“In God we trust, all others bring data” – W. Edwards Demming’s manufacturing wisdom applies nicely to medical marketing analytics
Most physicians are like fish out of water when it comes to marketing and promoting their medical practices. We have learned skills of diagnosing and treating diseases but have paltry training in marketing and promoting a medical practice. Any practice that uses a marketing program will need to know its return on investment (ROI). Failure to do so will almost guarantee that the practice will scuttle the marketing program since it doesn’t have any marketing analytics to determine the success or failure of the program through measuring, managing and analyzing data.
In the first article on this topic we discussed the acquisition cost for each new patient. This one is intended to provide the practice with a 5-step process of marketing analytics to measure the effectiveness of specific efforts. After reading this article and then implementing the processes involved, the practice will have objective data to base its marketing decisions on.
Most practices that we have encountered are bottom-line oriented, i.e., How many new surgical procedures did we book since starting the marketing campaign? How many new patients did we add to our practice after initiating the marketing program? How many clicks did we receive after launching our website?
Yes, these are important metrics that must be recorded, but every practice needs to have a wider scope of marketing metrics to collect.
What else must be measured by your marketing analytics? There are other components of the desired bottom line that must be recorded. In his book “A Marketer’s Guide to Measuring Results,” Chris Bevolo wrote, “The key is to capture as many different metrics as possible under the over-arching activity and apply them all collectively to the overall effort.”
Step 1: Start by selecting the activity your marketing analytics will monitor
The first step in using marketing analytics to measure your marketing efforts is to select the activity to monitor. In the past, the only method available was to ask the patient upon entering the practice for his or her first visit, “How did you find us?” Or “Who can we thank for your referral to our practice?” That antiquated method will hardly be helpful in the age of sophisticated marketing to provide you with meaningful information on the measurement of your marketing efforts.
If your marketing includes local magazines, radio, TV or billboards, you can direct potential patients to a website or unique phone number that will indicate and record the effectiveness of the marketing activity. Ultimately, the rubber hits the road when you identify which marketing campaigns result in leads and ultimately, which leads are converted into new patients.
When working with most medical practices, the doctor or the bean counter (CFO) is going to give thumbs up or thumbs down based on how many new patients and procedures the practice is receiving for its marketing efforts. By measuring the entire marketing mix, trends can be identified over a period of months. And with a good marketing team or agency, the practice can make solid financial decisions about which marketing efforts to continue and which ones are ineffective and should be dropped.
Some metrics to include in your marketing analytics are website visitors, total pages visited and time on site. Also include the number of calls from the website to the office, number of requests for more information, website chat leads, or how many of the free offerings were requested from the website i.e., someone entering their email to receive your practice’s free monthly newsletter.
Most of this information is readily available via Google Analytics. Your marketing team will want to measure these numbers regularly, looking to see if there is an increase in site visitors and if the visitors are spending more time on the site and not merely opening up the homepage, taking a 5-10 second look and then leaving your website. Depending on what is found in the marketing analytics, adjustments may be required to the website or other marketing campaigns.
Step 2: Converting marketing analytics into paying patients
Now comes the importance of the conversion process, i.e., transitioning leads to paying patients. Let me provide an example. Let’s assume you are an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine. You have a marketing campaign for total knee replacement for osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear destruction of the ligaments and cartilage in the knee.
Let’s assume you went the route of Google Ads, and you want to know how much it costs to attract a new patient i.e., the patient acquisition rate. Because we can track where your website visitors are coming from, it’s very easy to determine cost-per acquisition. Let’s say you spend $2,000 on Google Ads and you receive 50 calls and website requests for appointments or more information. To determine the cost-per lead, simply divide the cost by the number of leads ($2,000/50 leads) and you’ll find that it costs you $40 to receive each new patient lead.
Now, we’ll assume your practice converts 10 leads to patients out of the 50 total leads – this is a 20 percent closing ratio. This translates into a cost of $200 per patient. If your average surgery is $5,000, your income is $50,000 from that marketing effort. We would consider that a very healthy ROI!
