Tapping into the emerging complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
market is not only a smart business move, it sheds light on a very
important -- and also emerging -- paradigmatic shift in how consumers
(read: humans) are coming to perceive the traditional and orthodox
When in 1997 the FDA relaxed Pharma marketing regulations permitting
television advertising, a double-edged sword seems to have reshaped
the world: On one hand, there are more prescriptions being written and
diseases diagnosed than ever before in history, but as the
pharmaceutical industry began overtaking more and more airtime,
consumers also began tuning out. In effect, it appears as though the
greed generated by the lucrative outcomes of television advertising
has also made many patients suspicious. Many patients are beginning to
?smell a rat.?
With the numbers in front of you, there is little need for further
explanation. Back in 2000, a report published by the Consumer Health
Organization Families USA revealed the following:
The report documents that drug companies are spending more than twice
as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they do on
research and development; that drug company profits, which are higher
than all other industries, exceed research and development
expenditures; and that drug companies provide lavish compensation
packages for their top executives.
The report comes on the heels of a recent Families USA analysis that
found prices rose more than twice the rate of inflation last year for
the 50 most-prescribed drugs to seniors.
Among the nine pharmaceutical companies examined in the report -
Merck, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pharmacia, Abbott Laboratories,
American Home Products, Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, and Allergan - all
but one (Eli Lilly) spent more than twice as much on marketing,
advertising, and administration than they did on research and
development, and Lilly spent more than one and one-half times as much.
Six out of the nine companies made more money in net profits than they
spent on research and development last year.
The report also detailed compensation package-spending by those nine
major pharmaceutical companies. I recommend you read this in its
entirety, as well.
Just as those to which you hope to appeal have lost faith in the
medical industry, they, too, are cynical towards its advertising.
Following the landmark withdrawal of the pain killer Vioxx in 2004,
advertising spending sales slowed down.
In order to understand your market, you must, of course, understand
their motivations. Many are moving away from pharmaceuticals following
years of unsatisfactory results and experiences in the medical
industry. Talk to anyone. Ask around. Everyone has a medical horror
story or egregious misdiagnosis.
While the medical industry has already set its precedent and made its
mark via television advertising, methods of online marketing are being
heavily tapped, as well.
In the meantime, the health revolution that is CAM has set its own
tone on the Internet?a reaction to the multi-billion dollar
pharmaceutical advertising industry.
In advertising, we often show purpose-built low budget organizations
how to garner credibility through less. Not only are the budgets
smaller than their corporate counterparts, there is actually proven
benefit to making your marketing campaign appear as though less has
In your case, a most beneficial approach would be a blend of viral
(word-of-mouth)/buzz/ grassroots as well as a few mass-mediated
marketing techniques that won?t cost much but also won?t seem like it
One of the most important first steps you have already taken to ?with
a limited budget and a small profit margin? is having absolutely no
Let?s start talking specifically about proven methods of buzz marketing.
First, a refresher on buzz marketing, excerpted from ?What?s the Buzz
About Buzz Marketing:
Put simply, buzz marketing is the practice of gathering volunteers to
try products, then sending them out into the world to talk up their
experiences with the people they meet in their daily lives. The idea
is that the more people see a product being used in public, or the
more they hear about it from people they know and trust, the more
likely they will be to buy it for themselves. Of course, word-of-mouth
has long been the way that many people find their favorite products,
or learn about a new favorite movie, book or restaurant. "For years,
people recognized the power of word-of-mouth in convincing,
influencing, affecting consumer behavior," says marketing professor
Jerry Wind. "It has more credibility than traditional advertising."
But it's a fairly recent development for companies to try to create a
structure around the practice, to harness and direct the way that
word-of-mouth spreads -- and to attempt to measure its effect on sales
once the 'campaign' is complete. "Buzzing isn't really new. The hype
about these different kinds of buzz agents is what's new," says Kahn.
