vicki powers
freelance writer
 

When it Comes to Building Awareness,
Direct Can Make You a Household Name

Deliver , July 2006

by Vicki Powers

As chief marketing officer at Illinois-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), Jack Moore knows he has a battle on his hands.

His corporation is competing for its share of the $74 billion cancer treatment industry, while working from outside the system. CTCA is not affiliated with any hospital networks and, in fact, takes pride in offering an alternative to the traditional treatment model.

It’s also taken a non-traditional line for its awareness marketing, using direct mail and search engine optimization to build consumer knowledge of its products and services, instead of the usual broadcast channels.

It’s a program that is paying dividends for the company, helping it increase market share, build its business and spread its message of healing.

CTCA’s success is just one example of how companies are finding that direct can be an effective tool for building brand awareness. Wachovia Corp., a North Carolina-based financial services company with $521 billion in assets, relies heavily on direct mail to target prospects and customers, and that includes heightening awareness.

These firms are finding that the personal nature of direct, and its ability to be highly targeted, make it a cost- effective tool for getting the word out.

Communicating When It Could Save Lives
For Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the approach to marketing is really no different than its approach to delivering medical care.

“Our direct marketing philosophy reflects our philosophy as an organization — patient empowerment medicine,” says Moore. “It’s cutting out the middleman [physician] who seems to complicate decision-making and compromise the control patients have over their decision-making process. We appeal directly to the consumer through many channels.”

To get itself noticed, the company has taken the strategy of acting as a resource for cancer patients, providing a steady flow of helpful information about research, nutrition and other issues as they relate to cancer treatment.

CTCA markets itself aggressively online and through direct mail, positioning itself as an information resource and a treatment option for those recently diagnosed with the disease, in hopes of increasing awareness of the company and the services it offers.

Moore says one reason direct marketing is preferable is that it allows patients to “opt-in” right away when time is often the most precious commodity. He believes direct provides an effective medium to build awareness because it allows him to connect with the customer at the very time there is a real need for the company’s services.

CTCA, which has 1,600 employees, uses an extensive search engine optimization program to make sure it is highly visible as cancer patients seek information and treatment online.

But when the company needs to promote itself in new markets, it uses direct mail to enhance awareness. For the recent opening of its new hospital in Philadelphia, Moore says, the organization mailed personalized letters from the chairman and invitations, as well as sent e-mail messages, to 80,000 people based on lists acquired from the Susan G. Komen Foundation (a well-known national cancer support organization) as well as the area chamber of commerce and CTCA’s own database.

Based on analytics and tracking, Moore says 15 percent to 20 percent of those in the area around greater Philadelphia who received communication called for information or responded to attend the grand opening celebration.

To succeed, CTCA has turned to informational campaigns. Its Nurture Marketing program, for example, is a series of ongoing communications mailed to more than 10,000 patients monthly. It includes a personalized note from an oncology specialist.

The communication is not meant to sell anything, says Moore, and the company works hard to make sure its efforts are not seen as commercial, but instead as an effort to provide a safe haven where people can go for information they can trust.

Given the population CTCA is attempting to reach and the sensitivity of their condition, Moore says, communicating directly with these patients is vital.

“The importance of executing direct marketing well, delivering on our brand promise and trying to bring healing and hope — it’s making a difference in a lot of people’s lives,” Moore says. “It’s based on our ability to communicate the differences of CTCA and the need for someone to pick up the phone for a call that could ultimately change the entire course of their life. They would have never known of us without direct marketing — and in many cases, patients say it’s made all the difference.”

Banking on Direct for Awareness
Direct marketing has been key in the growth of Wachovia bank as well. In 2005, for example, it sent 94 million pieces for direct mail promotions, and the company expects that number to climb even higher in 2006.

“With direct mail, we are able to target our messages and our offers to the consumer better than if we used other types of media,” says Vicky Daniels-Sutton, vice president and direct mail manager at Wachovia.

The company does spend part of its marketing budget on traditional awareness campaigns for television and radio, but has found that direct also can be effective for the top end of the funnel, especially when it involves getting its brand in front of new customers as a result of mergers or acquisitions.

“The mailings are not glitzy or glamorous but get right down to the facts in an easy-to-read format,” says Katherine Kuleba, senior vice president and director of customer communications at Wachovia. “We actually block other mail from the bank during the merger period so the customer knows this is important, and they need to read only this.”

 
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