Norma Stride was a lecturer in nursing when her college was shut down and after some contract work started to think about the future. She looked at the range of skills that she had gained through teaching – motivational and personal development skills – and decided to set up a training company. Prism Partnerships Consultancy tried several different advertising strategies – all of which were money down the drain. Now, Stride believes that she has found the perfect marketing tool – direct marketing.
Stride initially focused her efforts on the health service with advertising in a nursing journal and also taking a full page advert in the Greater London Employment Association directory, which the social services and health service use to find contractors. Stride followed up on the advert by photocopying the page and sending it to her contacts in the health service. Despite sending photocopies of the page and a follow-up call, Stride was getting very little response.
In contrast, two advertisements in a professional journal generated a lot of enquiries and a lot of Prism Partnership information packs were sent out. Again, despite follow-up calls, Stride found that the advert generated no deals.
Stride noted that these early efforts cost a significant amount of money for a small business. The GLEA advertisement was £100 for a year's entry while a small entry n professional journals cost over £250 each. On top of this, Prism spent more money on mailing copies, follow-up phone calls and other general postage.
Stride attributes much of the failure in these cases to the fact that she was tackling the health service. “Little comes back because you can't speak to the same person twice around,” she said, explaining that often her contacts will have moved departments within a few days. She added that such a large organisation also generates many layers of bureaucracy. “It is a peculiarity of the health service. There are a lot of people with not a lot of power,” she said, making it difficult to reach the real decision makers.
Stride still works part-time as a nurse for an agency and it was her friendship with the agency owner that gave her an idea. All nurses have to re-register every three years, she explained, and must show evidence of continual professional development. While that may be easy for nurses in full-time employment, agency nurses must organise that themselves. By attaching a message within every payslip sent out by the agency, Prism can reach a highly targeted audience and at very low cost.
Although the company name will not appear, nurses will be given a contact number for further information. The agency benefits because it appears to be offering a service to members and Prism should get extra custom. Her friendship with the agency owner means that even photocopying of the pages is free.
Stride would like to do more on the marketing, it is a full-time job and money that she can not afford now. In the meantime she has abandoned advertisements as money down the drain and is hoping to use other agencies to reach their client base in the same way.