In practice, buzz marketing can take several different forms. Some
companies identify particular types of people to do their buzzing for
them. Known as 'mavens' (for readers of Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping
Point) or 'influencers' or 'early adopters,' these are the people who
naturally set cultural trends, who define what is cool before the rest
of the world even realizes it exists. "Gladwell put it in terms that
everyone understood, but basically there are people out there who can
tell what's cool and what's not. We all know them -- the people who
tell us about great restaurants, or who have cool clothes before we
do," Kahn says. "To make buzzing really work, I do have to believe
that the person I'm listening to is discriminating, that he or she
knows something I don't. Otherwise that person is not giving me
anything new." Procter & Gamble pioneered this approach on a large
scale by recruiting hundreds of thousands of 'maven' teenagers to
create buzz about new products -- some as mundane as toothpaste. "P&G
started this idea of manufacturing word-of-mouth," says Wind. "They
recruited a quarter million teens to talk about their products. Now
they are in the process of recruiting mothers to do the same thing
because they have suddenly realize that word-of-mouth is a powerful
Here is a pre-Web recommendation of ways to use word-of-mouth
marketing to your advantage. Think about how these ideas can also be
retooled for Web use:
1.Offer incentives for referrals that turn into business. They can be
in the form of discounts on future business, free estimates or
samples, or just plain cash. Even a small offer will catch their
2.Create a referral form, and send it to clients or customers with
your invoice for services rendered. If you've done a good job, the
time to leverage yourself is upon completion of the project.
3.Tap your suppliers for leads, by reminding them that when your
business grows, theirs does, too. Spark this exchange by giving leads
to your suppliers.
4.Ask prospects who have turned you down for referrals. This gives
them a graceful exit from a potentially unpleasant task. The only
secret, as with any request, is to time it appropriately so that you
offer people a natural, unforced opening to help you.
Just as it is critical to know your consumers? motivation, you must
have a clear understanding of how they will perceive their benefit
derived from your product.
The paradox, of course, is that you cannot tell them the benefit.
Anyone else can, but not you.
In ?customer driven marketing,? You use satisfied customers to pass
along the word on your product. When satisfied customers speak and
prospective ones listen, they don?t have to figure it out for
themselves. They are told: What?s in it For Me (WIIFM?)?
Here are a few ways for the customer to tell the prospective consumer WIIFM:
The review system is a perfect way to drive traffic to your site,
while operating on a limited budget, especially considering you only
plan to sell a handful of the products.
Your system is purely self-checking. Those products that do not
receive positive reviews from consumers will self-omit, assuming you
plan to carry that ?handful? of products customers really like.
In order to promote the products you will be selling, you need not do
anything but sit back and watch as the reviewers do their jobs. When a
product has accumulated enough positive reviews for you to begin
believing, orchestrate a product highlight, which can take on any
number of forms:
Email campaign: I?m sure your site will have the ability to compile
the e-mail addresses of member reviewers on your forum. Start with
them, and include as many excerpts of their positive reviews in the
Here is a good explanation of the mechanism of success by
Brueclay.com, Internet business consultants:
Email marketing works best when marketers really know how to use it.
Consumers welcome email if it is relevant and of value. In a recent
survey, 45 percent of consumers indicated email is a "great way" for
companies to stay in touch with their customers.
ROI for email marketing exceeds all other media except telemarketing.
While some media generate higher revenues per contact and better
response rates, its cost is substantially higher. Among the four media
in the chart below with lower costs per contact than email, response
rates are extremely low.
Email marketing can have two basic objectives: to drive direct
response (customer acquisition) and to develop ongoing relationships
(customer retention and loyalty). Usually customer retention and
loyalty is a major goal because marketers believe the resistance to
email impedes customer acquisition.
