Smart phones, smart advertising: Let patience, efficiency be your guide to technology

December 19, 2008

Like many doctors, I’ve been considering getting a "smart phone," such as an iPhone or Blackberry, which can surf the Internet and handle e-mail with ease. Why wait?

Like many doctors, I’ve been considering getting a "smart phone," such as an iPhone or Blackberry, which can surf the Internet and handle e-mail with ease. Why wait?

As with most other rapidly evolving technologies, early adopters often pay a high price in terms of time and money in order to obtain limited functionality (and bragging rights).

In the first few months after the new iPhone hit the market, early adopters had to apply several software patches, and there have been fairly widespread problems with phone quality and the networks to which they connect.

We can expect that there will be similar "teething problems" with the new Blackberry Bold, which was launched in October.

My attitude is, "Let someone else take the hit." Maybe I’ll get an iPhone or other smart phone - after the market matures a bit more.


Competition

Recent auctions of bandwidth in the United States and Canada will expand the numbers of competitors in the wireless data and phone market over the next few years, increasing the range of available services and perhaps improving pricing options for consumers.

Vigorous competition among Apple, Blackberry and other handset makers is already leading to improved hardware and software.


Android software

The first smart phones based on "open source" Android software, backed by Google and its partners, have reached the market.

Android, developed under the auspices of the Open Handset Alliance, is an integrated operating system, user interface and set of applications that will be made available "under one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open source licenses, giving mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products."

Because these phones will be based on freely available software, it is expected that a large critical mass of Android-based devices will develop.

From the user’s point of view, Android-based phones are less likely to be crippled by the phone networks, which sometimes try to prevent certain features like a "telephone answering machine" from being built into phones, because that would interfere with the network’s lucrative voice mail business.


User demand

Phones based on the Android operating system are also more likely to have - or quickly evolve - software and hardware features that users demand. For example, if you have an iPhone, you cannot have a simple copy-and-paste function - until and unless Apple decides to make even that simple function available.

Want to be able to shoot simple video clips on your iPhone? Not until Apple says you can have it!

Want to be able to back up your data with an SD card? Not yet!

An additional advantage of Android-based phones is that they could easily be purchased unlocked, and so could be used on any compatible network - and I could shop for services between competing networks.

As the economy cools and phone competition heats up, I expect to see better handsets at better prices, and sharper competition between wireless networks. The benefits of this will flow to those who are not already locked into three-year phone contracts.


Advertising efficiency

On another note, as the economy tightens up, many of us are looking for ways to increase advertising efficiency. Last year, I produced an eight-page full color, 8.5 inch by 11 inch booklet about the services offered by my practice. This was mass- mailed, and was well worth the effort. This year, I decided to "go fishing" where the "fish" are - and use the postal service to focus my mailing on streets where the highest numbers of my aesthetic patients lived, because there might be other people like them living on the same street, and in any event, mailing to existing patients would likely be quite effective.

I exported my patient database into an Excel spreadsheet, and then searched for the subset of patients who had been treated with Botox (botulinum toxin type A), figuring that Botox patients would be quite representative of the whole aesthetic population.

The "Botox" subset was then sorted by postal code (using the Excel "sort" command). Inspection of that list revealed some postal codes where there were high concentrations of existing Botox patients.

Bingo! A mass mailing was sent to those high-yield postal codes (cost, about eleven cents each for delivery), and was too effective - some callers could not get through to my office.


Future effort

For our next effort, we may use our spreadsheet to calculate the gross revenue from each patient, then calculate the gross revenue for each postal code, and base our next mailing on that.

The same principles will be used when I ramp up my e-mail campaign - data mining will allow me to customize the message to the age, sex and interests of the individual patient. DT

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