Taking the Measure of Healthcare Marketing
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Judges of the HealthLeaders Media Marketing Awards assess the state of the art.
Healthcare advertising campaigns that set clear objectives, met or exceeded them, and showed positive ROI caught the attention of judges for the HealthLeaders Media Marketing Awards. The contest recognized campaigns in 22 categories, including direct-to-consumer marketing, marketing to physicians, and service line marketing. We talked to the panel of judges to get their thoughts on the state of healthcare marketing measurement, what trends emerged from the field of entrants, and what they think the future holds for hospitals, health systems, health plans, and physician practices.
The award winners got high marks on measurement from the judges. "Compared to last year, the entrants were much better at setting objectives and demonstrating ROI," says Bob Konold, senior vice president and group creative director at SPM Marketing & Communications in La Grange, IL.
But in the healthcare industry, "much better" doesn't always translate into "great."
"Accountability and measuring results are more important than ever, and healthcare marketing professionals are getting better at documenting outcomes of their efforts," says Susan Dubuque, president and cofounder of Neathawk Dubuque & Packett in Richmond, VA. "True measures of ROI in the accounting sense of the word are, however, still not common in healthcare."
Counting Web hits and impressions isn't evidence of a successful campaign, notes Patrick Buckley, president and CEO of PB Healthcare Business Solutions LLC in Milwaukee, who judged the physician marketing entries from employed-physicians groups. "I didn't see strong evidence of ROI measurement, and in fact I found many of the measurements to be quite weak."
On the other hand, many did show they were setting themselves up for better long-term measurement, he says. "I [saw] a more systematic effort to conduct pre- and postmarket research in order to have a baseline from which to determine the effectiveness of some of the business development strategies."
But overall, Buckley says, there was "a marked increase in the creativity of physician marketing communications" in 2009.
Judge Debra Pierce, interim assistant VP of marketing and public relations at the Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, NC, says her own organization tends to use formal ROI measures with its direct mail efforts. "We always use a control group to measure the actual ROI of direct mail to patients and nonpatients. By comparing the response of the control group to the group who received the direct mail, we can calculate the 'lift' or the actual number of people who responded to the direct mail. Further, we track the people who received the direct mail and actually received medical care at one of our facilities. By doing so, we can calculate the financial impact giving us a true ROI that shows the success of the campaign," she says.
Measuring the field
Doing more with less was the rule for 2009, says Dubuque. "Marketing departments are working harder—having to accomplish more with less. I've seen budgets cut by 20%-50%," she says. One way hospitals are saving money and reaching a more targeted audience is by making more effective use of new media and interactive strategies, she adds.
Some healthcare organizations are "toning down" their marketing communications so as not to appear ostentatious at a time when so many people are losing their jobs and struggling financially, she adds.
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