Two research studies show conflicting results on this. Milward Brown
(September 2004) found that 63% of U.S. marketers use email to retain
customers and create loyalty, yet 62% reported using email to acquire
new customers. These results were unexpected. MarketingSherpa (June
2004) found that that 60% of respondents use email to build
relationships with existing customers, while 41% use it to acquire new
When used appropriately, email can balance low cost with high response
rates better than other marketing media. However, marketers must
maximize effectiveness through improved content, precise targeting and
Also from the same site, here are some specifications regarding the
art of formulating an effective marketing e-mail as well as some
specifics on return. As a former copywriter, I have been taken through
these tenets quite often, and know these to be effective and
beneficial to know:
Since email marketing is a relatively new media, many copywriters
don't have the know-how to craft email messages. Just as writing
website copy is not like writing magazine copy, email copy is not like
direct mail. Below are some tips.
Subject Line: You have 40 to 60 characters in a subject line, so you
need to make every word count. And if your recipients use PDAs, you
only have 15 to 20 characters to work with. The subject line used to
be the most important element in an email message, but now it's the
"from" line. So make sure that the "from" line clearly identifies your
company and brand.
Start by jotting down a list of mandatory subject-line info. For
instance, if you are promoting a trade show, include the show's name,
location and date (e.g., ad:tech San Francisco April 26-28, 2006).
That leaves room for being creative since you have another 20
characters to go (try ad:tech San Francisco at the new Moscone Center
in San Francisco April 26-28, 2006). Oops, 84 characters, too long. It
When writing an email subject line, make the content of your message
absolutely clear or users will never open it. Online headers are very
different from print because they are used differently. Online headers
are often displayed out of context as part of a list of articles, such
as your email program's list of incoming messages or a search engine
listing. Even if the header is displayed with related content, the
reduced amount of available information at a glance makes it hard for
users to learn much from that data. Therefore, your subject line must
make sense and stand on its own. It is also important to put the most
vital and compelling information first in case the subject line is
Message Copy: It is important to show a sense of urgency, encouraging
your recipient to act now. Two-thirds of all purchases are impulse
buys. And while B2B products and services have a long sales cycle, you
can still entice your recipient into acting now on the next step in
the sales cycle.
Remember that recipients get a lot of email and they're not looking
for long, persuasive copy. They will scan and sometimes have an "aha"
about seeing something they must have or do now. This is why you want
to highlight benefits at the top, in the headline, first line of copy
or in the first graphic, as well as in a callout for emphasis. Be
creative in triggering an immediate response because once attention is
diverted elsewhere, that email has lost its glitter.
Limit your message to several important points that must be
communicated. Call attention to them up front in the email screen by
means of banners, white space above the banner, sidebars, hyperlinks
and menu bars. You might want to study past successful email messages
or read online articles about email marketing. Last, but not least,
write several different versions of your message and test to identify
the best performer.
Message frequency: This question is hard to answer as it varies
depending on a number of factors. Consumers don't mind receiving email
from you if the message is relevant. ClickZ columnist Jeanne Jennings
wrote recently, "There is no quick answer to the frequency question.
It depends on the goals for your emails and the type of content you
send." Her five guidelines for email frequency include:
?Mail at least once a month. Mail less often than this, and you risk
being forgotten by recipients. Monthly is the bare minimum.
?Let content be your guide. Look at what you provide readers and
you'll get a feel for proper frequency. Analyze how often the
information changes and how quickly readers must receive it to act on
?Take the lead from your readers. Some organizations offer daily email
newsletters as well as weekly summaries of the same content to give
readers a choice.
?Work within your resources. A daily email requires many more
resources than a monthly email. Better a well-done monthly email than
a shoddy daily or weekly email.
?Watch for trends. Declining response, open and click-through rates
can be signs of list fatigue. Though some decrease is normal, watch
carefully and cut back frequently if you see a problem.
In a final word on frequency, an Internet Retailer report (2005) found
that sending frequency alters response rates considerably. Among
online retailers who send out messages more than once a week, the
response rate peaks at 3% to 4%. On the other hand, retailers who send
out messages 2 or 3 times a month get response rates in the 7%+ range.
Next up, RSS Feeds/Blogs
A Cymfony/Porter Novelli study reports that ?the majority of companies
surveyed (76%) indicated that they have noticed an increase in media
attention and/or website traffic as a result of their blog(s).?
