Top 3 Reasons to Use Focus Groups

What are you doing and why are you doing it? These are the two questions that must be answered before you start any project, and all the answers can be found by looking at your target audiences. If you don’t know what they want, you’re not going to make it very far.

Luckily, you don’t have to be telepathic to find out what your audience is thinking!

Third-party facilitated focus groups allow companies to have open eyes, ears and mind when it comes to gauging external and internal opinions about their brand, products and/or services.

We’ve had clients pursue focus groups before launching a variety of marketing projects—product launch, employee engagement campaign, brand assessment, direct mail push and more. We’d love to go into the details of each of these projects, but to keep it brief, we’ve narrowed it to down to our three biggest reasons for using focus groups:

1. Your Customers

When customers look at your brand, what do they see? What words do they associate with the products or services you offer? To answer questions like these, a focus group can be vital. Key takeaways from customer focus groups, such as the words and concepts they most associate with your brand, show how customers perceive your brand’s identity. If your messaging is off, a customer focus group is sure to reveal that blind spot.

Focus groups also can be a great tool in gauging customer satisfaction. The discussions that arise from such groups allow for plenty of nuance – what are customers satisfied with? What aren’t they satisfied with? Do you only have little fixes to make, or is it time for a larger strategic change?

Ultimately, all of these questions force you to think about the main issue that customer focus groups can help you tackle: gaps between your internal and external perspectives. Too often, we can get immersed in a workplace bubble, always focused on our opinions and how we perceive our messaging. It doesn’t matter what we like, however, if our customers don’t respond to it. Focus groups can help find places where brand strategy and messaging isn’t resounding with your audience and help to bring the internal and external together, creating noticeably stronger messaging.

2. Your Employees

Remember the need to keep messaging consistent and understandable internally and externally? Your customers are a great indicator of what’s working in the public eye, but you can’t neglect how your messages play to an internal audience as well.

Employees are ambassadors for your brand at all times. And, satisfied employees create a great reputation for your company both on and off the clock.

Focus groups, led by a member of your HR or marketing team, or better yet by an impartial third-party representative like someone from Bottom Line, can draw out opinions from employees they’d be reticent to share in one-on-one sessions or regular business meetings. Discussions from these groups can give you an honest assessment of job satisfaction across your workplace and help identify trouble spots.

Just like customer focus groups can identify gaps between internal and external communications, employee focus groups can help employers find gaps between leadership and frontline perspectives. Without feedback from employees, leadership can get isolated in a feedback loop, only listening to the perspectives of other members of the leadership team. Don’t leave frontline employees out of the process—use a focus group to gain valuable insight, keeping them happy and making your brand stronger.

3. Your Public Perception

Internal and external communications are vital to monitor to know how customers and employees see your brand, but equally important is understanding how the public eye sees—or doesn’t see—your brand. When it comes to growth and awareness, public perception of your brand identity is vital.

Focus groups can help you manage your reputation in the market and better understand what attracts people to your brand or what’s pushing them away. Only focusing on the customers you already have can lead to stagnation and even loss of sales—focus groups can keep you up-to-date on what others see in your brand.


Want to stop guessing at what your target audiences are thinking? Contact the Bottom Line team to set up the focus group(s) your company needs.  

PR Bracket Challenge – The Results!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in our 2017 PR Bracket Challenge. We got great feedback from our clients and fellow marketing professionals.

Click on the images to watch the unveiling of the winners!

Bracket Challenge 2017 PR Focus

Bracket Challenge 2017 PR PartnerTrue to our brand—strategy seems to be king.

When asked, “What’s your biggest PR focus this year?” most responded strategic communications and digital, web & social, with strategic communications coming out on top.

As for our other “Final Four” bracket—“What’s the most important trait in a PR partner?”—the results were pretty even, but relationships with the team and strategic counsel pulled off the win and moved forward to the semi-finals. It was a close one, but like the first bracket, strategy ended up winning it all, with strategic counsel being crowned the champion.

Hope everyone enjoys cheering on the teams in that OTHER match-up today! And, if you’re looking for a partner in strategic planning or strategic communications, give us a call. 

Readying for “Repeal & Replace” in Healthcare Communications

Recent moves from the Trump Administration underscore the importance and volatility of the ACA debate for healthcare leaders and consumers alike. What’s less clear are the potential scenarios for “repeal and replace,” and how and when they might become reality. To help your team stay prepared, we put together the below infographic that visually captures a few possible paths the president and Congress might take—and a few they likely won’t.

