Article

Marketing Strategies & Solutions for Reuse Program

Marketing

Marketing Strategies and Solutions for AT Reuse Programs

 

The text of this article is extracted from the audio recording of a Pass It on Center Webinar presented Feb. 24, 2009, by Liz Persaud of the Pass It on Center, Helen Baker of Alabama’s STAR Program, and Sharon Alderman of Vermont’s AT Reuse Project. The PowerPoint presentation is attached. The audio recording is available at www.passitoncenter.org.

 

[Liz Persaud]

 

This marketing webinar is focused on strategies and solution for your AT reuse program. We want to talk about developing ideas for your program, the planning process and some questions to ask as you develop a plan. We also want to share some strategies with you – particularly how to find your target audience because that is very important to the success of your marketing. You need to know who you want to receive the message. We also have suggestions for creative solutions for collateral kits, print marketing and Internet marketing.

 

Sharon Alderman of Vermont’s AT Reuse Program and Helen Baker of Alabama’s STAR Program are going to share some examples of what worked for them, and they will explain the process that was used.

 

Begin with the end in mind.

 

Consider where you want to go with your reuse program. What do you want the community that you serve to know about your program? If you consider where you want to be at the end, it will help in the development of the marketing plan and the processes you use to get there.

 

I developed a planning chart to make the process more visual. Set your goals. What are your program’s objectives? What is your mission? Analyze your current situation. Where are you right now? It’s important to know that to predict the future. Who are you working with and how? Where do you think your marketing materials are? Who are you focused on? Who receives your marketing information now? Knowing this will help you to determine who else you need to reach. It will help as you brainstorm the development of a mailing list.

 

Do you currently have a marketing strategy? How do you forecast your expected results? Where do you think you’re headed?

 

Allocating resources is a critical part of the marketing plan. It’s important to account for all the facets of your plan.

 

What is your action plan? What are the due dates? It’s important to get information to your consumers in a timely manner.

 

Some key questions to ask as you develop the plan are:

Where are we now?

How did we get here?

Where are we headed?

Where would we like to be?

Are we on course?

 

Certainly the last three are the most important as you brainstorm with your team.

 

[Sharon Alderman]

 

I started a little over a year ago, and we have had tremendous success in Vermont. Liz has given us a definition of marketing from Wikipedia: A marketing strategy is a process that can allow an organization to concentrate its limited resources on the greatest opportunities to increase sales and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

 

With agencies of human services we might want to change that “competitive advantage” to “collaborative advantage.” It has been my experience that working together has enabled us to increase the exchange of equipment from those people who have it to pass on to others and get it to those people who need it. It also helps us to demonstrate the services that we have to offer.

 

A marketing strategy should always be centered around the concept that customer satisfaction is the main goal. We were lucky to be a part of Vermont Voc Rehab where customer satisfaction is always important.

 

How to find your target audience

 

In lieu of hiring a high-priced marketing consultant with our limited resources, we gathered a team of people. We have heard that this has been done in several states. We gathered the AT Act administration and staff who are supportive of our efforts, Vermont Voc Rehab, consumers, supporting nonprofit organizations (especially Vermont Family Network which has been extremely helpful), and other stakeholders including our New England coalition states. We have bonded together to market.

 

Get feedback from the team. Many heads are always better than one. Brainstorm the target audience that you want and the initial method that you will use to disseminate the information that you are creating. We brainstormed a list. Then we got information from the state licensing board on the Internet. We obtained the addresses of all OTs, PTs and SLPs. We created an oversized postcard to get the word out to those folks. In this case it was related to our web site exchange, our community program.

 

We use public service announcements and many of the strategies that Helen and Liz will discuss. In Vermont, we also use public access TV which will give you free space and disseminate information all over the state. We also ask other organizations to include our web address on their existing web sites and to include information in their newsletters about our project.

 

If you look at this example of our brainstorming list [on the slide], you will see the OTs and the PTs that we mailed postcards to. Later on I will talk about the indicia for reduced marketing prices that you can use as a nonprofit to disseminate information. The University of Vermont has been absolutely wonderful to us: the ALS Clinic, the Fanny Allen Health Center, and the Rehab Center. The first transfer of equipment was from that location. They have our poster and little tear-off in their rehab facility. It’s been a wonderful help to us to get the word out to folks. 

