by Rachel Messina – LGT Impact Fellow 2015
At the end of August 2015, I embarked on a whirlwind move from New York City to Mumbai. In New York City I was working as the Director of Ecommerce at Tamara Mellon, the eponymous luxury fashion brand launched by the former co-founder of Jimmy Choo. In Mumbai, my LGT Impact Fellowship assignment placed me as a Digital Marketing Consultant at Mydentist, India’s largest chain of dental clinics that provides high quality yet affordable dental treatments. Within the span of a few weeks I made a switch from high fashion to healthcare, over 7,000 miles from my home.
Despite the seemingly wide divide between these two jobs, I found surprising congruity during my first foray in the social impact sector. On the one hand, the dental healthcare sector was completely new to me, but I was playing a familiar role based on my professional experience in ecommerce and digital marketing. Having worked with several start-ups in New York City, I was also accustomed to the fast-paced and fluid roles common in entrepreneurial settings like Mydentist. There were many cultural and personal adjustments involved in the move to India, but I was warmly welcomed by colleagues and other Fellows, who went out of their way to help with the transition.
During the 11-month Fellowship, I primarily worked with the Marketing Team to bolster the company’s current digital activities and capitalize on the growth of digital channels and digital adoption in India to advance the mission of Mydentist. For social enterprises like Mydentist, I believe there is great potential to leverage digital tools to achieve the organization’s targets—in terms of both financial and social impact measurements. However, when compared with a typical for-profit company, social enterprises face specific challenges associated with digital marketing—whether it be limited internal resources, expertise, management buy-in or relevancy. Such challenges are often cited as the cause of a growing “digital divide” between non-profits or social enterprises and the for-profit sector.
As new digital tools are continually introduced, keeping up-to-date with the latest innovations can seem like a moving target, but these technologies also present new opportunities for organizations to increase positive social impact. Below are a few digital marketing considerations specifically for the social enterprise, including perspectives based on my experience at Mydentist.
Understand Your Audience
Especially for social enterprises, which often target bottom-of-the-pyramid or low-income populations, selecting effective digital channels will be contingent on the audience. Before dedicating resources and budget toward a digital medium, a social enterprise should fully understand its audience’s digital presence: what devices do they use, where online are they present (if at all), what languages do they speak and what is their digital aptitude?
A constant challenge at Mydentist was defining the right marketing mix. Accessibility—in terms of pricing and location—is central to the Mydentist mission. As a result, the clinics see a wide range of patient demographics. Recognizing this, the Mydentist team utilizes several marketing channels, ranging from the more traditional newspaper ads, to SMS to online media. At the beginning of my Fellowship, I spent a lot of time identifying how digital mediums fit into the overall marketing plan and whether the team was utilizing this channel to its fullest potential.
Set Specific and Realistic Goals
A key advantage of digital marketing is that performance can be tracked through online analytics and reporting tools. Unlike offline marketing activities like newspaper advertising, technology enables digital marketers to evaluate end-to-end campaign performance and then optimize future campaigns based on actionable findings. Having this level of transparency allows social enterprises to set targets based on concrete data and quickly pivot strategies as needed. Furthermore, this flexibility typically returns a higher ROI for the organization.
Though Mydentist was already present on many of the primary digital platforms when I first joined, I quickly recognized that there was greater opportunity to leverage this channel based on promising past performance. Setting benchmarks and concrete targets for each medium guided the marketing team when it came to budget planning, testing new digital activities and monitoring performance.
Be Realistic About Resources
It may be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of every new digital marketing innovation, but the social enterprise should always keep in mind: quality over quantity. Especially for start-ups with lean teams and limited budgets, it is essential to be strategic and selective when evaluating online mediums. Spreading resources across a multitude of channels will often result in lower quality, less effective campaigns.
The Mydentist team was bullish on testing out new digital platforms, which was great; however, every new activity or campaign meant new creative asset requirements, technical implementation time and marketing spend. We also spent significant time reviewing the performance of each activity and dropping any that did not meet performance expectations.
Be Diligent About Data Management
A strong foundation of analytics tracking and reporting is essential for all digital marketers; however, regardless of an organization’s level of digital sophistication, common data management challenges persist: data discrepancies across systems, shifting definitions of metrics, segregated systems and technical tracking issues. Dedicating time and resources upfront to mitigate these challenges will prove to be a valuable long-term investment for a social enterprise.
With over 500,000 patients, the Mydentist team worked with huge sets of data on demographic information, treatment areas and clinical performance metrics. Though several systems were in place to host this information, the team faced many of the familiar data management challenges listed above. One of my favorite projects during the Fellowship was my involvement in the launch of Tableau, a business intelligence software, which enabled the Mydentist teams to consolidate the otherwise segregated data systems and easily generate data visualizations that helped internal stakeholders pull out valuable insights.
Does the Digital End Product Deliver?
If you are dedicating resources, time and budgets toward online marketing, it is essential to ensure the end product—whether it be a website, mobile app or other digital product—successfully meets the end user’s expectations.
During my time at Mydentist, we worked on several initiatives to improve the online experience for prospective and current patients. A live chat feature was added to the website, the appointment request submission pages were redesigned, and my final project was a full website redesign and redevelopment. Each of these efforts produced measurable positive results, and as digital adoption in India continues to grow, I look forward to following how Mydentist increasingly integrates digital channels and tools into its operations.