Whatever the outcome, good communications strategy will help ease the transition for patients, providers and insurers. At Bottom Line, healthcare’s our business. We helped systems navigate the widespread communications needs when the ACA first passed, including advice on:

  • Making information visual and easy to understand for healthcare consumers
  • Personalizing the impact by using avatar stories to share examples for various consumer ages and audiences
  • Proactively gathering common questions and resources to share with consumers

Now, we stand ready to help communicate whatever the next wave of changes brings.

ACA Repeal & Replace

Marketing Guru Meet Public Policy Geek

Here at Bottom Line, we recently had the opportunity to be a part of the 2016 Annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) in Chicago and the Wisconsin Public Relations and Marketing Society’s (WHPRMS) 2016 annual meeting in Madison, WI.

Nicole Singer, our director of client services, facilitated a luncheon round table discussion of strategic planning at SHSMD, and I presented a session on the intersection of healthcare public policy and marketing at WHPRMS. The similarities in the responses at both were striking.

As Nicole guided the round table discussion, she asked how many of the participants were aware of MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015) and recent changes in HOPD (hospital outpatient department) reimbursements. Half had never heard of these policy issues, and the other half said they had heard about it, but did know much. I did the same in Madison, and only one person said he was aware. How about you? Do you know what MACRA is and how it affects your hospital?

The responses underscored the points we made in our WHPRMS presentation: WHPRMS Policy Geek Meets Marketing Maven. Think about it. Marketing tends to focus on consumers and purchasers. The public affairs people tend to focus on politicians and policymakers. Yet they talk to and influence one another. Public concerns and unrest create pressure for Congress to act, while politicians often use strident language that defines “reform” as “death panels” or an “end to Medicare as we know it.”

In our Madison presentation, we covered how to protect and enhance your brand by creating stronger links between your marketing communications and public affairs strategies, and how to strategically connect with public officials around key emerging issues. We also talked with participants about how to translate complex concepts about healthcare reform, reimbursement, quality and transparency into useful and meaningful messages that resonate with clinicians, employees, public officials, and most importantly, patients.

Looking forward, federal healthcare policies include shifting to new payment models, including bundling payments for related services. Federal savings would occur only if providers were paid less in total than under current law, either because they would be delivering fewer and less complex services or because they would be receiving less money per service. Making larger structural changes to health care programs could help the federal budget, but would have a range of effects on providers and beneficiaries. Will this  potential conflict creates a downstream conflict between providers and patients?

As the “repeal and replace” debate plays out over the next several months, healthcare customers are likely to become more aware of the challenges the system is facing, and feel some of the ultimate burdens of the policy changes. How you communicate could be the difference between these two divergent perceptions:

  • The health system is driving us broke – and my doctor and hospital are part of the problem.
  • My doctor and hospital are part of the solution to a broken system.

Which perception are you likely to create with your hospital’s marketing and public policy efforts?

- Jeffrey Remsik, Bottom Line president and CEO

Strategies vs. Tactics: The Map and the Backpack

Companies often come to us saying things like:

  • We need a great-looking brochure.
  • Can you create a Facebook page for us? Everyone has one, and we need one too.
  • We want to be featured in the New York Times.

The challenge with each of these requests is that the company is already thinking at a tactical level. We encourage them to zoom out to first examine their overall strategy.

What is it they hope to accomplish? Is the fancy new brochure actually part of a larger effort to reach referral sources? Is a Facebook presence something they can strategically maintain for the long-run? How do they plan to leverage an article in the New York Times?

Each of these actions should be tied to a set of strategies and goals.

It’s sometimes difficult for companies to think at the strategic level, because tactics are easier to understand. They’re tangible, the actual real deliverables that people can see, touch and feel. But they won’t have an impact if they’re not anchored in strategy.

We like to describe it this way: Imagine your company is on a journey. One toward growth, profits and success. There are two things you need for that trek:

  • A map – your strategy, which tells you where you’re going
  • A backpack of gear – the tactics and tools that will help you safely reach your destination

Without knowing the map first, it’s pretty hard to pack the right gear. What if you had ice climbing poles and cold weather clothes, only to find out you’re heading for the tropics? Or, you pack water for a week, and then realize the journey will actually last a month?

The key is to make your map and your gear work together. That’s the synergy of strategy and tactics!

How Companies are Catching more than Pokémon with Pokémon Go

Pokémon – it’s everywhere. Thanks to a new free mobile app, called Pokémon Go, people across the country can now “catch ‘em all.” Using users’ GPS and camera on their phones, Pokémon Go allows players to capture and battle virtual Pokémon who appear throughout the real world. And it’s a phenomena that’s sweeping the nation—in just five days, it has more users than Twitter and added nearly $11 billion to the value of Nintendo stock.

