Chasing ROI in Healthcare

Since advertising has existed, a central question has been, “How do I know that I’m spending my money effectively?” As the old joke goes: half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.

Digital marketing arrived on the scene and promised to change this. An abundance of data and baked-in tracking and measurement tools mean that discovering real return on investment (ROI) is a reality for many now. But healthcare marketers are often left out in the cold, peering through the window watching online retailers and others segment audiences and tie advertising efforts directly to revenue.

“You have the tools and the power to capture market share from your competitors, to increase referrals, to target and capture specific patients.”

So why can’t we join in?

Some people say that healthcare is different. We’re behind the times. Our patient revenue data is locked away in monolithic electronic medical record (EMR) systems. Data access is closely guarded by bureaucratic and notoriously unhelpful IT departments. Systems don’t speak to one another and marketing doesn’t have a loud enough voice in the organization.

But proving the ROI of your marketing efforts is a great way to make your voice heard in an organization. When your CFO is looking around for budgets to cut, do you really want to justify your existence with meaningless website views or ludicrously inflated newspaper circulation figures? It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that marketing departments are often the first to be slashed when budgets are tight.

You know that doesn’t make sense! You know that you have the tools and the power to capture market share from your competitors, to increase referrals, to target and capture specific patients. Proving that to a skeptical organization means that you need to speak the same language as the rest of the C-Suite.

How do you get there?

We think that a great interim goal to achieve is to establish a basic ROI model. What does that consist of?

  1. Connections to any marketing platform that you use so that you can segment and track traffic referral sources
  2. A platform for experiments. Sparkle, an industry-leading content management system, offers the ability to test different types of content, calls-to-action, assets, and user flows against one another with a clear picture of how the changes affect conversion
  3. Patient data. This doesn’t need to mean ‘all’ patient data or read/write access to your EMR. It can be as simple as a monthly feed of a few select data elements. Talk to your data warehouse folks -- odds are good that someone in your organization has already established precedent for this.
  4. A place to mash it all together and make sense of the conversions. This can be an Excel document on your desktop or a new module in your customer relationship manager (CRM) depending on your needs.

One Combinaut client, Compassus, a national hospice and palliative care provider, chose Sparkle and Salesforce as the two central pieces of their direct attribution ROI model. Using an easy-to-implement set of integrations they are now able to measure the downstream financial impact of every single dollar they spend on digital marketing -- right back to the keyword level.

Compassus’ Vice President of Digital Marketing told us, “I love the system we’ve built together. It allows me to not only optimize our campaigns efficiently but also to make sure that I’m able to easily justify my budget and spend. We can see very clearly what works and what doesn’t and I feel confident when I present my reports.”

Don’t make up hand-wavey conversion formulas based on hunches. Don’t take Google Analytics reports to your steering committee.

If you take the time to build an ROI model you will have a firm platform to launch all of your future ambitions.