 

Near the bottom or our list you will see ReCycle North. We had developed a relationship with these nonprofit organizations that were like-minded and had an interest in distributing equipment and helping people to exchange equipment. When we received a $285,000 batch of equipment from a vendor going out of the rehab business (but staying in other lines of business), we talked with ReCycle North and they were ready to receive this equipment and help us to distribute it. We started an assistive technology durable medical equipment (DME) center there because it was in place and ready to go.

 

Giving posters with stickers to all state buildings and state agencies has been very helpful to us. Working with our state surplus and VA hospitals has been helpful. The 211 information and referral resource and the United Way groups have been useful. All people receiving calls with questions are referred to us.

 

Someone in a previous webinar suggested contacting and getting marketing information out to funeral homes. We’re hoping to follow up on that.

 

From our initial list, we began to e-mail a number of agencies and organizations. Later you will see a letter that we provided with that e-mail to introduce our new program and our materials to them. We used a separate toll-free number for our reuse project which allowed folks to call us directly. We marketed that on all our materials and it has been extremely helpful. Any personal contacts that we received from that line, conferences that we attended, mailings we had done, resulted in direct responses and materials being sent to the individual first. We focused on the consumer.

 

Quick responses have been important to us. We recommend that you respond promptly to requests for presentations, for assistance, or for interviews. Even if you are not able to meet the request right away, it is important to respond right away and keep in touch. This is key to developing trust that you are there for them.

 

[Helen Baker]

 

Like Sharon’s group in Vermont, most of us have meetings with stakeholders to build a marketing plan. In addition, I want to throw out a couple of additional ideas. First, always be mindful of people who share a common interest and vision. This could be two-fold and other reasons you may think of later. They could be a resource for funding your activities or to supplement the funds you may receive from your Tech Act program, or if you’re looking at sustainability down the road.

 

Second, think of people and places that may serve as both donors and recipients. This includes hospice, nursing homes, assisted living and rehab facilities. In Alabama, we’ve also had good success with vendors. Many people think that starting a reuse program is setting up as competition to a vendor. We have overcome that obstacle. We rely on vendors for donations, repairs, maintenance and referrals. It’s a win-win situation because we don’t have technicians to provide all of the repairs and maintenance that we need for equipment. On occasion, we have had vendors go out of business and donate thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Vendor relationships have been very profitable for us.

 

People often forget about VA Hospitals. VA Hospitals pay 100 percent for equipment. If something happens to the consumer – whether they recover and no longer need the equipment, or they die – attempts are sometimes made to return the equipment to the VA Hospital. They are not permitted to reissue used equipment, so they are a source of equipment for reuse centers.

 

Marketing Strategies

 

This [slide] is a sample budget that you will construct from funds that you have available. This a simple tracking form for internal use.

 

When you are developing your marketing plan, you need to know your target market. How can you help them? How can they help you? Be specific in requests to meet your needs. Network with those people who have a common vision or interest. Be visible and be ready to get involved. Here in Alabama we get on many advisory boards and councils. That gives us an opportunity to attend many meetings and events that also offer us an opportunity to market our program.

 

Also, know your assets and limitations. It allows you to be more specific in making requests of stakeholders. It helps to get your program running and makes it viable. You need staffing, a budget, and you need to prepare to address issues within your available resources. When you market, you need to ensure that materials in accessible formats because you never know who will ask. Be especially mindful of potential users who are low vision or blind.

 

[Liz Persaud]

 

Multimedia Strategy

 

The next few slides are resources for all of you to use in creating a marketing plan for your programs.

 

First of all, remember that radio and television are licensed to use the public airways freely, and they have a responsibility to serve the community. You can contact them to use 15- or 30-second public service announcements. That may not sound like much time at all, but it really is. You can communicate basic information about your program or event.

 

Free print space is very important. Take advantage of the calendars of events to publicize your event.

 

Flyers are also important. They are easy to create and produce. There are many opportunities to use flyers: universities, some local restaurants, supermarket bulletin boards, or even handed out to individuals by volunteers. We’ve found that local businesses can be very supportive if they become familiar with your program. You may be able to leave flyers at the cash register.

