By Elizabeth Hanes BSN RN
Editor & Publisher, RN2writer
May 18, 2021

8 minutes to read

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    Prospecting Tip: Look for the Head of the Octopus


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    Last week, a student in the Complete Guide to Content Marketing Writing for Nurses course sent me an excellent question that I felt deserved a wider audience, so I wanted to share her question and my answer with you.

    This student was struggling with one of the most fundamental aspects of prospecting for clients: Whom to actually send her Letter of Introduction (LOI) to. Many, many beginning freelancers encounter this type of obstacle when they’re starting out (but I want to assure you this gets easier with time and experience!).

    She told me she was driving in her city when she noticed a billboard promoting a major medical center’s cardiac catheterization lab, and she had an “a-ha” moment. She figured if the cath lab advertised on billboards, maybe they also produced marketing content – and could use a nurse-writer.

    That’s a great approach to prospecting. Always pay attention to advertising and content in your immediate environment, because it could point you toward a client.

    But then this student ran into a snafu. Despite looking up the cardiac cath lab website, she couldn’t find any sort of marketing contact there to send an LOI to. So, she gave up in frustration and asked for my help. Here’s what I told her.

    Always Look for the Head of the Octopus

    In this case, the cath lab was one of dozens of service lines within an absolutely massive health system in this major metropolitan area. I’m not naming the system, but if I did you would be nodding silently in recognition, because you all know the type of health system I’m talking about: places like MD Anderson or Cleveland Clinic or Mayo Clinic. Those sprawling, monster systems with dozens – if not hundreds – of service lines to care for patients.

    To prospect effectively with that type of client, you have to understand how they’re organized. I like to use the octopus metaphor because it seems so apt. Picture that type of health system as an octopus. You can envision every service line as a tentacle, an arm that functions semi-independently. But every tentacle must be directed by the organism’s brain, right? The brain contains the executive functions. In our analogy, that would include: 

    • Corporate governance
    • Financial management
    • Technology infrastructure
    • Human resources management
    • Marketing

    Bingo! Marketing.

    The service lines probably don’t produce any of their own marketing or advertising materials. That cath lab didn’t hire a company to host and write its own website, for example; those elements fall under the purview of the corporate marketing department. And the corporate marketing department is housed in the octopus’ head.

    Once You Locate the Head, Find the Marketing Department

    To help this student understand this concept, I demonstrated how I repeated her prospecting journey by visiting the cath lab’s website, but then took one additional step: I found the link to the main corporate site and clicked that.

    On the corporate site’s homepage, I scrolled to the bottom – because the content on most health system home pages is patient-oriented, designed to help patients navigate that health system’s care offerings. The main part of the page doesn’t usually include links to administrative departments like marketing.

    At the bottom of the page, I did not find a link to the marketing department – but I did find a link that said “Newsroom.” And here’s little hack you can take forward in your prospecting efforts: If you can locate a newsroom page or media relations page, you may be able to locate the marketing department information there, too. In many corporations, public relations, media relations, and marketing all are grouped under a single divisional umbrella labeled “communications.” So, any of those pages might link to the others. 

    Sure enough! In this instance, clicking on the Newsroom page did the trick. Right there, prominently displayed in the right sidebar, was a link labeled “Marketing and Sales.” Clicking that link led to a page that not only displayed the name of the “Division Director of Marketing and Content” but also that person’s email address! 

    You won’t always get so lucky as to find someone’s email address on a health system website, so this was like striking gold in a played-out mine.

    My student subsequently sent an LOI to that person and now is waiting to hear back. I’ll try to update everyone in a future blog post about how it turns out.

    And that is all you need to know to prospect for clients at major health systems: Look for the head of the octopus, find the marketing department, and send your LOI.

    What prospecting obstacles do you experience on the regular? Share them in the comments, and let’s problem-solve together!

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    Elizabeth Hanes BSN RN

    Elizabeth Hanes BSN RN is the founder of RN2writer and publisher of RN2writer Daily.