Marketing & Public Relations Firm - Verasoni Worldwide

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Several weeks ago I posted about the comeback of the American consumer and its impact on the financial services market. Since then, I’ve engaged in the same discussion with healthcare device makers and distributors who are also wondering how a stronger consumer will impact their business.

The obvious reality is that every sector in the United States ought to be positioning itself in light of strong consumer sentiment and data.  Let me quickly set the table by restating a few key points from my previous post about market conditions and business climate that are relevant across industries, but are certainly applicable to healthcare equipment makers, manufacturers, and distributors:

  • The stock market is at or near an all time high
  • The business media seems to be whistling a happy tune about the comeback of the American Consumer
  • Earlier this year, according to Bloomberg.com Macys’, Target and Gap reported sales that topped sales estimates in January, 2013
  • This past February, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment climbed to 76.3 from 73.8 in January
  • Ernst & Young cited stronger global markets and calls the US markets “very positive” in its most recent forecast.
  • With property values rising and the job market strengthening, Americans seem to be poised for an uptick in wealth

So, what does the comeback of the American consumer mean to Healthcare consumption? From 10,000 feet, two things: 1) The American healthcare consumer will have more money and more confidence to spend it and 2) that confidence and willingness to spend will be tempered by impact on the collective psyche still felt from the 2008 market crash.

Who will benefit from this consumer wealth effect?  Consumer medical specialties, like dentists and cosmetic dentists, plastic and cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, fertility specialists, bariatric surgeons, and those companies who are selling to them, as well as hospitals and surgi-centers who will deliver care in these service lines. We believe that other specialty areas will also see benefits such as certain areas of orthopedics, We see a healthy return of discretionary income spending in the aforementioned areas. At a recent meeting of Plastic Surgeons in New York City, a Baltimore based doctor said: “we’re seeing people coming off the street and dropping a $1,000 to $1,500 on procedures, and that hasn’t happened in a long time.”  As I write, there’s a strong bi-partisan push in the senate to repeal the medical device tax. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I am a device manufacturer or distributor. Just as a reminder, the 2.3% excise tax is on the gross sales price of taxable medical devices. Regardless of whether the medical device tax is repealed or not, companies who better position themselves in this climate relative to the American consumer, will have a whopping advantage over those who don’t.

Here’s how healthcare device companies and distributors can better position themselves in light of the coming wealth effect:

1. Down-line Education – Three pronged approach: 1) Get out in front of the market by arming your buyers with the information they need to make an informed buying decision for your products. Include information on what the wealth effect could mean for both their business and patients.  It is likely that they themselves are feeling the wealth effect personally. Of course, buying certain equipment will put your buyers in a better position to serve the needs of their patients who will now feel more comfortable in spending discretionary dollars on healthcare services. 2) Consumer down-line education through web and digital strategies will provide fertile ground to drive consumer education and show buyers your commitment to their success.  3) Peer-to-Peer education for buyers of healthcare devices and products. Down-line education must have a strong digital component, especially with the rise of mobile and the coming of Google Glass, which will once again revolutionize mobile. [A quick aside: I was one of the privileged few to recently accompany a Google employee on a Google Glasses tour and indeed healthcare must be prepared for the coming revolution, but that's a post for another day.]

2. Brand Like You Mean It – This is a great time to get back into the market with a healthy respect for your customers. Communicate with them on a level that they come to expect and specifically communicate value.  Your visuals must be stunning, your value lasting.  Now, I have been on the record and continue to be by saying that branding is “not what you do,” it’s a “result of what you do.” For those companies who have been lacking in promoting their products and services to exceed market expectations, the time to start building a foundation for your brand has never been better than right now. This is especially true now because some of your competitors will inevitably continue to rely on the same strategies, thinking the same old ways, or their size, or whatever will produce results in this environment. Good, let them. For companies who consider themselves brand leaders in their space, don’t rest on your brand laurels, because your customers will now need more information to make buying decisions, and have more access to information about your products and your competitors’.

