers are now empowered, and some are getting aggressive. The best anecdote I’ve heard about involves a country singer whose guitar was broken by baggage handlers working for United Airlines. When United refused to pay for repairs, he created a very funny video, United Breaks Guitars, on YouTube.  Upon seeing the video, United came around and offered to pay him after all, but by then the damage was done. He suggested they give the money to charity. Worse, this was only his first video on the topic, and as of today it has had more than 7,600,000 viewers. Ouch.

Jeremiah Owyang recently wrote that companies should give priority attention to highly visible web savvy customers. He cites a woman who had a million Twitter followers and warned Maytag to solve her maintenance dispute. When they failed to do so, she asked her followers to boycott the company.

Owyang admits that such consumers can use their new-found power irresponsibly, but how do you stop them once they have such a large podium? Besides, who will be the referee to determine which actions are “power of the people” and which are exploitation?

What really struck me about Owyang’s article, however, was that he reminded us that companies give preferential treatment to celebrities all the time, so we shouldn’t feel bad about recognizing social media leaders.

I have always found it a little annoying that celebrities, who already have everything, get the best gifts and treatment from us all. Still, this phenomenon goes back to at least Biblical times, so it isn’t going to change anytime soon.

So even if you hate the idea of newly empowered patients having a voice, you aren’t going to change it.

Some are trying to litigate this problem away, but frankly, I think that is naive. Our country was founded on “free press,” and “free speech,” and providers aren’t going to get a special pass. (United Airlines didn’t get one…)  Besides, the Groundswell is too big.

So what should healthcare marketers, providers, pharmaceuticals and manufacturers do?

Well, if you have the time and budget, getting into the conversation may be a great idea.

That’s what Johnson and Johnson did with their JNJ Health Channel on YouTube. After all, consumers are going to talk about you whether you like it or not.

However, joining in on the fray may be hard for you to do. If you work in a small organization, you may not have access to the talent, time or budget required. If you are with a large organization, there will be legal and internal issues to deal with. (Rob Harper explains Johnson and Johnson’s experience here.)

I recommend you give your own situation some careful analysis and planning. Don’t just rush in to do it like the rest of the herd – come up with objectives and decide how it fits into your larger strategy.

But one thing is for sure. It is fun to be working in marketing during this revolutionary time period.