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Data management programs enabled with technologies have completely changed the way marketers buy media today. More and more companies are embracing technologies that facilitate media transactions in real-some time and at the granular level. Programmatic buying ecosystem are at the core with this revolution and has triggered a paradigm shift from medical web marketing buying to targeted ad placements based upon user behavior.

Programmatic buying means sale and get of media instantly in a automated manner through software and algorithms. Automation is live and accurate to such extent which it not merely saves time but additionally improves efficiencies regarding ROIs and reaching a target audience with laser-guided precision.

While Programmatic buying has not yet taken the healthcare domain by storm, a buzz throughout the topic has begun getting louder lately.

Media buying in healthcare quintessentially continues to be completed in a normal manner through sales teams approaching publishers either offline or on the web and go by way of a long process RFQs, negotiations, preparing artworks and specs modifications, purchase indenting, vendor onboarding and in the end releasing payment. And all sorts of this convoluted process has to pass through ahead of the ad is even published. Hence you will discover a lag between purchase intent and actual media release. And that is what Programmatic is good at solving.

Just how does Programmatic buying works and why hasn’t it caught the imaginations of healthcare marketer yet? We will dig into details.

How can Programmatic Buying Works? The Programmatic Ecosystem

First, we will understand some frequently used terms utilized in the Programmatic Buying world as well as the way the Programmatic ecosystem actually works.

Step 1:

When a user clicks on a web page that has a marketing space upon it, the publisher of your web page sends a cookie to user’s web browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Bing… whichever).

What exactly is Cookie: Cookie, in simple terms, is a small data file that may be sent from publisher’s web server to user’s browser which serves to determine user’s identity

Step 2:

In the event an inventory (advertising space on the web page) is on the market, it triggers a request from publisher’s Ad Server with their Supply Side Platform (SSP) to fill the Ad slot

Meaning of SSP: You may think of Supply Side Platforms (SSPs) such as a library or storehouse of Ad Inventories available for placing your advertisement. It is a platform that connects sellers (web sites, blogs, directories etc.) with buyers or advertisers who compete against one another for available Ad space.

A few of the well known supply side platforms are AppNexus, PubMatic, AOL or Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

Step Three:

SSP then issues a bid request to Demand Side Platform (DSP). This bid request contains information regarding the consumer who is going to begin to see the Ad like her demographic profile, browsing history, etc. This data helps DSPs to create an educated decision regarding a user before you make a bid.

Exactly what is a DSP? : Demand Side Platform or DSP, as they are referred in programmatic world, can be a doorway to purchase advertising space in an automated fashion. Think about DSPs as advertiser’s gatekeepers who matches inventories with buyer’s marketing objectives. DSPs make bidding decision for a buyer after evaluating parameters like publisher’s profile, ad placement, the surface expense of available impression, etc.).

A number of better-known DSPs include DoubleClick Bid Manager by Google, AdMission, MediaMath etc.

Step 4:

Depending on the algorithm, DSPs assesses inventories to find out how valuable the sense is and if you should participate in the auction with respect to an advertiser. If DSP decides to sign up in bid auction, it sends a bid response back to SSP

Step 5:

SSP gathers all bid responses and picks a winner based on the second-price auction, it means, the one who bids slightly higher than the second highest bidder.

Step 6:

SSP notifies winning DSP as well as the DSP, in turn, sends Ad serving code to SSP. Finally, SSP passes on Ad serving code to user’s browser and renders the Ad. The Ad is then served along with other content on the webpage.

And these steps take place at the lightning speed at the back end even though the page loads!

Forms of Programmatic Buying

Programmatic Buying, as we know now, is automated buying of ad space on the website. There are fundamentally 2 types of programmatic buying based on if the ad space or inventory is bought through auction (Auction based) or if you are paying a fixed rate to the publisher (fixed price).

Auction based:

Open auction: This is dependant on real-time auction-based bidding. Most prevalent of all programmatic buying

Invitation-only auction: This too is auction-based but bidding has limitations to decide on advertisers selected by way of a publisher. More premium inventory sold at the higher price. Some publishers give ‘first look’ benefit to some advertisers before ad space is seen to others

Fixed priced:

Unreserved set rate: Price is prefixed but no ad space is scheduled aside beforehand

Automated guaranteed or Programmatic premium: This is an automated procedure for buying guaranteed ad space that doesn’t involve an auction, the location where the price is prefixed and impressions are guaranteed. Generally, this sort is most premium of all.

