How Can a Small-Town Hospital Get Big Returns on a Very Small Marketing Budget? It Pays to Be Clever. And Not Just with Advertising Copy.
// By Peter Hochstein //
You know you’re in rural America when the front page of the local newspaper features a story about one of its delivery truck drivers finding his route blocked by a pair of obstinate moose.
It happened in Gloversville, New York, population 15,315, and once the center of the nearly vanished American glove manufacturing industry. These days, one of Gloversville’s largest economic engines may be its 74-bed Nathan Littauer Hospital, named for the father of a 19th-century contributor.
But the hospital is no quaint medical throwback. It also has an attached 84-bed nursing home. It serves three counties. It deals with 131,000 primary care visits and approximately 5,000 surgeries a year. It treats not only rural folks who have a median per-capita income of less than $19,000, but also prosperous trauma victims of boating and skiing accidents incurred while vacationing in the nearby Adirondack Mountains. And its techniques for leveraging a small budget to promote its medical services and recruit patients might teach some city-slicker hospitals a thing or two.
What it boils down to is creating clever (but low-cost) ideas, some in the category of “guerrilla marketing,” and all of them generated by an in-house advertising agency that Cheryl B. McGrattan, the hospital’s vice president of marketing/public relations/community relations, says has two full-time employees including herself, and one half-timer. She has taken this route, she says, because she can’t afford ad agency fees on her budget.
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