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.

Inbound Marketing Mojo – School’s in Session

A good outbound approach is one where a marketer is engaged in pushing out the business’s promotional messages to the target audience. Inbound marketing companies prefer to utilize the other option-and that’s the pull approach. The pull approach is designed to share messages to those who are already looking for the merchandise and services that the organization is offering. The bottom line is, facts are facts – all the conventional outbound techniques including direct marketing and telemarketing are no longer king of the hill. Each conventional outbound technique generates only 10 percent of leads. Two third of brands prefer inbound approaches for promoting their business and reaching their audience.

The inbound methods such as organic rankings, paid search, and PPC are gaining ground quickly. Social media presence and engagement is another spoke of inbound marketing which is increasingly impactive.

So have you made the transition with your business? Still thinking about if and when?

That’s understandable, these are rapidly changing times in terms of marketing paradigms, of that there is no doubt. We can however distill a few reasons why you might want to consider making the switch, and sooner than later.

Reasons to Make the Switch to Inbound Marketing Strategies

There are various reasons why inbound marketing trumps outbound marketing. One reason may be the long-term value of inbound marketing campaigns, as opposed to the “quick surge” qualities of typical direct marketing campaigns. Through inbound marketing, marketers invest in long-term worth versus those quick and temporary surges in traffic, which certainly are a staple of traditional outbound marketing campaigns. You send out 20,000 postcards, you get a surge of activity. Ebb and Flow. With inbound marketing however, it is a continuous campaign that you feed over time, and the results are spread over a much longer timeframe.

Inbound marketing can be broken down into numerous, relatively simple actions. However it will take a concerted effort to bring all of those simple tasks together to bring an effective inbound strategy to fruition.

One of the fundamental tasks is deciding on what content is to be shared with your target audience. We live in the digital age, and, as people are exposed to more and more information and digital marketing, they have developed mechanisms in the brain to help process and filter that information. In a nutshell, people filter out 90% of the marketing messages they see online. So how do we get past the filter?

There are many ways, such as powerful calls to action, but our focus here is on visual media – images, infographics, and video. Humans are extremely visual creatures. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get past the filter with words alone. So we use our natural inclination towards visual engagement instead. This is why visual media is a centerpiece of an effective inbound marketing strategy.

So now we know what kind of content to share – focus on visually engaging media. Now, we have to figure out what platform to use to share that media. You guessed it – we want to use the social media hubs that have the highest visitor use and popularity – Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Google+, and other Web 2.0′s.

Next we have to decide how often we will share visually engaging content on those popular social media hubs. The best approach is to reach a minimum threshold of activity on at least 3 hubs, perhaps Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, or, if you prefer, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. When we say reach a minimum threshold of activity, we mean fully fill out your profile for your business, and then engage with others on those sites as necessary to begin securing some followers/fans/likes/plus 1′s on those sites.

Now, once you’ve reached the minimum threshold, you can focus on 1 or 2 and ramp up your activity. For Facebook, a great approach is to write a few short, engaging posts, attach engaging pics, and then do one-time “boosts” of those posts where you basically pay per thousand impressions through Facebook’s CPM network. A tutorial on Facebook Ads is outside the scope of this article. But trust me, it’s fairly intuitive. And the idea is to write and share, then “boost” selected posts however far you want. $20 a post for your first few is plenty. Once you have your audience growing, you can elect to let it grow organically, occasionally boost, or boost all your posts. That part is up to you and is dependent on your online marketing goals. Again, the idea here is to pick a few popular hubs and get the ball rolling.

So this is basically what inbound marketing is all about. It’s about letting your prospects find you rather than broadcasting your marketing message to the masses hoping it reaches a prospective customer (as in traditional outbound marketing). No need to be overwhelmed. No time like the present, as they say. So why wait? Go ahead and take the plunge!