As marketing nerds, we’re excited to see companies taking advantage of this pop culture hit. To get new customers in the door, museums, churches and businesses are promoting that they are PokéStops, places in Pokémon Go that allow you to collect essential items, such as eggs, Poké Balls, potions and more. Others are taking advantage of nearby PokéGyms, places players can battle their Pokémon, by urging people to stop by their businesses before and after a battle.

We always guide our clients to take advantage of trends—both in their industries and in pop culture—in their PR campaigns. Here are a few ways to use hot topics like Pokémon Go to “catch” new customers:

  • Know your audience. Although it seems like something only little kids would be interested in, Pokémon Go is most popular among nostalgic millennials who grew up playing Pokémon on their Gameboys and trading Pokémon cards. If your audience isn’t interested in the topic or trend, all your marketing efforts will be wasted on them. Be sure to ask yourself, “Does my audience care about this topic/trend?”
  • Get creative! Think about your product or service offerings and brainstorm creative ways to connect them to a hot topic or trend. Use visuals, statistics, humor or a play-on-words to show how your brand relates.
  • Weave the trend into your promotions. For example, one restaurant is offering discounts depending on a player’s Pokémon Go level—if you’re on level 3 you get a free soda, while level 13 gets a free 8” pizza!

Want to take advantage of the latest hot topic or trend in your media relations or social media campaigns? Give us a call.

Client Spotlight: Gold Cross Ambulance Service

Every once in a while we like to give a shout out to one of our clients and showcase the good work we do together. This month, we’re putting Gold Cross Ambulance (GCA) in the spotlight!

For a number of years, Bottom Line has assisted GCA, located in Menasha, Wis., with a host of different services, including strategic consulting, issues management, media relations, branding, sales and marketing, internal communications, employee relations, and public relations related to business development and special events.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of GCA. Along with our ongoing support, we’ve had the chance to partner with GCA on ways to celebrate and leverage their milestone anniversary. It’s a refreshing change to take off our PR hats and don our special event caps!

We started the year brainstorming different celebratory ideas with the Gold Cross planning team. Here’s a snapshot of what developed, and how we’ve supported GCA:

  • Implemented a quarterly employee newsletter communicating company news and kicking off their anniversary celebration.
  • Managed the design and printing of 25th anniversary materials, including a VIP reception save-the-date postcard, invitation and envelope for a VIP event Gold Cross will host this fall.
  • Managed the database of invitees and created mailing labels for the client to use on the save-the-dates.
  • Produced a new reflective decal, “Serving You Since 1991” for all the company’s vehicles.

gold cross ambulance

  • Drafted a sample phone script for employees to use when answering incoming calls.
  • Drafted a mayoral proclamation on behalf of the mayors of the three communities closest to GCA’s headquarters. This will be presented at the VIP event this October.
  • Created a 25th anniversary seal for Gold Cross to use electronically on email signatures and a print version to use on mailings. 

gold cross seal

We’re looking forward to supporting additional tactics as GCA gears up for their fall celebrations! Most of all, we appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with Gold Cross and help tell their amazing story. Saving lives is quite a mission. To learn more about Gold Cross, click here. If you have a story to tell or a milestone to celebrate, the Bottom Line team would be happy to help!

Is Your Website Missing Out On Mobile?

According to Mediative, over 6.8 billion people use mobile phones – that’s roughly 87 percent of the world’s population! We are at the tipping point where people actually spend more time on their phones than on desktops. KPCB mobile technology trends indicate adults spend 51 percent of their time using mobile media compared to desktop at 42 percent. What’s more, Google Research found that 72 percent of consumers want mobile-friendly websites.

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, the implications are clear – if you don’t have a responsive (mobile-friendly) website, you are missing out.

Responsive websites not only allow consumers to easily view your site on their phones, they also improve your mobile search ranking, which is typically different than your desktop search ranking!

Not sure if your website is responsive? Enter your URL into Google’s mobile-friendly test.

Google’s test may tell you whether or not your site is mobile-friendly, but it doesn’t give you a rating on how good, or bad, your website performs on mobile devices. Here are a few tips to make the most of a responsive website and ensure your customers enjoy using your website on their phones:

  • Test your website’s usability on mobile devices. Ask users how easy it is to use the website, if everything is readable, how long it takes to load, and how easy it is to navigate (find what they are looking for/accomplish a task).
  • When writing copy for your website, keep mobile usage in mind. Short, summarized content and bulleted lists work best for those using their phones on-the-go.
  • Many still feel nervous when buying products directly on their phones, even on a website they have used on their desktops before. Be sure to use transparent language to explain your mobile site is secure.
  • On your mobile website, work to include the same content, images, features and functionality as your standard website. People expect full functionality when using their phones.