The key lies in the niche-ability of blogs/RSS feeds. ? ? companies in
the future will have to fashion 1,000 different messages for 1,000
different customer segments if they want anyone to pay attention to
them at all. The old broadcast model is going away as people take
control of their media through RSS readers, TiVo, digital downloads,
or what have you.?
The beauty and the beast of RSS feeds OVER e-mails are that users have
control over the message. They can opt in or opt out at the consumer?s
whim. Give them that control, and they will appreciate you for it, but
make sure the message is such that, they?ll want to hear in the first
Blogs and all those comments and trackbacks have changed the role of
search engine marketers by expanding its duties:
1. brand and reputation monitoring and management
2. content strategy and development
3. link development and site publicity efforts
It's not just blogs changing the landscape for SEM, but RSS feeds too;
Watlington describes them as the "high octane fuel" of these changes.
She noted 31 percent of US Internet users use RSS, and most of them do
so through My Yahoo.
RSS lets marketers build stronger relationships with customers. A
variety of messages can be distributed through RSS: product
announcements, security alerts, product usage tips, and other items.
The Google Answers team hoped you can derive much helpful information
from the preceding answer. Your researcher spent her years in academe
learning the reasons to despise marketing and the media, and has spent
the latter eight years of her life writing to market. Go figure, and
Buzz vs. viral
?Pharmaceutical television ads? + year
?Pharmaceutical advertising spending? 2000
? ? ? 2005
Marketing through email
blog rss marketing effective
Clarification of Answer by
17 Oct 2006 13:51 PDT
Glad you?d like to know more!
To preface, the correct use of the term CAM does not entail quackery
or left-field approaches. These types of treatments are intended to
not replace, but complement traditional therapies. Hence, the name.
Now, on to a concrete litany of items, as per your clarification
request. I will not repeat most of the concrete concepts already
listed in my original answer.
1.Going back to the brick-and-mortar (or lack thereof) concept,
consider the difference between someone who comes into a store to
browse and walks out, buying nothing, and someone who clicks onto your
site to ?browse? your store. Chances are, whoever is there visiting
your site, you have in some way paid to get there. Make use!
Essentially, there are three methods of driving traffic your way, but
two of the proceeding options are neither quick nor cheap:
A.Buy traffic?through Adwords, etc. You've SEOd ... have you Adworded?
It's not the cheapest mechanism, but it's effective.
B.Borrow traffic?linking to some of the most popular sites out there
in the realm of health and fitness can be a great way of getting your
message out there to the masses, but this can be a long, drawn out and
unpredictable course of action.
C.Recycle traffic?Customer loyalty is going to be your number one
commodity. Of course. Once a return customer has been established,
this means that you have their attention. Now, it?s time to really
capitalize on it. The more return visits, the more solid your
patronage, and most important, credibility. This brings us to the next
series of items, which use the recycling method of driving traffic.
2.Produce a newsletter. When RSS came into being, most predicted the
newsletter concept would soon be history. Instead, research indicates
that there is still quite a compelling case to be made for the power
of the newsletter. RSS feeds should be seen as a way to
complement?and not replace?the newsletter. As specifically charged
with writing newsletters for the first part of my tenure at a major
marketing agency, I have just a bit of experience with this topic.
Here is what your newsletter needs to work:
A.Focus ? what is the point of your publication? Get that message out
there as clearly and quickly as possible
B.Quality Content?your information should be really newsworthy, and
not a thinly veiled advertisement. Your reader will chuck the
newsletter, and probably, you. In sum, people believe in the power of
news, and won?t see it as anything else, so long as it?s not presented
blatantly in that way.
C.Always answer: WIIFM? Better bait, better catch.
D.Proof! Use statistics and numbers from credible sources as much as possible.
E.Chomp! Here is where you lure them in and invite them to bite the
bait. Readers need a direct call-to-action, or they won?t act.
F.Automation: Talk about saving time, make sure that once your
readership tops a few hundred, you automate your list so that you
aren?t wasting precious, countless hours adding and removing names.