3. Mobile & Digital Will Drive Marketing Strategy Linkedin just surpassed 1 million doctors and nurses worldwide. Our own proprietary research shows that as of January 27, 2013, there were 500,000 people who have identified themselves in the United States as “dentists” on Facebook and 33,000 in the same category on Linkedin. There were 2,918 people who identified themselves as “general dentists” on Linkedin. Combine that with Healthcare topics being the most consumer-searched subject online in the United States, and you now have an idea of how important the digital environment is to your business. Educating the consumer and the market about the value of your products in the digital world is crucial to building consumer awareness and driving demand to your customers (doctors, dentists, hospitals, surgi-centers, clinics). Web and digital content must meet the expectations of the market, and if it doesn’t your company risks brand erosion. Positioning your products juxtaposed against value – remember, your customers and the consumer is once bitten and twice shy by now – will go a long way to making the case for your products. Your digital reputation and your customers’ must be spotless, because it is your reputation. So, move away from creating social pages and posting to meaningful digital strategies. Location strategies relative to how you sell should play a critical part. For example: if you’re selling an intra-oral camera, or gastric sleeves, you may want to share with your customers who else the in the area is using your technology via a mobile map application.  The very least you ought to do is mobilize your websites to make it easier for your sales force and your clients to access your products and services.

4.  Be a Category Creator – In Why It Pays to Be a Category Creator (Harvard Business Review, March 2013), the authors found that “category creators experience much faster growth and receive much higher valuations than companies bringing only incremental innovations to market.” Researchers found that category creators, while only 13% of the companies studied, accounted for 74% of the group’s growth. Consider the dental industry’s fore into sleep medicine. It was a blue ocean strategy, which opened up a new market for dentists and provided patients with yet different way to utilize and view their dentist. Whatever category you choose to create, and at the risk of overstating the obvious here, it has to be both ethical and make sense for the patient. So, be creative, you may surprise yourself.

It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare. Being nimble and entrepreneurial and taking advantage of selling into the current climate no matter size of your company is a virtue and highly accretive to growth in this environment.  So, jump right in, the water is fine.

Abe Kasbo is CEO of Verasoni Worldwide
Follow @akasbo or facebook.com/verasoni


For distributors and manufacturers, the dental market is now moving faster than ever before and with a greater emphasis on efficiency and market penetration. It’s perhaps the understatement of the decade to say that companies are now trying to position themselves in this seemingly hyper competitive space in order to better gain market share in an industry that’s forecasted to deliver about $70 billion in sales in 2013.

However, the unfathomable speed that is moving technology and media is creating a dangerous intersection for CEOs and CMOs who may be left feeling like they are drinking from a fire hydrant when it comes to marketing communications; so are now seeking more clarity on the subject than ever before. Strategic integrated marketing decisions in this space, and acting on them or not, will obviously affect brands and sales outcomes, but only if one can sufficiently separate the hype from the realities.

Below is our take on some of the realities and what dental companies and distributors can expect in 2013 in the marketing communications space. Here are our predictions for the New Year!

PREDICTION #1

Companies Will Be More Mobile or Will Lag Behind

According to Hubspot, in 2012 more people bought more smartphones than PC’s. Fifty-percent of US adults own a smartphone or tablet and 66% get the news on those devices.  In the second half of 2012, tablets outsold PCs.  By the end of 2013, we predict mobile will play a more strategic role with companies in the dental space, including the adoption of mobile branded content platforms, mobile ads and location based marketing.  Naturally, dentists have already moved in that direction, as their behavior typically follows the consumer market.

We believe the strong attachment to mobile devices will mean that those companies who move in a measured and meaningful way will also position themselves to own the mobile device behavior of their clients and salesforce.

PREDICTION #2

Editorial Branded Content Will Prevail

Research tells us that branded editorial not only drives organic search to your website, but also influences the reader.  Editorial content must be married with a mobile and social distribution to your company’s relevant network. Everything else is simply fluff.  So companies will seek to better align their mobile and content strategies to keep their products more in reach and top of mind.

We’re never wild about business terminology, but we just came across one that fits this prediction: “Newsjacking”!  Simply put, brands and companies must generate their own news and become their own publishers.  Sales professionals and dentists are a smart bunch, so companies who position their content in a way that they can be perceived as a resource will win over time.  Last but not least, companies will create once and publish everywhere!

PREDICTION #3

More Digital Bounce to Engagement, Branding & Sales

According to a 2012 study cited by Hubspot, one-third of CMOs say more than half of their budgets have shifted from traditional to digital marketing in the past year, yet the same study showed companies with 50+ employees spend almost 20% of their marketing budgets on tradeshows.  Where’s the intersection?  Companies in the dental space will begin to integrate digital strategies into their tradeshow presence to carry relationships formed at tradeshows well beyond that event.  Companies will go beyond email, to engagement on social and through peer-to-peer activities and brand story telling via mobile microsites. Companies who engage in this space will also see more earned media as a result of organic search.

