Healthcare Marketing: Measuring Success Starts with Having the Right Conversations

We marketers haven’t done ourselves any favors over the years.

When we’ve talked about success, we’ve continually showcased it simply as an output of our work. We’ve said, “Here’s an example of what we did” instead of coming back to data and predetermined goals. But healthcare marketing departments have a real opportunity to set goals upfront and identify what success is going to look like before any new initiative gets started.

The best way to do that is to look outside of our departmental goals to organizational goals and how marketing can climb towards those. Are we trying to grow service lines? What’s the quality department doing? What are the organizational goals that marketing can start connecting with and measuring against? If we in the marketing department can align ourselves with the goals of other departments, we’ve got a better chance of showing success.

Alignment starts with everyone understanding what’s possible. Unfortunately, we haven’t done a good job of educating our organizations about what we can do. We haven’t asked – but should be asking – “if we do this and it’s successful, what happened to get us there?” It’s hard to sell success after the fact if we didn’t agree on it up front.

Everything is better with digital…right?

Digital marketing was supposed to make this easy. The great promise of digital is that it’s easily measurable. Lots of metrics and data and charts and endless csv files to turn into slick reports. That’s great. But the problem remains that we haven’t equated the lines in those csv exports with what the organization is expecting.

And as I have these conversations with healthcare organizations, I’m not even sure we’re all on the same page about definitions. Everyone talks about ROI, but the definition of ROI is a financial one only. So, “What was the ROI?” and, “Was this a good idea?” are two different questions.

We marketing folks have to be very clear about categorizing what we can get from metrics. I see three buckets:

  1. How big is the audience – followers, subscribers, etc.? Volume isn’t a bad metric as long as you’re looking at trends and not single datapoints. You want to see more people coming to your website, more people spending more time on the website, more followers on social media.
  2. What are people doing on your properties – likes, shares, time on page? Also, who is engaging (demographics), and are those changing over time?
  3. Yes, this one can be harder to measure. But if we’ve done a good job mapping the customer journey, we have a better chance at determining the financial outcome.

Setting up expectations around ROI means asking your finance team what they need measured. Do they want gross billings or revenue or something else? Even if marketing analytics can’t quite draw a straight line between an initiative and the financial outcome, getting clear about the desired readouts shows a level of smart marketing that will resonate with other departments involved in the initiative.

And it’s gotta look good

You’ve educated your organization on what’s possible. You’ve figured out the goals. You’ve defined the terms and set expectations about ROI. Now you have to present the information. Numbers don’t speak for themselves, so reporting isn’t just exporting those csv files and handing them over. You’ve got to package and communicate the information in a way that makes sense to the individuals involved and also fits the organizational culture. Do people want another email? Do they want a spreadsheet or an online dashboard? Is your organization looking at a lot of stoplight reports? Should you present weekly updates or quarterly summaries?

You can’t just look at what someone else is doing. It has to be tailored to your organization and how whomever you’re reporting out to wants to see things.

In my experience, a good cadence includes a weekly trend report with a single metric. Is the number trending up or down and what small adjustments are you making? Then you create a monthly recap with examples like what an ad looked like. It’ll include more robust metrics and analysis. The quarterly report often deals with forecasting. As in: We did this, here’s what happened, based on that what are we doing next? This is where you’ll tie into the organizational goals and measure against them.

Marketing, according to the font of wisdom known as Wikipedia, “is the business process of creating relationships with and satisfying customers. With its focus on the customer, marketing is one of the premier components of business management.” We healthcare marketers would do well towards applying that definition to the way we operate internally – creating relationships with other departments and satisfying their expectations. That’ll go a long way towards allowing marketing to have a critical seat at the table when it comes to deciding the direction of our organization.

Reed Smith