 

Print ads and promotion can be very helpful. Even extremely small ads, even a 1x1, can be effective because they are usually placed at the top of the page and catch the eye more easily. Some of you may be familiar with Disabled Dealer, which is distributed all over the country. At the back of their print publication they have free space to run the name of your program and an e-mail address. Even that tiny bit of information is better than nothing.

 

Local newspapers have lower advertising rates and may be more generous with promotion space. The key is repetition. Marketing studies have shown that the third time is the charm. Try to get your information out there three times in succession.

 

How do you get your event publicized free? We all like free. Take a look at your local newspapers for calendar listings. Identify places that events get listed and learn the deadline and format for submitting the information. Get your information in early, and be sure to include all pertinent information: name, date, time, cost (if any), contact person and telephone number or e-mail address for additional information.

 

We talked about the fact that hospice and nursing homes are resources for equipment donations. Someone actually placed a small ad in the obituary section. That’s a place that may get the attention of someone in a position to donate items.

 

Newsletters are also a great resource. This is especially true of your partnering organizations that may have newsletters – Department of Labor, Vocational Rehabilitation, Area Agency on Aging, etc. Success stories are also a big hit. An article that shows how reused equipment changed the life of the recipient will have a big impact.

 

Internet Marketing

 

This is hitting us quickly. Internet marketing is also known as e-marketing, online marketing and web marketing. Do you have a web site? That is extremely important. What does your web site look like? Is it clean cut? Is the information easily accessible? Are the logos consistent?

 

Some of you know that the Pass It on Center has been working to improve its web site. We worked with some of you on our usability study at ATIA. That was one way to get people to provide feedback about the usability of our web site.

 

Branding

 

Branding is very important. What does your program name say about what you want to accomplish? Are your e-mail addresses consistent? For example, at the Pass It on Center, our e-mail addresses are very simple. If you want to reach Carolyn Phillips, it’s Carolyn@passitoncenter.org. If you want to reach me, it’s liz@passitoncenter.org.

 

Social Media

 

Vivian, I saw your comment that you created an AT reuse group on Facebook and have had a wonderful response. That’s great. I’m very active on Facebook and have joined a number of different groups.

 

E-mail:  Do you have a list serve that includes all of the organizations that are pertinent to the community that you serve?

 

Social media is a very low-cost marketing strategy. Much of your time will be spent connecting people and communicating. Some examples of social media networking are Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook is no longer exclusive to college students. More than half of the 140 million Facebook users are out of college. I also found statistics that said that over half of the individuals on Facebook are over the age of 44. You are really talking about mature individuals looking to network within their community.

 

Consider local blogs or industry blogs. Network with other businesses.

 

[Sharon Alderman:]

 

In our reuse program, we used our list to introduce our new reuse program. We’ve had phenomenal support agencies in Vermont and from our New England partners. Kansas has also been particularly helpful to us in sharing marketing ideas and templates. Of course, the Pass It on Center is absolutely invaluable.

 

Our staff members and contractors have been incredibly helpful. Continue to collaborate. In an ATIA session that I attended, Carolyn Phillips said CASE: copy and steal everything. I think she meant legally and with the permission of the originator.

That stuck in my brain. In New England we do that all the time. Maine and Connecticut share with us all the time, and Kansas has been particularly helpful with Medicaid equipment reuse.

 

I have another hint in reproducing material. If you send out a letter to someone about your program, it’s in their brain once. If you send a postcard, it’s there twice, and if they see a poster in a store, it’s there three times, and three times is the charm.

 

Lower mailing costs

 

Mailing costs can be significant. If you’re working with budget constraints, be sure to check the postal regulations for nonprofit status that allows reduced rates for each postcard that you mail.

 

Posters

 

The next slide shows an example of our poster. We’ve 2x3 sticky pads with our web address and toll-free number. You should consider having a toll-free number. It works well for us. If you have an elderly individual in need of a piece of equipment, there may be a concerned relative in another state who needs assistance with the exchange. We created the 2x3 sticky notes to renew the message of the 11x17 posters and also for Human Services staff (RNs, PTs, and OTs) who are in the community to carry in their briefcases.

 

The next slide shows an ad that we will put in a conference booklet that will be distributed at a regional conference.

 

The postcard on the next slide was originally from Kathy Adams in Maine. We added some mountains to the top and made it our own. It has been a useful way to get information to folks. On the back, we added more Vermont parent information nonprofit and the logo of the AT School Swap. The School Swap is similar to the community site (GetATStuff.com), but was based on that community site by Connecticut, so this logo is courtesy of Connecticut and the platform is being used by Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. That just validates our sharing.