3.Optimize your site, not the search engine: If someone is typing
words into a search engine that relate to your site and drive them
there, there is a good chance that these folks are members of your
target audience. Therefore, optimize your site to match that group of
people, rather than focusing on the words used to get there.
4.Become the author-expert. ?in order to get a high search engine
listing however you will need to create backlinks to your website
(i.e. hyperlinks to your website from other websites). This can be
done best by submitting your website to directories or exchanging
links with other websites. However a relatively new and popular way to
do this is by writing articles containing a link to your website(s)
and posting your articles to article directories. This method gives
you free backlinks, which are extremely important to your search
engine position, and also gives you free direct targeted visitors when
they click on your link in the article ? When you have created a good
article or articles then you will need to submit or publish your
articles to the web. The first method to do this is by manually
submitting your article to article directories. By typing ?article
directory? and other similar terms in search engines you will easily
find a plethora of sites willing to accept your submissions for free.
A couple of good article directories to submit to and get you started
are www.ezinearticles.com or www.article-world.net .You could also use
a special piece of software which will submit your article to multiple
article directories for you. A couple of good examples of pieces of
software like this are Article Submitter Pro or Article Announcer. A
final good method for publishing your articles is to use an article
submission service such as Isnare or Article Marketer. These services
will submit your article for you to multiple article directories for a
If you find yourself without the time or ability to write an
effective, compelling piece, hire a freelancer. It will be a lot
cheaper than hiring a marketing firm to write your marketing pieces
5.(repeated) E-Mail. Period. Marketing through e-mail is flexible,
cost-effective, easy to measure (assuming you put the right tracking
in place), and high impact. It allows you to easily drive traffic to
your Web site, reach a broad geographic audience and stay in frequent
contact with your customers and prospects. E-mail marketing allows you
to market your services and establish your expertise with your
audience. Use it for newsletters, new product announcements or to
share your publicity success-the ideas are endless. But know that this
flexibility and ease-of-use can cause problems. Remember, this is a
marketing campaign. So be sure to think it through, develop an
appropriate message, create a piece that reflects your brand, know
your objectives, and make sure the information is valuable for your
market, or people will quickly unsubscribe.
Traditionally, permission e-mail marketing campaigns result in a
significantly higher response rate than traditional direct marketing
or other forms of online advertising, such as banner ads. According to
FindMoreBuyers.com, the response rate for a typical permission e-mail
marketing campaign is 4-12%, where as the response rate for a banner
ad is .5-1%. Quite a difference. Source:
6.Special Reports and the like. ?Providing your prospects or customers
with information products is a great way to provide extra value or to
provide an incentive for them to make a purchase or to register for
your ezine or newsletter. And if you write a report or article and
provide it as a free download from your web site, you have no printing
or delivery costs and you can drive traffic to your site. If you don't
like discounting your products or services, but are looking for
another incentive to get customers to buy or opt-in to your mailing
list, offering free information as a special bonus is a great
alternative. Do you have a new product or service, or a special
package or pricing that you'd like to promote? Put the link for your
free report on the page of your site that promotes that product or
service. You can also market in reverse.?
7.The Press Release. Sometimes, health experts actually appear on news
shows because their products hold merit, and not because they paid to
be there, though usually, it is the latter. An effective press release
mass-distributed (100 is considered mass PR distribution) is likely to
get one hit, and that?s all you need. It doesn?t cost more to send
more out, however. In order to procure a complete list of editors,
etc, do a simple Google search with a news e-mail suffix. For
instance, @kcstar.com produced the following:
We at Google Answers thank you for choosing us! I was hoping you would
see my previous answer has holding both types of information--the
philosophical framework as well as concrete methods and starting
points. If there is anything you'd like to know, as always, please let
Thank you again.
Clarification of Answer by
18 Oct 2006 12:36 PDT
I met this morning with a communications consultant I know, and we
brainstormed about your situation. It truly is the only way creative
marketing solutions are procured. Two minds are almost always better
than one, right?