PREDICTION #4

Company Website Shall Be Responsive or Be Gone

Since all data is pointing towards the supremacy of mobile search going forward, dental companies who are seeking a competitive position in the digital space – and who isn’t? – will make their websites responsive. Since mobile devices vary in screen sizes, users will grow increasingly frustrated in viewing a traditional website on a mobile device, and if the experience is frustrating, research tell us that they will find an alternative in about 4 seconds.

PREDICTION #5

Move to Big Data in Dental

Companies will look for strategic edges through integration of big data. Companies in the dental space will demand more access to fragmented data either to help access a market or make better decisions on how to drive sales.

PREDICTION #6

Social Media Will Break Out of Its Silo

Brands will understand that likes and followers mean very little unless they are engaged. Companies in the space will capture mindshare by recognizing that will no longer place their brands in social media silos but develop a more integrated approach to telling their stories and engaging their audience. Companies in the dental space will use social media to drive inbound marketing strategies and not simply for branding purposes.  Mobile will drive access, meaningful content and the platforms will drive engagement.  Social media will evolve in the space to serve as a key platforms for brand KOLs and media engagement.

PREDICTION #7

Advertising Still Useful, Not Dead, Monetize to Digital

The era of branded print and digital advertising is over in our opinion, but that doesn’t mean that the medium is dead. In fact brand print and digital advertising can be quite useful if integrated with their digital cohorts.  Successful companies in the space will drive print to web, drive print to social, and drive print to mobile and more.  The integration will deliver more data to help CEOs and CMOs make better decisions as they look for growth in 2013.

Finally, No doubt technology will continue to transform how brands communicate their value proposition in 2013 and beyond. It’s important to note that, regardless of technology, the basics of integrated marketing communications strategies still apply. That’s one prediction that we know will last through 2013 and beyond.

Abe Kasbo is the CEO of Verasoni Worldwide a fiercely independent marketing and public relations firm located in Montclair, NJ. Follow the company here: @twitter or facebook.

 

 


Did you know that The New York Times is in the wine business? The Washington Post got into what was perceived to be the power broker business? Until of course someone shed some light on that “business” line. And CNBC is all about not upsetting business by making sure that their programming and prodigious prognosticators move markets ever upward either through sheer will, if not fast talk. Market is up, everyone is happier than a bee on caffeine. Yeah, in a downmarket, the talking heads look like they want to take their ball and go home. Bummer…These guys are the Big & Bad, these are icons of journalism.

So what does this all mean? For one thing, it confirms that content is king, I will explain the what and why later in this piece. Yes, The New York Times has to capitalize on its database to drive more dollars to the bottom line – so, let’s start a wine club! The Washington Post watched it’s circulation drop, so selling access to powerful Washingtonians seemed logical and highly accretive to the bottom line. It makes perfect sense…until it doesn’t.

Core business is critical in journalism – not earth shattering news I am sure. Let’s get serious for a minute about this and ask a critical question, What is the state of journalism as it relates to advertisers? The reason why I am using the word Journalism and not media or some other word is intentional. And while experts in suits are screaming at the demise of “traditional media” – meaning newspapers, television, radio – I submit that they are wrong, dead wrong. Why? Content IS king. The proof is Wikileaks. I mean, if these folks don’t wake up and find out that true, inspired, untarnished journalism sells, they will continue to find other ways of keeping their business relevant, like selling spirits and driving people to Twitter or asking people to pay for their “content.” The world of journalism, has actually become even more serious and competitive, but our Bigs are still asleep at the printing press or the remote control.

When the few who were calling the coming crash in between 2003-2008, the mainstream business media, including CNBC’s fell silent.  No one wanted to ruin the party.  You mean people would not have wanted to get another perspective from someone who doesn’t talk very fast and perhaps doesn’t wear a tie? Check out Jon Stewart’s – all too late I might add, but someone had to do it – undressing of Cramer on the subject…

Julian Assange and Wikileaks are hot topics these days.  From my perspective, for the wrong reasons. Governments rail against Wikileaks as they try to cover information otherwise not easily attainable by the public. The public’s apparent appetite for the information on Wikileaks has been, and I suspect will continue to be insatiable. So when Wikileaks puts out an alert, The New York Times actually promotes the content on Wikileaks and distributes it on its website and in print. While this is part in parcel with the mission of Wikileaks, The New York Times should have identified a business opportunity, one that allows it to be the trusted source for relevant content. Advertisers want and need sticky content. Wouldn’t it be better if the Grey Lady played in the same game as Wikileaks? I am taking The Times at task here, but many fine newspapers and television stations across the United States and world suffer from the same crippling disease. Yes, people are interested in this stuff, highly interested. And if you report on what Wikileaks did, I would rather visit Wikileaks, the source. Our journalists should be the source.

