Online Marketing: How Smart Wellness Businesses Do It

Here’s the latest on best-in-class online marketing practices for wellness businesses, combed from a long list of marketing ROI studies.

email icon blueThese techniques make the most of your marketing dollar. They do an especially good job of connecting to potential clients and members while reinforcing the connections you have with your existing clients and customers.

B2B (Business-to-Business) Marketing

These results apply primarily to the corporate wellness and healthcare technology and services sectors.

Email marketing’s still the “killer app” in acquiring and retaining customers followed by website content marketing. Direct mail and telemarketing are next in line, followed by webinars. Last on the list: paid search marketing.

Our Recommendations

Email marketing that leverages content on your website is still the most effective way to build trust over time. The key to success is creating distinctive content that distinguishes you from your competition while building engagement.

Twitter and LinkedIn are the most useful social platforms in the B2B world.

B2C (Business-to-Consumer) Marketing

These results apply to primarily local and regional brick-and-mortar health and wellness businesses including health clubs and fitness businesses, yoga studios, wellness centers, healthy lifestyle practices and programs and medical practices.

The best way to get more customers actually isn’t online: Direct mail is still the most effective channel for acquiring customers. However, it’s followed closely by website content marketing and email marketing. Search marketing and affiliate marketing ROIs are sharply lower.

For customer retention, direct mail again has the highest ROI, followed closely by email. Telemarketing and social media engagement are distant followers.

Our Recommendations

Use direct mail campaigns to get recipients to add themselves to your in-house email list. Then use email with periodic reinforcing direct mail campaigns to engage and stay top of mind until your prospect is ready to buy.

Social’s not mandatory. And “likes” are not the same as actual customer growth, more revenue and more profit. If your business posts on Facebook AND you’re seeing lots of high-value interaction with lots of different people (not just the same die-hards all the time) AND that interaction clearly and convincingly feeds your business results, make it the #2 strategy in your marketing plan after email. Otherwise, focus on your website, email and direct mail.

Other Findings

1) The most effective email strategies include:

  • development and use of a house list vs purchased lists
  • the use of triggered emails sent in response to a reader action, like downloading a whitepaper or watching a video

Another key point about email: it needs to be mobile-friendly, because about one-third of all emails these days are read on a smartphone or tablet. That’s true for both B2B and B2C wellness marketing.

Clearly, email should be the focal point of virtually every wellness business’s marketing plan. However, we’re well past the stage where you can throw in a few links to generic health articles and expect potential clients to be impressed.

2) Social media’s hype is not matched by its results

Few businesses view social media as an effective way to acquire new customers and it’s a secondary strategy for client and member retention.

However, social’s more effective than affiliate marketing and paid search marketing methods like pay-per-click advertising (think Google AdWords) and banner ads.

These results help explain why only about half of the businesses surveyed plan to increase their spending on Facebook marketing. Wellness businesses like Facebook because it’s free and non-technical to use. The only catch is that is just isn’t a very good way to grow your business.

3) The most overrated online marketing methods are:

  • blogs
  • affiliate marketing
  • online banner ads

Although virtually every business surveyed had a blog, only about 20% felt that it earned its keep. Effectiveness ratios for affiliate marketing and online banner ads were in the low single digits.

The problem here is that most wellness businesses don’t really know what to do with their blogs. They have one because “everyone else does.” Yet, done right, it can be a high-value component of successful content marketing.

4) Cross-media communication really does work

One of the best ways to strengthen both new customer acquisition and the retention of existing clients or members is to communicate the same message across multiple channels.

For example, post articles on your website. Link to them from your email newsletter. Post social links to individual articles a few days after you send your newsletter.

If you’re running an email promotion, back it up with a direct mail promo, an announcement on your website, and tweets reminding people about the deadline.

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Leslie Nolen, Radial's president, is the nationally-known expert on the art and science of selling health and wellness.

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