chrisThe reality is that many start-ups will live or die on how they market themselves. Do you have an innovative solution? Have you created a ‘game-changing’ product that will shake up the healthcare IT marketplace? This doesn’t matter if you cannot demonstrate to your prospects the benefits you can offer them. Step forward marketing.

2014 is a good year to be a health-tech start-up. There is renewed optimism for IT suppliers following the opening up of England’s NHS marketplace and the on-going emergence of more business-minded organisations such as community interest companies and private healthcare providers.

To get ahead in 2014 you need to be a smart marketer. Resource is normally quite tight at an early stage in a company’s development, so spending too much on marketing can cause cash flow problems. On the flip side, spend too little and nobody knows about you. Here are five tips to get the most out of your marketing this year:

1. Think strategically
If you think short-term, by nature your business will be. You need to invest time to plan for the future if you are to meet your long-term growth objectives. Concentrate on marketing strategies that play to your strengths and decrease your weaknesses, making the most from your resources – men/women (skills), money (cash flow, reserves) and minutes (priorities, deadlines, availability). Also ensure your chosen strategy is adaptable to future market trends – the NHS will never stop changing!

2. Know your customersSegmentation is key to well targeted marketing. This involves profiling your prospect customers, organising them into groups, be it community trusts in the North West or teaching hospitals with a £5m+ ICT budget, and deciding which groups you should spend your marketing resource on.

Who do you target within the organisation? A nicely branded email sent to the ‘info@’ address will get no-one’s attention but the spam filter. Tailor your messages to your audiences – does an IT director have the same motivations and pressures as a chief nurse? Also, take time to research the new NHS commissioning landscape and how clinical commissioning groups are a fundamental part of the procurement process as buyers, influencers, and also users.

3. Establish a market position
What do you want your company to be known for? Reliable, innovative, responsive, knowledgeable? Once you have decided how to differentiate against your competitors, you need to ensure your communications are consistent across all your channels, including your website and social media, building your reputation on these values. To do this, your copy should be as clear and easy-to-understand as possible. Keep your messaging personable to your customers – claims that are unfounded like being able to save the NHS billions of pounds each year can devalue your credibility.

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4. Promote your personality
Thoughts, opinions, ideas – share them. Show your genuine passion where other large IT vendors cannot. As a start-up you may not have numerous customer wins to talk about, so find something else that is of interest to get you heard. Your advantage as a start-up means your communications activity does not have to go through long approval processes, so be reactive by commenting on topics like NHS England’s technology fund or articles in industry publications such as eHealth Insider. Your personality-driven content can also be channelled by authoring regular blogs on your website/blog page, or engaging in conversations with industry figures on Twitter.

5. Innovate your marketing
Thinking outside the box was what probably established your start-up, so start applying it to your marketing! If you want to showcase your expertise in healthcare IT – why not write and film a set of vlogs (video blogs) talking about your subject area? They provide a different source of content, can be repurposed, easily shared and most of all can grab attention if executed well (it can be as simple as shooting it on an iPhone!).

Another idea is potentially targeting your prospects on LinkedIn who have changed jobs or have a work anniversary (i.e. congratulate Brian on seven years at organisation X). LinkedIn automatically generates this information for you, so use these prompts to send them a corporate gift that relates back to your product or solution. The ideas are endless, but your marketing budget doesn’t have to be.

Highland Marketing are sponsoring the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and techUK Healthtech Startup School session on marketing, which takes place on Monday 27th January. 

For more information contact Nadya Pavlova, programme executive at techUK on 020 7331 2031 / nadya.pavlova@techuk.org or visit the techUK website.

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