Online Marketing and Health Care in Rural Populations

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in five Americans now lives in a rural area. That’s more than 100 million people, scattered across the country in small towns and big cities alike. While many big city residents now flock to the suburbs, those who remain in the city often have to make do with less. This is especially the case in a time of crisis when emergency rooms are overflowing and hospitals are at capacity. For those who live in rural areas, health care is more accessible, but it comes with its own set of unique challenges. One issue that is cropping up with greater frequency is the opioid epidemic. Deaths from overdoses of opioid painkillers reached a record number in 2017, with over 72,000 Americans losing their lives to opioid addiction. The crisis is especially grim in rural areas, where there is less access to resources and treatment options. That has motivated local governments to take action and seek innovative solutions to the problem. One area where they have focused their attention is online marketing. By taking advantage of the digital divide in rural areas, online marketers have the opportunity to reach millions of potential customers, provide them with valuable information, and grow their brand while solving a problem.

Why Online Marketing in Rural Areas?

Although the opioid crisis has reached nearly every corner of the country, one of its worst impacts has been in rural areas, where there is less access to resources and treatment options. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, approximately 60% of opioid users live in rural areas, as compared to 40% in urban areas. Many rural areas have been hard hit by the epidemic. In fact, in some places, the death toll is higher than the population of the town is able to bear. In these communities, leaders have had to create their own solutions in their fight against the opioid epidemic. One of the ways they are doing this is by taking advantage of geographic and digital divisions. These population groups are more than willing to seek out online marketing information and products, due to the high pace of life in rural areas and limited options for entertainment. Additionally, many rural businesses have had to close down due to lack of access to affordable health care, creating even more of a need for information online. If a business owners wants to retain or attract customers from outside of the area, they also have the option of online marketing to reach consumers.

The Power of Online Marketing

While the opioid epidemic has not been good for rural areas, it has been great for marketers. The New England Journal of Medicine points out that the stigma often associated with drug use has been slowly diminishing, creating an open door for those who need help. This has made it easier for service providers to gain access to those who are struggling with addiction. One of the important things service providers can offer those who are in need is free addiction counseling and treatment. People are more willing to seek help online, where they can get the information and connect with others who are going through similar struggles.

Even before the crisis, the rural areas of the country were already leading the way when it comes to adopting new technologies. According to the Pew Research Center, 76% of rural Americans use the internet, as compared to 65% of urbanites. In other words, 1 in 5 rural Americans is now online in one way or another. The center also found that 61% of rural adults use social media, as compared to 50% of urbanites. This is likely because the stigma of using social media has decreased, making it easier for those in rural areas to come out of the shadows and connect with others online.

With the right strategy, marketers can reach a massive audience and drive significant revenue from online marketing in rural areas. In fact, the right marketing plan can make all the difference between life and death for a business in these communities.

How Much Should You Invest In Marketing?

One of the important things to consider when investing in online marketing is how much you should be spending. If you are looking to launch a new product or service, it is crucial to find the right balance between product development and marketing. Too little marketing and you run the risk of your product or service not being discovered, especially in a time of crisis when there are already so many choices for consumers. Too much marketing and you run the risk of your product or service being overshadowed by the plethora of similar products and services. To find this balance, it’s important to consider what your objectives are and how much you are willing to spend. Do you want to grow your business significantly? Are you looking to attract new customers to your brand? Or are you just looking to maintain your current client base? Once you have your answer to these questions, you can determine how much you should spend on marketing.

Rural Marketing vs. National Marketing

The way we market products or services to the public has changed significantly in the last few years. Gone are the days when the yellow pages or billboards were the only means of advertising. Now, with the explosion of the internet, businesses can target their ads to the correct audience, using various methods to gain traction. This has mostly affected those who operate out of bigger cities, where there is more competition and more options for entertainment. For instance, when the EpiPen became available, it was immediately noticeable that something was different. Instead of going to the pharmacy to get their usual prescriptions, those in rural areas were going online to purchase it. As a result, people in smaller towns and rural areas have been some of the most avid users of the internet, due in large part to the proliferation of smartphones and the ability to use them for everything.

Marketing On The Go

Another significant difference between marketing in rural areas and marketing in bigger towns and cities is that consumers in smaller communities have different needs and lifestyles. In many cases, businesses in these areas have to adapt their methods of marketing to fit the constraints of where they are located. One of the significant advantages of online marketing is that it allows businesses to target their ads to individuals based on their location. With the click of a button, businesses can choose the area they want their ads to appear, whether it’s a city, county, or zip code. As a result, marketers can now tailor their approach and message to the audience they want to reach. Mobile marketing has also made it much easier for businesses to reach customers wherever they are, whenever they’re shopping. If your business is mobile-friendly and has an app, you can utilize this to your advantage. Those who download your app and use it often will be exposed to your brand and the products you promote, whether they’re in a city or a small town.

To determine how much you should spend on marketing and what methods should you use, you need to consider a number of variables. To start with, do you want to grow your business significantly? Are you looking to attract new customers to your brand? Or are you just looking to maintain your current client base? Once you have your answer to these questions, you can determine how much you should spend on marketing.