Finding Needles in a Haystack

By Mark Roberti

A new report about hospitals' adoption of real-time location systems illustrates the challenges faced by RFID solution providers.


For the past few years, I have been advising radio frequency identification technology providers that in order to be successful, they must focus on the few companies and organizations that will adopt RFID in the near future, and not on the many others that will not. Still, marketers are seduced by numbers. Attend an RFID event, and you’ll meet only a few dozen potential users in any single industry. Go to a vertical industry event, on the other hand, and you’ll meet a few thousand. The thing is, the few dozen at the RFID conference are there because they want to deploy the technology soon, while those at the vertical event have no plans to do so.

The response I get is always polite, but I know what the solution provider is thinking: “You are just saying that because you want me to exhibit at an RFID Journal event.” And yes, I do… but my suggestion also happens to be good advice. A recent article published by Healthcare IT News, titled “RFID and RTLS getting ‘dominated’ by MU,” backs me up.

The story sites data from HIMSS Analytics, a research division of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which reveals that 92.84 percent of hospitals do not have a real-time location system (RTLS) for tracking hospital equipment “and don’t plan to; just 0.56 percent are thinking of trying it out.”

It astonishes me that so few hospitals—I believe the data covers just the United States, but that is not explicitly stated in the article—are interested in deploying RTLS solutions, given that we have published many articles over the years regarding hospitals that have achieved significant benefits with such solutions. According to the Healthcare IT News article, hospitals are instead investing in “meaningful use” technology projects that qualify for federal funding.

Now, I could argue that RTLS technology should qualify for meaningful use funds, but that’s another opinion column entirely. The point is, how do you find the 0.56 percent of hospitals interested in deploying an RTLS solution? I’ll tell you what I would do if I were selling the technology to hospitals—and the same approach would also work for companies selling RFID systems for retail, manufacturing, waste management or any other sector.

First, I would take advantage of RFID Journal‘s keyword pay-per-click advertising, which would display my banner ad offering a free case study or white paper to anyone reading about RTLS’ use in health care. I’d create a special landing page to which the ad could drive visitors, and on that page, I would provide information about the white paper and the value it offers. I’d ask visitors to supply an e-mail address, and I’d send them the white paper via e-mail. That way, I would not waste money advertising to people not interested in the use of a hospital RTLS solution. I would not pay if no one clicked, and I would potentially be able to capture some good leads.

In addition, I would exhibit at RFID Journal LIVE! and RFID in Health Care, with a booth clearly showing that my company sells RTLS technology to hospitals and clinics. Before each conference, I would visit RFID Connect to identify the hospital executives who will be attending, and I would offer each of them the white paper touted online for free, as long as they stopped by our booth. If they seemed like good prospects, I might even offer to buy them dinner. In either case, my introductory e-mail would ask about the business issues they would like to solve, and I’d follow up, if appropriate, with information about how we solved the same problem for other hospitals.

After converting the leads from the events and online ads, I would then have my sales team search RFID Connect for other hospitals that attended past events or joined the site to research RFID products. They could e-mail these executives via the RFID Connect system, asking about the business problems these companies hoped to solve. I’d post press releases and blogs on RFID Connect, perhaps contribute a column to RFID Journal‘s Expert View archive and look over the Ask the Experts forum posts to see if there were any questions related to RTLS in health care to which I could contribute in order to get our name out there.

Finally, if I had any marketing budget left over, I might consider using search advertising on Google and exhibit at a relevant health-care event. You never know—one of those 0.56 percent might be at that event. And if they were, I could provide a little evangelizing.

Would this strategy work? Yes, it would. The only way to find the 0.56 percent is to go where they go to learn about RFID.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor’s Note archive or RFID Connect.