Scope of Programmatic Buying in Healthcare

Programmatic marketing has not taken health care industry by storm yet by any stretch in the imagination, especially so in India. Even though this marketing phenomenon is discussed in marketing conferences and agency boardrooms nonetheless its role continues to be tied to lexicons and concept as an alternative to on actual spending of promoting dollars. Out from the global spending of USD 22 Bn on Programmatic buying in 2015, spending in India had been a mere USD 25 M rendering it just above 1% share (Source: Media Global report cited in eMarketer )

By 2018, it’s projected how the medical industry will spend $2.2 billion on digital media. With roughly 40% of most media buys being programmatic, healthcare marketers use a great opportunity on the hands. Not merely is programmatic the newest buzzword, but it is estimated that 70% of media buys will probably be programmatic in 2016. That’s significant growth over two years.

Healthcare media buying in India is still predominantly completed by traditional spray-and-pray, at best loosely targeted media campaigns involving humans (read- sales team) that negotiate with publishers or media agencies to purchase ad space or inventory. Programmatic buying, alternatively, allows precision and previously unthought-of granularity to achieve target customers with better engagement and reduce costs. I want to present some real life scenarios to give home the impact of Programmatic Buying marketing for dentists.

Imagine you might be visiting nearby pharmacy store to acquire sugar control medication after performing some online search about medicines dosage and side effects. Suddenly your smartphone buzzes. Curious to know, you examine your inbox and look for email message inviting anyone to take a free diabetes check-up at a Clinic simply a block clear of where you are.

Almost scary, isn’t it! Well, this is just what Programmatic can perform. It reaches your predefined customers or audience on the right moment having a right message. And such a thing happens in milliseconds inside an automated fashion, as a result of footprints, or say Cookies, you left while searching the world wide web.

Programmatic buying has evolved the approach from rendering same advertising message to an incredible number of customers to creating an original message for individual customers according to her need at that moment of your energy. A proof of concept for this can be how health care insurance could possibly be bought by using a Programmatic platform.

While you were renewing medical insurance policy online for your personal parents, an advert banner flashed across your laptop screen proclaiming to provide better coverage with add-ons with a lesser premium. The content is so timely and apt that you could not resist but clicking the ad. It feels that ‘someone’ is after the foot trails online. It appears that there should indeed be ‘someone’ that follow users to offer messages that are very apt and timely.

In many ways, data analytics will be the lifeblood of automated buying. Although a big amount of information is gathered within the medical industry, as an example, a hospital, virtually no than it is commonly used effectively to construct effective data-driven strategy.

First party data sources in hospitals like patient registration kiosk of Hospital Information System, CRMs or possibly a Website could be used to capture customer intent by placing a cookie on customer’s browser which can then follow and track a customer’s online journey and place meaningful and compelling messages to get engagement with patients or customers. This primary data together with a second-party data from affiliates or online subscription agencies and third-party data purchased from outside data aggregators like telecom companies, other CRMs etc., is clustered to create homogenous number of audiences having similar traits like age, web surfing history, online purchases, content sharing on social networking, medical content consumed, etc.

Allow us to conjure up a probable scenario for the hospital that is about to launch Diabetes Management Program and wants to reach targeted audience making use of their primary data base gathered over past years. Data points like e-mail address and make contact with numbers of patients undergoing care under endocrinologist would turn into a good audience pool to perform targeted messages using GSP (Gmail Sponsored Promotions) or RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) campaigns. While a GSP would enable messages to be shipped to prospective patient’s Gmail inbox, the RLSA campaign would guarantee that message is rendered on user’s SERPs wherever they use the internet.

The great thing of programmatic advertising is that it can integrate all media delivery options and deliver the message to right audiences wherever they live online whether it is video, search ads, mobile, display or social networking. Such media optimization receives a captive and engaged audience to marketers leading to maximum value out from marketing dollar spent.

Say you wish to target women within their early 40s living in North Bangalore for promoting cancer of the breast screening. Programmatic-method of carrying this out is deliver your message for the in-market audience directly by capturing basic patient’s intent after which tracking their online behavior. As an example, say 45-year old women that visited your Oncology website and is also searching information online on “protection against breast cancer”.