I showed him my clarification I submitted to you yesterday, and he
immediately latched onto the concept of borrowing traffic, and we
discussed ways in which this process does not have to be a sluggish
shot in the dark when compared to recycling and expounding on the
traffic you already do have.
For this first, most critical wave of site visitors, we thought a good
way for you to bring them to your site was through a method of B2B
reciprocity and sales tactics.
There are many health and fitness sites out there, and many of these
sites are without a forum. Of that group, most would like to have a
forum on their site, but don't want to deal with its administrative
The presence of a well-maintained forum on a Web site is indicative of
the entire site's freshness ... in content, perspective, product price
and availability, you name it. How many times have you been browsing
for something on the Web only to come across a site that hasn't been
updated for more than a year, with a forum sans any posts? On the same
token, think about what a site says and exudes about itself when it
has no forum, at all? Forums are perceived as real people, holding
engaging conversation, not some amorphous entity running the site
itself. Your forum, given the advantageously wide net it casts over
types of products (rather than focusing all efforts on one, tiny
niche), will be an easy sell to a wide audience.
Bonus for the site owner ... would you agree to your forum being in
frame format, so that visitors from the originating site do not
actually leave it? The nav. bar would remain their own. I think that
would be a great sell, as well.
This should NOT cost you anything. If it does, you'd have to do a
cost-benefit and compare the cost of paying whatever sites you
approach with your framed forum to other forms of marketing.
One counterpoint we discussed was the potential for these sites you
approach to view you as competition rather than a complementary (and
complimentary, actually!) service. You'll have to pick and choose the
sites, then, very carefully. I can see another great Google Answers
research question bubbling up there! :)
What would be even neater was if you could actually package your forum
as something others BUY from you to use on their site, but that might
not go along with your business plan so much, however.
Going back to the idea of your site simply existing as a framed forum
on others' sites, let's talk about advertising, and attracting these
guys to you.
If your forum is present on more than a certain number of Web sites,
it is considered a network, which is of great benefit to advertisers,
because their own message's reach becomes exponential, along with
yours! Your rates would be more than if you just had one presence, but
less than the typical cost to the advertiser of buying space on more
than one site.
Another idea in the vein of recycling and multiplying current business:
Enlist frequent reviewers on your site to discuss your site on other forums.
For instance. I have Lyme disease. It's chronic and persistent. I am a
member of nearly every site out there on this topic, and sometimes,
when I post something somewhere, I go to the other places and post it
as well, saying, I posted this on lymebusters.org or
such-and-such.org, or I find a particularly clever diatribe on one
site and have to post it elsewhere for others to read. I always source
it ... but maybe that's just the researcher in me. :) Some brazen
posters just come right through and advertise their site in other
forums, without being a spammer, of course.
Now, regarding press releases:
I think I am comprehending your request for clarification correctly.
You're wondering if communications agencies and such that write press
releases for their clients as a service all send the press releases to
the same folks? No way. These are targeted, as well, but the for-pay
services do utilize a database that is known to not update too often,
which means there must be some level of list exhaustion.
However, it is my opinion that press releases are too rigidly
perceived. I don't think these written pieces should be reserved for
reporters, editors, news directors, etc. While it should be written in
a news-publishable manner, who says you can't send this in an e-mail
to whomever you'd like, asking them to repost where they see
appropriate? As for those frequent visitors, when you have procured
them, ask that they post the information about your site elsewhere, as
And if all else fails, there's always myspace.
We at Google Answers hope you find yourself resting upon solid ground
on this starting point for your great business idea. As you can see,
your model is such that has the potential for exponential reach, if
you package it correctly for your target audience, be it in your B2B
transactions or customer relations. People love spouting their
opinions. I'm sure you've seen these sites, but, really, take note of
places like remedyfind.com and rateitall.com. Wildly successful, but
lack one very important element: You are selling the cream of the
crop, as chosen by consumers. The bottom line is marketing. It's all
in the package. Make it clear, consistent and credible, and with work,
the rest will fall into place.
Good luck to you, and thank you for choosing Google Answers!