 

[Helen]

 

I want to give a brief history about the Alabama program because we have been around for a while. In today’s economy there are some interesting and exciting ways to market your program. We have four successful reutilization programs. The first was started in 1997. Our lead agency is the Alabama Department of Rehabilitative Services. We had a jump start by having a consumer base in place in each agency where we have 21 branch locations throughout the state. When we started the reuse centers, we considered resources and location. Where was the largest consumer base? Where was the best location? Where did we have resources to provide services? We placed the four centers strategically throughout the state: Huntsville in the north, central Alabama with both rural and metro issues, Montgomery, and Mobile in the southwest.

 

The Mobile center was the first. It started in 1997. They had a medical equipment program in place with funds to purchase equipment for people in the southern part of the state and the Florida Panhandle. However, when people began to return equipment that was no longer needed, they didn’t know what to do with it. So, they decided they were in a position to implement a reuse center. This coincided with the reauthorization of the Tech Act. All of our programs are connected with a Goodwill, Easter Seals or United Cerebral Palsy center. We are currently working with a new center to be run by a faith-based organization. That will open in Birmingham this year.

 

Like most other programs, we started with stakeholder meetings. In addition to the usual agencies, we had a key grassroots advocacy group called Technet that gave us a jumpstart by working aggressively for us in contacts throughout the state. We took advantage of the many programs in place that gave us good venues to leverage the reuse programs.

 

At this point, we’ll talk about how we market our programs. We maintain a current inventory of available equipment (see slide) that goes out to thousands of contacts throughout the state. (See slide.)

 

We have ads for newsletters (see slide.)

 

All of you have used different types of promotional products, but here are some examples of the things we use. The hand cleaner samples are popular, but we also use magnifiers and folding toothbrushes with our logo. There are many similar products. Consider your budget, and which items, if purchased in bulk, will get your message to people. One of our programs chose to use star-shaped magnets with contact information.

 

Billboards

 

Our latest creative strategy is billboards. We have two signs. One says, “Donate your used medical equipment” and the other says, “Call for free medical equipment.” Our programs are centered around durable medical equipment. We have ventured into a few other areas, but it’s largely DME.

 

You can contact outdoor advertising companies in your area and see what you can negotiate. What I learned is that the advertiser must pay for the materials, paper and ink, etc. Our program paid about $4,000 to $5,000 for materials, but they got $56,000 worth of free advertising for that investment over a three-year period. Signs may be paper or vinyl. Paper signs last about three months, and vinyl lasts about one year.

 

[Sharon Alderman]

 

If you are using the U.S. Postal Service to deliver information, check out the least expensive way of mailing using Notice 123, Rate Fold, or their web site or contact a local official. Do this before you produce marketing materials because you don’t want to create an item that may be very expensive to mail.

 

We also have used a photo binder created by www.realisticrelections.com. If you want to include local photos, that would be ideal, but you’ll need releases from them. If you don’t have that handy, it’s nice to have the readily accessible, royalty-free stock photo library.

 

[Liz Persaud]

 

I really love the Realistic Reflections web site. They really have some powerful images. In Georgia, we had a photographer go to our reuse centers to take photos of transportation, inventory, warehouses and special events to build a library of photos.

We do use a standard Department of Labor photo release form.

 

The Pass It on Center now has a Knowledge Base that will be available to the public shortly through the Pass It on Center web site. It will house a wealth or resources to help you build your programs. As Trish Redmon noted, Kansas has done a wonderful job in marketing, and has donated many of their materials to the Knowledge Base.

 

INTERNET LINK WARNING

Please note that by selecting an Internet link you will be directed to an external site, and the Pass It on Center does not control the content of the site.

 

DISCLAIMER

This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.

 

Attachments

Other Information

Title: Marketing Strategies & Solutions for Reuse Program
Module: Marketing/PR
Author: Liz Persaud, Sharon Alderman, Helen Baker
Audience: Implementer
Sub Title: PIOC Webinar, Feb. 24, 2009
Procedure:
Organization Source: PASS IT ON CENTER
Last Reviewed: 10-25-2009 4:23 PM