12 Mar

3 Rules to Live by When Measuring Healthcare Marketing

By Mimi Rasor, APR


Anyone who has spent time in healthcare marketing knows all too well what it’s like to present results to doctors who have spent their careers in research. They speak data. Fluently. They ask questions like, “Why is three percent missing on that market share chart?” and “What’s the methodology behind our consumer preference data?” Not that these things can’t be easily explained, but it’s much easier to anticipate and set expectations on the front end so you can prepare for questions on the back end.

As president of a Cincinnati marketing communications agency, I’ve worked with many healthcare clients over the years. Here are three rules I have come to live by when measuring and reporting healthcare marketing results:

1. Know what you’re measuring and why and align senior leadership
Depending on the type of campaign you’re conducting, your objectives will vary. But whether you’re introducing a new product or service or building brand reputation, the overall goal is typically about building volume and/or loyalty.

I use the adoption process when explaining this to clients because it logically walks non-marketers through what we want to achieve.
3 Rules to Live by When measuring Healthcare marketing | Rasor Marketing Communications

Before anyone can buy your product or service, they have to be aware of it. Then you need to get them interested in trying it by showing the problem it solves and what differentiates your product or service. Once they try it, marketing hands the baton to operations. A consumer will evaluate the experience and, if positive, become a loyal supporter and advocate (and hopefully sing your praises to anyone who will listen in their networks.)

I always give the example of one of the best marketers in the world, which happens to be in our backyard in Cincinnati – Procter & Gamble. When P&G introduces a new product, they move consumers right through those first three phases with one tactic: sampling – often in the Sunday newspaper. Right away I’m aware of the new product, interested in trying it because it’s free and in my house and they’ve probably even incentivized me to go buy it when I run out with a coupon or special offer. P&G’s model is built on having high quality products that consumers will want to repurchase once they’ve tried them.

We explain this process to physicians and leadership when we begin with very clear outlines of how we’ll measure what we’re doing along each phase of implementation. For example, we subscribe to consumer tracking studies to measure awareness and preference and then track it over time, typically by rolling quarter. This gives us real-time data to make marketing decisions. To measure trial, we look at physician appointments, volumes and eventually downstream market share.  And, of course, there are other calls-to-action we monitor, such as web traffic, social media mentions and sentiment, etc., which all help tell the story of marketing performance.

2. Give adequate time to report results and keep it simple

Typically, healthcare services are not an immediate purchase (I don’t know too many people who want to rush out and get a CAT scan because it’s the latest kind). Unless you’re promoting elective procedures, like weight loss programs or even joint replacements, you’re really counting on making your expertise in an area well-known so your health system is top of mind when the need arises.

Depending on the services we’re promoting, we typically wait 6-12 months to see what kind of trends our efforts are producing and if, in fact, there is volume/revenue coming in the door. For example, we’ve used direct mail to promote mobile mammography programs, but typically don’t reconcile those efforts with patient data until 4-6 months later when those patients have had the chance to schedule and receive the service. Building consumer preference can take even longer for messages to sink in and penetrate a market.

We have created very simple infographics report for senior leadership to learn how their system is performing in a two-page marketing dashboard. This format is great because at a glance, they can determine both where they are relative to competitors and how they’re numbers are trending over the past three quarters. It’s been well-received by clients and makes our job easier as we make recommendations on strategy and messaging going forward.

3. Evaluate results on three levels: process, impact and outcome

It’s important to keep in mind that if a campaign doesn’t produce the desired results, there are several places in the entire process that could have broken down. We evaluate on three levels to make sure we haven’t missed anything: process (did we do what the plan said, on time, on budget); impact (did we generate the immediate measureable impact we hoped in media impressions, calls to action, appointments, etc.) and outcome (did we achieve the desired campaign objectives in volume and revenue). Being this detailed can be cumbersome, but it also quickly identifies where there are issues that may have hindered the final outcome.

Those are just a few rules we try to live by with healthcare marketing to keep us all on the same page. If anyone else has insights on healthcare marketing and/or measurement, would love to hear thoughts and experiences from the trenches.