By many, Assange is viewed as a modern day Robin Hood, by others as spoiler and traitor.  The global media titans ought view him as an innovator and disrupter and quickly learn from him.  Wikileaks is clearly a game changer, and has quickly become a global brand, and a trusted source to boot.  Every time a whistle-blower chooses Wikileaks over “trusted” journalistic icons should make people who care deeply about these institutions mad as hell because he/she did not or could not use the traditional route to get the word out.  Content lost!  No, I am mistaken, not content lost! Judging by how many people hit Wikileaks’ servers, relevant content lost and therefore dollars lost!

Which begs another question: does anyone still care about the traditional route?

That’s a topic to chew on another time.


By Abe Kasbo and Kim Reydel

Social media was a huge buzz word in 2009 and the hype will undoubtedly spill over into 2010.  Without a question, social media is now the new mass media (television still dominates…for now), and while businesses are still scrambling to figure out how to maximize their investment, social media delivered the following important points to the market:

1. Aggregation

2. Segmentation

3. Revelancy

As companies continue to embrace social media to grow their businesses, expand their brand footprint, and utilize the medium for PR purposes, some are still struggling to optimize social media to its full potential. According to the Social Media and Online PR Report, 86% of companies plan to more money on social media in 2010. Conversely, 54% of those surveyed say the biggest barrier to better social media engagement is a lack of resources. So, although many are plugged in to various social networking outlets, about half of them see a hurdle in using the tools to their full capacity. In addition 60% of companies say that they have gained “some benefit but nothing concrete” from using social networking. Let’s be honest, when using a tool to grow your business it’s crucial to see the results and reap the benefits. Until you know how to properly engage in social media, it’s not an essential tool for your business.

According to a survey by Econsultancy and bigmouthmedia in the B2B world 11% of respondents were heavily involved in social media while 23% were not involved and 65% experimented only. In the retail business 10% of respondents were heavily involved, 27% not involved, and 63% of retail respondents only experimented with social media. Like any other business strategy you must follow through with a plan, and a short presence on facebook is sure to generate zero business for any company. The concept of social media may have been an experiment, but building your company’s presence on a social network is a business strategy that requires a commitment and understanding of the platform. The majority of companies agree that major benefits of social media include; increased brand awareness, customer engagement, communication with key influencers, and better brand reputation. Additionally 54% of supply side respondents say their clients are incorporating video and video sharing in their use of social media. It’s superb that so many companies have hopped on the social media bandwagon but truth be told, it might as well be obsolete unless you are using it as a tool to engage your audience.

So, although statistics show that companies know how to use social media, there is a lack of understanding when it comes to the value of engagement. In other words, any company has the ability to create a fan page on facebook and populate the group, but often times it stops here. Companies have to keep in mind that those who join your network on twitter or facebook or linkedin are looking for something and it’s your responsibility to give it to them. The social networking platform allows you to offer coupons, contests, news, videos, promotions etc to ENGAGE your audience. It’s important to bring people together via your social network but it’s crucial to keep your site functional and relevant. As another year is about to begin, let’s make a resolution to remember to engage engage engage!


Here’s a brief interview with FIOS1 about social networking.


Here’s a link to article about social networking in The Record by Joan Verdon. The article is also referenced below…

Mall links to shoppers via Twitter, Facebook
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Last updated: Tuesday July 21, 2009, 9:15 AM
BY JOAN VERDON
NorthJersey.com
STAFF WRITER

When North Jersey’s largest shopping mall, Westfield Garden State Plaza, was looking for a new way to connect with consumers, it turned to two marketing tools becoming increasingly popular with retailers — a Facebook fan site and a Twitter account.

For the past 10 days, the Paramus shopping center’s representatives have been posting news about sales and deals on the Facebook page, and sending out instant messages via Twitter.com about celebrity sightings and restaurant specials. Mall enthusiasts have been signing up as Facebook fans at the rate of about 100 per day. As of Monday at 10 a.m., the site had 1,067 fans.