Programmatic Buying allows you to meet the needs of your unique audience who may be in the far end of buyer’s journey and it has a better propensity of getting when your message touches their cord. Programmatic Buying helps to track investment or put simply, makes returns attributable. Advertising has become a niche endeavor and Programmatic Buying comes like a potent tool in marketers purpose to unravel key steps to niche marketing.

Programmatic Buying comes with its share of challenges and unethical practices that digital marketers must stand guard against. Such bad practices permeate throughout the Programmatic ecosystem and therefore are omnipresent across industries including healthcare.

In the highly regulated healthcare sector, these challenges are more evident. So let me address some burning issues plaguing the Programmatic Buying in healthcare

1) Restrictions on retargeting: Hospital industry continues to be slow to evolve programmatic buying because medical ethics restrict any type of advertising to patients, including the audience retargeting using cookies

2) Ad misplacement: Ad placement while attempting to reach a prospect, say a Physician in the non-clinical environment similar to a Game Center or Expedia Travel site might actually dilute importance of brand name and message

3) Control: As previously mentioned, Demand Side Platforms are aggregators of inventory to make them available for Advertisers. However, in health care industry, not many reputed medical publishers like PubMed, WebMD, The Lancet, NEJM etc. may renounce control over their inventory to allow open ad ecosystem like Programmatic take over. That is the reason why most medical publishers still prefer reserved, non-auction depending on programmatic buying like either Programmatic Direct.

4) Higher costs: Because of publisher’s reluctance towards open-auction bidding in healthcare for reasons stated above, cost per impression (CPM) is more than in other industries like retail and travel.

5) Inventory scale: Since ad spaces on medical sites has limitations and finite, mostly they may be bought via direct 1-to-1 Publisher-Advertiser model leading to inflated CPMs and suboptimal performance parameters (read ROI)

6) Stale-on-Sale:General impression is the fact that a media bought through Programmatic model is generally a leftover, remnant inventory. This is not entirely untrue in healthcare either. Media space buying in healthcare predominantly is either through direct buyout involving humans or direct buyout involving automation, referred to as the Programmatic Direct. Hence, precisely what is left can be a less coveted, tier-2 inventory. Although buying this inventory can help derive engagement at much lower cost.

7) Private Healthcare Ad Exchanges:In view of medical data security, misplacements and privacy issues in healthcare, some proponents of exclusive healthcare ad exchanges emerged. In fact we already have some media buying platforms in healthcare like MM&M, Compas etc. that allow automated buying to healthcare publishers. However, given that transparency and neutrality of open buying platform will be compromised with such agencies, there is very little incentive for advertisers to do business with such private ad exchanges. Besides, scale and inventory provided with such private exchanges is likewise limited in comparison to full-service media agencies.

Aside these challenges that are specific to healthcare industry, Programmatic Buying has some inherent conditions that are pervasive across industries. For example some outlined below:

8) Non-human traffic: Non-human traffic or even the NHT as it is commonly referred in Programmatic world is considered the most prevalent method of fraud whereby programs imitate desired online behavior and register false matrices like impressions, views or clicks. Bots pretend to get actual humans while actually they are part of malware that inflates the performance matrices by masquerading as organic activity. Common instances of this is paid ‘likes’ or ‘ 1s’ on social networking.

9) Viewability: Viewability is the possibilities of an advert to be noticed. Often times a large proportion of impressions that advertisers buy goes unseen either as a result of below-the-fold 60dextpky or user might scroll a page too quickly to discover the ad.

Ad blocking: Today’s sophisticated programs allow users to eliminate advertising while browsing the net or using apps. Most publishers and professional bloggers depend on advertising because the main source of their revenue. Together with ad blocking in position, a blogger would lose a reason to make free-to-consume content unless the alternate stream of revenue can be obtained in their mind. Likewise, publisher websites get bored since their revenue model depending on content-for-advertising is compromised

In conclusion:

Programmatic buying is a prominent inclusion in marketer’s quiver since last decade. Health care industry is slow to awaken to this phenomenon as a result of industry-specific challenges. However, adoption of web data, involvement of social media marketing companies and proliferation of healthcare specific ad networks to manage automated buying in healthcare would only mitigate these challenges.

The internet marketing plastic surgeons including hospitals and pharmaceutical companies can be a good idea to consider programmatic buying included in a core web marketing strategy and move from broad, segment-based marketing to specific fine-grained messages crafted to attract, nurture and convert potential customers or patients.

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