Now, part of that equation is understanding how many leads are coming in from the marketing program. The other side of that coin is understanding how many of these potential leads you are “closing.” What should you do if you want to increase your lead conversion rate?
Let’s look at this scenario from two perspectives: 1) the number of leads generated, and 2) the number of leads converted to patients who opt for a knee replacement. The apparent no-brainer method is option 1): increase your ad budget. We suggest that the best option is 2): increase your conversion rate from leads to surgical procedures.
Example used above:
- $2,000 spent on Google Ads.
- 50 leads passed to practice.
- 20 percent conversion rate = 10 procedures.
- $5,000 average patient value.
- $50,000 in revenue.
- 25:1 ROI or $25 income to the practice for every $1 invested in the marketing program.
So what do you need to do to increase your conversion rate?
Step 3: Use these categories to review behavioral metrics
Behavioral metrics can quantify the reimbursable interaction with the practice and becomes the basis for determining the ROI and other financial metrics. There are six different categories of behavioral metrics: physician office visits, screening volumes, hospital admissions, ambulatory and diagnostic volumes, hospital volumes, and market share. According to Chris Bevolo, physician utilization is the most important behavioral metric. I believe the next most important behavioral metric that must be considered is the results of online marketing and promotion.
The following are the most common activities to measure about your website and social media marketing: total visits to the website, new website visitors, returning website visitors, average time a visitor stays on the website, followers on social media, likes and dislikes on social media sites, and the number of visitors who trade email for a free offering.
Next in importance is to determine that the marketing effectiveness is attitudinal metrics, or measuring the opinions of the audience you are intending to reach. This is often referred to as psychographic segmentation. The most common categories are: consumer awareness, consumer perception, consumer preferences, patient satisfaction, patient referrals to the practice, online and other marketing recall, and anecdotal stories and testimonials, which can be used with the patient’s permission on the website and in other marketing materials.
Suppose you asked potential patients what is most important to them regarding their selection of a doctor or a practice? Their answers might be:
- Access to the practice or how long to wait to obtain an appointment.
- How long a patient waits in the reception area before seeing the doctor.
- How the phone is answered by the receptionist.
- Does the doctor call back the patient in a timely fashion?
- Does the doctor use email to communicate with the practice?
- How friendly is the staff?
- The training or credentials of the doctor.
- The online reputation of the doctor.
- Is the doctor caring and compassionate?
- Does the practice take my insurance, or what is the cost of care if the visit is self-pay?
It is our opinion that the last two questions really determine the attitude of the patient, i.e., 1) doctor demonstrating caring and compassion and 2) the issue of finances.
Step 4: Benchmark your marketing efforts
You need to compare your marketing against a benchmark. The benchmark can be your own practice and what took place one quarter or one year ago. For example, if your objective is to increase surgical procedures by 5 percent and you did 100 cases in the previous six months, then anything greater than 105 cases six months after initiating your marketing efforts would be considered successful.
Ideally, you might benchmark your marketing against competitors’ marketing in your area or on a national level. Unfortunately, this information is difficult to obtain. Therefore, the best and easiest baseline to use is the practice you are in.
Step 5: Capture data, run marketing analytics and review
We usually suggest a time frame to collect the data. A reasonable time period is usually six months to a year. The doctors and the bean counters need to know that the results won’t be forthcoming immediately after launching an email campaign or having a TV appearance. Marketing is not a gumball machine – you cannot put a quarter in and expect a gumball to roll out. Marketing is like a fine wine, it takes time to see the results.
Don’t explain away the failures or dismal results. Don’t finger point and blame others. And don’t make excuses. Reviewing the data is where the learning comes in. If the program is successful, very little tweaking or adjustments will be necessary. However, if the results are less than expected, then you need to start asking questions and make changes and then evaluate again after another agreed upon time period.
Bottom line: When it comes to determining the effectiveness of a marketing program, you must select the proper metrics and monitor the progress. No doctor, office manager or chief financial officer can “play it by ear” or use a “gut feeling” to find out which marketing efforts work and which ones doesn’t. Finally, to quote Galileo, “Measure what is measurable and make measurable what is not so.”