“Social media is shifting the way we communicate with our customers,” said Lisa Herrmann, the mall’s marketing director. The Facebook site and Twitter account “allow us to send out information that is significant to our shoppers with real-time updates in a fun and engaging way,” she said. The mall plans to expand its offerings with fashion tips and shopping suggestions from style experts, and video clips of celebrity appearances at the mall.

The use of Facebook pages and fan sites has surged among retailers over the past year. A study released by Hamilton-based interactive marketing agency Rosetta in January found that 59 percent of the top 100 retailers had Facebook fan pages, and that the number of such sites doubled during the second half of 2008.

National department store chain Macy’s debuted a fan site in late June and already has more than 11,000 fans.

The return on investment for retail social networking sites has yet to be quantified, but the investment needed is minimal, although some sites have spent money for features such as interactive contests. Computer company Dell Inc. last month boosted the business credibility of social networks by announcing that it had made more than $3 million in sales through links to one of its Twitter accounts.

Marketing executives caution that malls and other retailers should have a clearly defined marketing strategy in mind before they jump on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagons.

“We haven’t surveyed retailers to see if they’re getting the ROI [return on investment],” said Adam Cohen, head of the social media practice for Rosetta. “But frankly, to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page is not that expensive.”

The value of such networking lies in allowing retailers “to connect with their consumers in a different way,” Cohen said. The sites let companies build relationships and a sense of community with their customers, he said.

Retailers, Cohen said, need to dedicate time and effort to truly interact with online fans. “Otherwise, I think a lot of companies are going to be disappointed. Or they’re going to be measuring the buzz by how often someone comments on their page. They’re going to have a hard time being able to really attribute that to any quantifiable increase in sales,” he said.

“It’s very powerful if you do it right,” said Abe Kasbo, chief executive officer of Verasoni, a Little Falls marketing firm that has seen its social networking projects increase tenfold over the past year. “You can stay in constant touch literally on a daily basis with your clients and customers,” he said. “But the big caveat is you have to have a strategy and you have to do it right.”

The biggest mistake, Kasbo said, is launching a site and not maintaining it with frequent postings and relevant information. “It has to be relevant to the customer or they’re not going to hang out with you” online, Kasbo said.

Another potential pitfall with Facebook fan pages is any fan is free to post comments about the retailer’s news alerts, and those comments may be negative. The Plaza site has generated very little discussion thus far, and all of that has been positive. But some retailers have seen their sites hijacked by disgruntled shoppers or even their own employees.

On most sites, however, the Facebook fans live up to their name. The Target site, for example, gets daily postings by people proclaiming their love for the Minnesota-based retailer.

Westfield Garden State Plaza got a running start on building the fan base by launching it the week “Harry Potter” movie star Tom Felton (“Draco Malfoy”) appeared at the mall. His appearance drew 2,000 fans of the film series, and the mall used the event to promote its Facebook site.

The no-Sunday-shopping blue laws of Paramus and Bergen County don’t apply to shopping tweets and Facebook updates. Herrmann said the Plaza’s Facebook and Twitter followers can expect to get news alerts even on Sundays. This past Sunday, Plaza fans online at 6:21 a.m. could learn that the Tourneau store at the mall was offering a free pair of TAG Heuer sunglasses with any purchase of a TAG Heuer watch.

E-mail: verdon@northjersey.com


By Abe Kasbo:

In a lot of ways, the web has been integrated into our lives. It is the vital tool and medium of our age. Today, it is just highly likely that we click to shop or “windown shop” for stuff like presents, cars, clothes, investments, an education or even a mate. And the data are proving it!

So with the holidays coming, the great annual debate is on…where and how will consumers spend their dollars?

A recently released report by comScore Networks said that in the third quarter of this year, online non-travel (“retail”) spending increased to $23.1 billion (up 23 percent), while travel spending, despite a slowing growth rate, reached $18.2 billion (up 9 percent). Overall, total online spending by consumers reached $41.3 billion in the third quarter, representing a 16-percent increase versus the same period in 2005.

Overall, comScore currently forecasts that total consumer online spending in 2006 should reach approximately $170 billion. Of that total, comScore estimates that non-travel e-commerce will break the $100 billion threshold for the first time.

Here’s a link to the full press release on the report:

http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=1050