Looking to update your website? Contact us. Here are a few examples of the responsive websites we’ve recently helped create or update: Mosaic Family Health, Mallery & Zimmerman, and Physician Compass.

“Here’s to Looking at You” through Your Customers’ Eyes

Understanding your customers today is becoming harder, not easier, especially given the high noise-to-data ratio driven by our good friend the Internet.

Why is this true?

  • Consumers have more power than ever before, thanks to social media, easy on-line comparison-shopping, and a digital proliferation of choices.
  • Customer diversity continues to increase, putting a premium on pinpoint audience segmentation, and deeper customer insights.
  • Data overload confuses customers, making them less interested in products than in flexible, customized solutions.

Beyond the economic uncertainty of the past few years, it’s not hard to see why customers are less loyal and far less trusting than before. This is especially true in industries whose reputations suffered during the financial crisis—banking, pharmaceuticals, energy, airlines and media. But even if you’re in an unrelated industry, you’re likely feeling some of the same effects.

To get closer to and better understand today’s more discerning customers, you really need to get inside their heads. Beyond a “Vulcan mind meld,” here are five ways to get those perspectives: 

  • Stand in your customers’ shoes. Look beyond your core business. Understand your customers’ full range of choices, as well as their web of suppliers, partners, influencers, etc. Understanding the ecosystem your customers live in helps you learn, adapt, and prosper. This exercise also can deepen your understanding of competitors, helping you better anticipate their moves.
  • Staple yourself to a customer’s order.  Track key customers’ experiences as they travel along your company’s pathways. Take note where the experience breaks down or they hit pot holes.  Experience the check-in process at your hospital, clinic or hotel. Ask managers to listen in on the company’s call center.
  • Field diverse customer teams.  Add members of the back-office support group to your customer teams, switching up the usual customer-facing roles. Send senior teams from different disciplines into the field to meet customers and develop a deeper understanding of their needs and wants.
  • Learn together with customers. Invite top customers, along with your executives and account managers, to a seminar on leadership and innovation. Doing so may help your executives better understand the mindset of their counterparts; it also may help to influence that mindset.
  • Lean forward and anticipate.  Focus on what customers will want tomorrow, aka Steve Jobs. Try to envision different futures with tools like scenario planning and explore how these possible market shifts may affect your customers. Consider involving your top customers in these explorations.

Sometimes, you just need to get out of your own way to really understand your customers. Psychologists know that you’re likely to listen for problems that fit your own offerings, while discounting others. That means you might miss important opportunities, or to get blindsided later. Try to listen with a “third ear” to what your customers are saying to you and others.  If you can truly listen, they’ll tell you all you need to know.

Call us if you’re looking for some third-party expertise to help you get a better understanding of your customers.

The Importance of Marketing

Usually in PR, the objective is to convince others to tell your company’s story. Third party credibility often works better than shouting your own praises from the figurative rooftop. But, there are times when proactive marketing is exactly what you need to do. Here’s why:

Create (or Increase) Name Recognition
One downside of bylines or media placements is that your content takes precedence over your name. If you’re a new organization or are recently going through a transition, you want a more visible approach to remind people of your name and presence. That means traditional marketing and outreach!

Position Your Company as an Expert in Emerging Trends
Schedule a seminar, host a community lunch and learn, or present at a local business roundtable. These tactics all lean toward the marketing side of the public relations spectrum, and will not only increase awareness of your company but also of its leadership and expertise in emerging trends or timely news topics.

Foster Connections
The simple act of emailing, calling or scheduling meetings with key audiences is a great way to network. We’re not talking about cold-calling—that’s one marketing tactic that rarely produces value—but, instead, take the time to stay in touch with your own contact list, ask them who else might be in need of your services, and make it a point to attend local networking events for your industry. Your company and your face will then be top of mind for people who may become future clients.

Repetition is King
Unless you’re willing to invest ad dollars, it’s difficult to get your message repeated via media placements alone in the same market in a short period of time. Here’s where marketing can help. By talking directly to people about your organization and its capabilities, you reinforce the PR you do have, while applying the equivalent of a megaphone to those messages. Remember, about the time you’re sick of hearing your company’s message is the time your audiences are beginning to pick up on it.