How to Build a Successful Outcome-based Healthcare Marketing Program
Using outcomes as a yardstick to measure performance is sweeping the health care industry. As Medicare leads the charge on determining reimbursement rates based on outcomes achieved rather that services rendered, clinicians and their support staffs are rethinking how health care is delivered and measured. The same thing should be true of the marketing that supports that care.
Technologies like marketing automation and robust web analytics make tracking engagement and conversion straightforward in other sectors, but health care has lagged behind the migration to coupling marketing efforts with outcomes. There are many reasons for that, but practices that are living in a new environment where success is inextricably tied to outcomes can no longer afford to spend resources on marketing that cannot be measured and optimized.
Getting there requires a change in how marketing strategy is approached and tactics are executed, but it is not difficult to achieve once the proper roadmap is in place. The new paradigm in successful health care marketing is quite straightforward when you look at it through the lens of understanding how the best outcomes are achieved. It then becomes clear how to identify and correct gaps that stand in the way of reaching them.
Creating Engagement Is the Springboard
Virtually all conversions begin their paths with some type of engagement. In the digital realm, that engagement can and should be measured. Tracking page visits will provide a good baseline for engagement, but drill down to discover precisely where the best engagement is happening. Is it on the page that one of your clinicians offered explaining the newest research and thinking in treating a specific condition? Perhaps it is on your testimonial page or the area of your site that describes physician credentials. Understanding where leads are engaging and where they aren’t provides the insight you need to know what is valuable to potential patients and which parts of your site need help.
Engagement is also easily measured through opt-ins for things like subscriptions to offered newsletters on health topics or sign-ups for workshops or webinars. Looking at which subject matter is attracting the most interest provides extremely useful data into what is meaningful to your target market. Think of it as a form of free market research and use what it tells you to optimize future education that is focused on the topics that matter most. Once leads are enrolled into an e-mail marketing program, tracking their behaviors through every link they click and how much time they spend on each destination serves to further distill the content that is resonating the best with patient populations.
Responsiveness Is the Ultimate Measure of Your Marketing Program
Many health care practices are still using traditional methods of marketing: Place digital ads and perhaps billboards and some print advertising and hope that creates enough awareness to drive a response. That was a fine approach 20 years ago because nothing better was available. The problem now is that when patients call the office to make an appointment, you generally have no idea where that lead originated. Did they see an advertisement, or were they referred by a friend or insurance company? Some practices ask callers if they were referred by anybody, but that still does not identify which marketing campaigns may have also reached them, and most practices are not adept at cataloging and analyzing this data.
Today it is possible to know where all web traffic comes from and call-tracking software makes it easy to understand which piece of marketing collateral referred each inbound phone inquiry. Tools like Google Analytics are excellent at building intelligence on the journeys consumers take prior to reaching a site and are valuable at optimizing SEO, an integral part of any modern marketing program.
Google Analytics is not strong enough, however, to tell you which elements of a traditional campaign are working. When consumers go directly to a URL because they saw it on a billboard or print ad, how do you know where it came from? The only way is by building landing pages and tying each one to different marketing channels and then measuring and comparing the performance of each. Doing so will quickly identify which campaigns and channels are working well and which should be changed or eliminated altogether.
Tracking Conversion to Correct Gaps in the Funnel
Consumers are smarter and more empowered than ever before. They have plenty of choices, and they know it. All too often, a prospect sees your advertisement, reads online reviews, checks out your site, has intent to convert, but then never does. What went wrong? Identifying where leads move smoothly through the funnel and where they get clogged is a core component to building a successful outcome-based program. Once intent has been created, the job of marketing is not over.
When a consumer calls to make an appointment, every second that person is placed on hold or forced to fumble through a set of voice prompts is an opportunity for them to drop out of the funnel. When a consumer makes an appointment, the time between then and the appointment itself is another opportunity for the consumer to drop out. Even after the consumer shows up, signs in and is waiting to see a clinician, there is opportunity to drop out. It happens—today’s empowered consumer will simply walk out of a waiting room if left too long and never return.
All of the advertising and marketing in the world cannot rescue a practice that provides a poor customer experience. That is amplified by consumers who will quickly share their negative experiences on review sites. You also can’t count on existing patients that have had good experiences to return. Every post-appointment follow-up, every lab result and every billing communication is an opportunity to lose that patient if not handled properly.
This is what makes basing the success of marketing strategy on actual outcomes so vital. It starts with the first moment of awareness-building and it never ends because the most profitable patients are also the most loyal. Attracting and keeping the right patient mix is key to the success of the practice, and that’s the outcome that is most important: revenue as measured on a per patient basis. Following an outcome-based program of marketing will help identify who these patients are and the best ways to reach and retain them.
This article originally appeared on Marketing Health Services.