I recently started a company offering patient advocacy services in Minnesota. Most of our clients come from direct searches online and referrals. At what point should I venture into radio or print ads? Also, any advice about social media advertising?

Kiki Rogers

Minnesota Advocates for Patients


In cases like yours, the foundational question begins with target clarity. Knowing "who" should affect the "how" because various audiences use different media channels.

A review of your website paints a pretty broad picture of who might use your services. If your optimal targeting truly takes aim at anyone with a significant health care issue, then broad, undifferentiated media, like radio and print publications, are your ticket. Just be prepared to have deep pockets for your marketing spending.

However, even traditional media can be thoughtfully and efficiently targeted — but that brings us back to knowing who represents the most lucrative and/or persuadable group.

In the case of your firm, identifying those most likely to both afford and appreciate your offerings is essential. Plus, caregivers or other loved ones may influence the purchase decision.

Your narrow focus means you can direct messages specifically to the people in need. For instance, millennials with both an acute illness and lots of discretionary funds may be a minority in the group, so social media channels may not be a first choice. Plus, many millennials are on their parents' insurance until age 26.

Parents, the same group that insures those millennials, may also be heavily involved in matters for their own parents. Also, some of the middle-aged folks in this group may be facing personal health issues or those of a partner.

Even this extremely general approach to narrowing focus indicates that middle-aged adults may prove to be a reasonable place to investigate further. With a bit of real data, you may find that a newspaper ad could deliver a high return on investment. If the publication demographics are a fit, perhaps buy a combination of print and digital ad through the same organization.

About the author

Michael Porter directs the master's program in health care communications at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.