Think ROI When Budgeting Your Healthcare Marketing Dollars

As a marketing manager or CFO of a healthcare organization, it is your responsibility to determine the most economic use of your healthcare marketing dollars. With an overwhelming set of tactical options and media choices, developing a strategy is a critical first step before spending a single penny of your media budget. In short, you need to have a road map that outlines your marketing goals before you set out to invest. The planning process should be a formal and thorough part of any marketing campaign. As the old adage aptly states, ‘Failure to plan is planning to fail.’ An old marketing joke quips that 50% of any marketing campaign is a waste of money. The difficulty is knowing which 50%. In short, it takes years of marketing experience to understand the best paths to market any product, service or organization. Not knowing your market or starting a campaign with unclear goals often results in costly inefficiencies and a waste of time and money. This article is geared to help you get it right the first time by outlining the importance of proper planning when budgeting your healthcare marketing dollars.

How to Achieve ROI in Healthcare Marketing

ROI often gets lost in the clamor of a product rollout, or the launch of a new service or brand. Thanks to increasing media fragmentation, healthcare marketing decision makers have a myriad of choices when it comes to channeling healthcare marketing dollars. This can be overwhelming for even seasoned marketing pros. Unless you have unlimited dollars and a marketing team of thousands of staff members, it is simply not possible to target everyone. It’s easy to leap onto the latest trend, whether it is social media, video, or the hottest fad in internet marketing. But, without proper planning, you’re doing little more than blindly spending money and hoping for results. Proper research and planning helps us understand how to invest to get the best bang for our marketing buck.

The first stage of planning should define the target audience and build consensus with regard to tactics and strategy. A free exchange of ideas is crucial to the process. Brainstorming sessions among professionals coupled with real demographics and metrics will ultimately lead to an informed decision about who exactly you are trying to reach with your healthcare marketing budget. Don’t try to reach everyone. Pick 3-5 key target markets that represent your core revenue streams or promising new markets. All marketing and media opportunities should target these core markets. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by deals and discounts. It’s not a deal if it doesn’t reach your core target markets.

Defining Your Target Audience

Customer Base

The first and most obvious step is to look at your customer base and pick out significant common threads among them. What are they buying from you and why? Similar companies and firms could benefit from the same services. Additionally, it’s wise to consider possible upsell opportunities to current clients. It’s always easier to sell to existing customer than to find new ones. Take care of your customers and they will return time and again.

Look Closely at the Competition

Study your top competitors and determine who they are targeting. Whether you decide to compete head to head or discover new niche markets that warrant further study, it’s always wise to know and understand your competitors. To underestimate your competition is to miss an opportunity to learn from those that share your goals.

Try to understand target market basics like demographics that include location, income, and gender and psychographics such as behavior, personality, and values. The more you are able to target your audience carefully in the early planning stages, the greater the success you will achieve. Other resources include Pew Internet which outlines internet use among a variety of demographics as well as Scarborough which is a press room full of marketing and other trends that are useful for healthcare marketing professionals.

However all the planning in the world is useless without the means to measure success. With multiple strategies and tactics making up any coherent marketing plan, determining predefined metrics of what constitutes success is the only way to truly understand what works. Defining these metrics is not an easy task. Many abstract and difficult questions beg to be answered. How do you measure awareness? What is the time frame for effectiveness? Will I wait a year before seeing the results of my efforts? Defining your target audience is the key to successfully answering these questions. Knowing the habits of your target audience, knowing which publications they read, knowing where they congregate on social media, and then monitoring these channels is the key to taking the pulse of your audience.

A Word about Metrics & ROI

No manager or CEO wants to get buried in the details of the thousands of potential measurements possible when rolling out a multi-faceted marketing strategy. Without putting some measure or weight on the statistics, you risk becoming a collector of thousands of useless data points. Most prefer to see a big picture snapshot of your marketing efforts or “Macro Metrics.” The easiest definition of a good macro metric is usefulness. Everything from web site content, social media strategies, and brand rollouts should address the question of “is it useful? ” The next question is “who is it useful for?” If your marketing is not useful to your target audience, it’s time to start over. The most important measure after planning and audience targeting becomes ROI.

In summation key points here for healthcare marketing professionals include undertaking a formal and thorough planning process prior to reaching out with creative product and resources. Principal to planning includes defining your target audience and the metrics that play to your strengths as a company. The types of analysis you focus on will be different depending on the strengths and focus individual to your firm. Most importantly is to know where you are positioned today, where you wish to go tomorrow, and the strategies, tools and tactics that will take you there.

Following these steps will help deliver the three magic letters that determine success: ROI.

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Thawing the Healthcare Cold War

The American healthcare system is more fractured and “tribal” than ever before, even in today’s modern age. Even the recent healthcare reform enacted by the federal government, controversial as it is, isn’t enough to truly reform the current state of the healthcare industry which sees so many disparate groups of care givers, patients, insurance companies, and facilities locked in a “cold war” with each other, usually over the level of fees.

This Cold War is unlike any other, because the combatants work together on a daily basis and make decisions that affect each other every day. It would be difficult for warring factions, even those hiding behind business-like agreements and procedures, can deliver quality, efficient and affordable healthcare.

Thawing the Cold War

Move beyond this Cold War mentality of each of the combatants is one of the keys to truly reforming healthcare in this country. We need to have the “buy-in” from all of the participants in order for any reform to take root and yield results. What we saw with recent healthcare reform is what happens when you don’t get this “buy-in” – many of the players, including patients, doctors and insurers, felt like the reform was forced upon them. It could be argued that because agreement was nearly impossible, it had to happen that way. And mind you, Obamacare, was not true healthcare reform. It was governmentally imposed health insurance reform.

Nearly Impossible

Something which is “nearly” impossible is not, however, impossible. What’s needed is a two-step process facilitated by a neutral who can bring experience and knowledge to bear:

1. Making the different parties realize that they all want the same end goal – a reformed and better-functioning healthcare system in which people get better care – it’s only in the path taken to that goal that they differ.

2. Building on that epiphany and suggesting practical ways that different “paths” can be combined to create a blueprint for true healthcare reform that’s both effective and acceptable to the widest possible group of stakeholders.

The risk-averse nature of most healthcare CEOs and other leaders in the industry is still the biggest challenge. Therefore, the biggest hurdle for any reform initiative to overcome is getting people to accept risks.

Healthcare is at a crossroads. We need to begin the process of true reform now, if we wish to avoid a future where only the super-wealthy have quality healthcare available to them – a future whose economic implications are awful for everyone. Recent legislation was an ambitious start, but going forward the healthcare industry as a whole, including all stake holders, must work together to find common paths to the common goal.