Lesson 9: Understand Your Constraints and Leverage Them

When it comes to pragmatic marketing, Mitch Rothschild is the smartest person I know. He runs a marketing and sales company called Raspberry Red. His company has built a site, www.vitals.com, where consumers can check up on their doctors. This site provides consumers with the tools to investigate the backgrounds of physicians and make intelligent, informed decisions about which doctor to choose.

But here’s the cool thing.

According to Quantcast.com, an independent site that measures the characteristics of websites, “Vitals.com is a top 5,000 site that reaches over 1.4 million people monthly, of which 1.3 million (94%) are in the U.S. The site attracts a more educated, middle aged, fairly wealthy, slightly female slanted group.”

No bad for a site that’s slightly over a year old.

Mitch’s gift is that he’s sensible, focused and devotes himself to first understanding the constraints of the marketplace, before applying his know-how to a solution.

He cut right to the heart of the matter when I posed our challenge to him.

The biggest problem, Mitch explained, was that these houseware items are low cost. In completing any purchasing transaction, one should expect a cost of $40 per transaction. Housewares tend to be inexpensive so these transactional related costs cannot be built in and absorbed. Besides, it is very difficult to build a brand on the web.

Mitch then pointed me in a different direction.

You may have heard of a company called RealAge. They provide an online test. This “test” asks 150 or so questions about your personal habits, lifestyle and family history. Based on your responses, the company provides to you – via your e-mail address which you enter — your “biological age” and then makes recommendations on how you can get “younger.” Some of the suggestions are simple – eat a better breakfast, take a multivitamin – stuff like that.

Most important, the test is interesting and people like to take it. After all isn’t everybody intrigued by the analysis and the possibilities. Well, maybe not everybody. However…

More than 27 million people have taken the test. That’s a lot of people…and a lot of data.

How does RealAge make money? While its suggestions are non-medical, it really is selling better living through medications. It is acquiring priceless data that most drug companies could never be successful in getting from prospective patients. If a RealAge visitor becomes a member, his or her data goes placed into a marketing database.

To promote their site, RealAge employs a “hub,” Dr. Mehmet Oz of Oprah fame, as a spokesperson. His message complements RealAge’s – you too can change.

According to the New York Times who did a detailed story on RealAge, companies like Pfizer, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline parse this data and target their products with a laser like focus to prospective consumers. (RealAge provides only the e-mail address and its site policy acknowledges that it shares data with third parties who can help fulfill its mission of “better living.”)  Because of this wealth of data, these pharma companies can target a specific demographic pretty easily, such as overweight smokers who are male between 45 and 50 and get depressed. The companies then send out e-mail advertisements that present the possibility of a treatment that can make a life-changing difference. Tthe e-mail recipient can then choose whether to investigate further.

So what does this have to do with our challenge…visit the RealAge site and stay tuned…

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