Have you checked on rural docs lately?
I remember years ago when I was writing a feature for the B2B health mag Unique Opportunities (now gone) about the pros/cons of being an urban vs a rural PCP. It was supposed to be just one story, but my initial interviews brought great insights on the major differences. I called my editor about turning this into two separate features—and we did.
I found that rural docs often cited enjoying the outdoorsy locale and a fair amount of freedom. But the downside was often having scarce resources to offer patients, who themselves were often on limited incomes.
The rural market should not be overlooked
Not much has changed in the decade-plus since I covered this, except perhaps the numbers: the CDC’s latest says there are 64 million Americans considered to be in rural locales.(1) More than a quarter of residents tend to be seniors (since many youngsters can’t wait to get to cities) and they tend to be even lower income than others.(2)
Today’s rural residents are also a more diverse population than when I reported, but otherwise they generally “tend to have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity,(1)” then other Americans with a limited access to care. Of course since COVID additional risks have been added.
Yet B2B, health, even senior marketing can and should reach out to the rural market’s special challenges. Even if you are an urban physician or medical center, rural influence could be a strong marketing tool. A city medical or dental school (or a group of practitioners) could bring a free weekend rural check-up program to a chosen area.
Perhaps you’re a nonprofit that could donate a vehicle that allows more check-ups provided at homes, versus residents always needing to get to community facilities. Media often picks up such generosity and who knows what that in turn will bring?
Or you could be a corporation that provides easy-to-understand infographics, brochures, and other handouts. Newsletters are a great sales tool. I worked on one left in cardio offices, offering original insights on fitness and nutrition. The great responses moved us from a 1-year bi-monthly to a 3-year contract and the only sponsor acknowledgement was an ad in each issue’s centerfold.
Besides health info, you could provide a newsletter covering an area like financial issues, including home buying and finding college scholarships. For older adults, you could create a publication that looks like it’s for children (e.g., kids’ recipes, book recommendations, et al) but is a subtler outreach to parents and grandparents as they download and show it the kids.
Perhaps the largest rural health center can team with other leaders to have a county fair. With restaurants so strained thanks to COVID, area chefs can team up with dietitians and show folks how to make inexpensive meals that are both nutritious and delicious. Fitness centers, banks, phone companies, and others can present free handouts, special sign-on programs, and more to extend their outreach to areas previously overlooked.
What is your idea for reaching out to rural markets with a B2B message, not only on a day like this but throughout the year? I’d love to hear it!
If you’d like more personalized ideas for outreach to rural B2B and/or B2C markets—or targets anywhere—just get back to me, Wendy Meyeroff. I’ve been working with clients across the USA and beyond for 20+ years and happy to add you to Apple, CBS, Merck, NIH, and other collaborators.
1. “COVID-19, Rural Communities,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/other-at-risk-populations/rural-communities.html
2. “Housing Challenges of Rural Seniors,” Evidence Matters, Summer 2017, U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development, https://bit.ly/3lR7VPJ