Eenie, mee­nie, miney mo, which adver­tise­ment is a go?

One of the most con­fus­ing aspects of run­ning a mar­ket­ing pro­gram is fig­ur­ing out which adver­tis­ing vehi­cles will give you the best return on invest­ment while simul­ta­ne­ously attract­ing new patients/clients and brand­ing your company.

On any given day, the per­son in charge of adver­tis­ing for your clinic or agency can be bom­barded with sales pitches for radio, tele­vi­sion, Inter­net, search and/or spe­cial­ized infer­til­ity print or Web ads. Because no provider’s adver­tis­ing bud­get is unlim­ited, try­ing to sort the options can be over­whelm­ing. And some of those sales peo­ple can be pretty per­sua­sive in con­vinc­ing you that they are sell­ing the magic adver­tis­ing pill to get patients/clients/surrogates/donors lin­ing up at your door. But like all aspects of suc­cess­ful mar­ket­ing, your adver­tis­ing strat­egy should start with a cohe­sive plan. To help make that hap­pen, here are a few guide­lines to inform your work:

1) Know where adver­tis­ing fits into your over­all mar­ket­ing plan: For a clinic, adver­tis­ing might come in third as a major refer­ral cat­e­gory after physi­cian and patient refer­rals while a sur­ro­gacy agency may depend on adver­tis­ing to attract 90% of its sur­ro­gate appli­cants. For the for­mer, remem­ber that adver­tis­ing will not only gen­er­ate sep­a­rate inter­est but also will help rein­force physi­cian and word-of-mouth strate­gies.

2) Develop a bud­get: This is where it can com­pli­cated: deter­min­ing how much money your orga­ni­za­tion should spend on adver­tis­ing. There is prob­a­bly no one cor­rect way to cal­cu­late your bud­get, but it is help­ful to under­stand impor­tant indi­ca­tors like sales vol­ume, mar­gin and markup. Many tra­di­tional for­mu­las tend to focus on loca­tion as an impor­tant vari­able and this strat­egy gen­er­ally is not as cru­cial to fer­til­ity providers as it is to brick and mor­tar stores. Also think of adver­tis­ing as an invest­ment, not just an expense. has a help­ful arti­cle that pro­vides a few dif­fer­ent bud­get­ing for­mu­las. Remem­ber, hav­ing a bud­get helps you from being swayed too eas­ily by that really tempt­ing sales pitch.

3) Deter­mine the right adver­tis­ing mix: Under­stand­ing the demo­graph­ics of your intended audi­ence is another key ele­ment in a suc­cess­ful plan. Most fer­til­ity clin­ics will want to focus on local adver­tis­ing options, as well as national venues that allow geo­graphic tar­get­ing while a third party agency, lab­o­ra­tory or phar­macy has national mar­kets. There are many new infer­til­ity adver­tis­ing ven­dors who are specif­i­cally focus­ing on the infer­til­ity, preg­nancy, pre-conception or sur­ro­gacy mar­kets.

4) Under­stand the pros, cons and dif­fer­ences between inbound and out­bound adver­tis­ing: Before the advent of the Inter­net, adver­tis­ing options were lim­ited to radio, tele­vi­sion, print and out­door media. These options broad­cast a mar­ket­ing mes­sage out­ward to broad groups of peo­ple who hap­pened to tune in or read these types of media. Though these forms can work well if they are accu­rately tar­geted for a local or regional audi­ence, they also reach a lot of peo­ple who have no inter­est in your prod­uct or ser­vice at the moment. Edu­cat­ing the pub­lic is not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing, but may not be the most effi­cient use of your adver­tis­ing dol­lar, espe­cially if your bud­get is lim­ited. An out­bound mar­ket­ing cam­paign with the goal of brand­ing should be cou­pled with newer, inbound mar­ket­ing forms like search engine adver­tis­ing (Google AdWords, Bing, Yahoo), Face­book and infer­til­ity spe­cialty adver­tis­ing and social media strate­gies that will put your ser­vice and brand in front of the peo­ple who are actively search­ing for what you have to offer.

5) Have goals: Can you afford to spend money on adver­tis­ing that will mainly brand your orga­ni­za­tion? Do you need to imme­di­ately attract patients, sur­ro­gates, intended par­ents or egg donors? Are there ads that can do both? Be real­is­tic about your goals, which cre­at­ing a plan will help you do.
6) Track your adver­tis­ing cam­paign! All too often I have seen adver­tis­ers fail to ask the sim­ple ques­tion: How did you hear about us? So please don’t spend your hard-earned money on adver­tis­ing, but fail to retrieve the nec­es­sary sta­tis­tics to mea­sure its effec­tive­ness and ROI.

The Inter­net and social media have opened up a world of new pos­si­bil­i­ties in which to adver­tise to poten­tial patients, egg donors, sur­ro­gates, refer­ral sources and cus­tomers. Even tra­di­tional media (news­pa­per, radio and tele­vi­sion) has moved online. I hope these guide­lines will help you nav­i­gate the sea of options that are avail­able to today’s fer­til­ity businesses.