Marketing myth #5: You can’t always prove ROI

Posted on October 1, 2010

How many times have you believed that your tactics were working but couldn't prove it?  At a time when healthcare marketing dollars are at a premium, we need to demonstrate results albeit not always financial ones. Obviously we'd all love to be able to show a 5:1 ROI ratio on our advertising buys - but sometimes our tactics are targeted toward brand development or lead generation more than direct sales.

To be successful health care marketers, we need to develop tactics that accomplish both.

For example, let's say you currently publish a health newsletter and mail it out to every household in your service area.  In addition to measuring its impact as part of your brand awareness and preference scores, it's important to consider other ways to show direct ROI. You can include a drop-in card with a special offer that's easily trackable, or use phone numbers that are only promoted in the publication and log calls that come in.

The key is to establish how a given plan or individual tactic is going to be measured and then report back on the results. While your leadership team - especially your finance director I'm guessing - would like to see a direct ROI for every marketing dollar, even the tightest bean counter understands that not every dollar spent in the organization can be proven effective. Look at the HR function - what is the ROI on competitive salaries and benefits? And when's the last time you saw a direct ROI analysis on your IS budget?

When it comes to marketing effectiveness, ROI isn't as cut and dry as merely calculating X% of return on your investment. In fact, it shouldn't solely focus on percentages. The strongest ROIs are the result of people working together in productive partnerships, focusing on a defined common goal, and using appropriate technology and processes to measure success. To do that, we not only have to change the way we think about ROI, but also about the way we approach it.

Remember the saying: "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got." Times have changed and so have the methods for measuring marketing effectiveness.

The reality is marketing dollars will always be scrutinized more closely - and I'm fine with that.  We owe it to our discipline to show what's working and what isn't and develop better tracking for internet and social media tactics.

Perhaps we simply need to change the ROI acronym and track results on investment instead of return on investment.

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Marketing myth #6 – High attendance guarantees community education success

Posted on October 11, 2010

Health care marketing myth #6 - "High attendance guarantees community education success"

Anyone who has worked in healthcare marketing for any length of time knows how popular community education programs are for promoting physicians and services. It's easy to understand why - the programs provide the physicians and hospital with valuable visibility and an opportunity to connect with potential new patients who likely have an interest in the topic being presented. So how do you measure whether a community education program is successful? Certainly a program that draws 80 people is better than one that has only a handful of occupied seats, right? Not always. Here's the thing: your physicians and leaders will be pleased with a big crowd, but I can assure you that short-term high will go away if none of those attendees become patients.

That's why the quality of the attendee can be even more important than the quantity - assuming that your goal is to drive new business and not to simply educate expectant parents or to provide a regular social event for loyal patients. Many hospitals already get it - they're hosting programs on topics such as infertility, seizures and migraines, all of which can lead to highly profitable service lines within the clinic or hospital. With these programs, having a small number of truly interested attendees far exceeds packing a room with people looking for a free cup of coffee and a cookie.

When you consider using community education programs in next year's marketing plan, make sure that you are choosing topics that pertain to underutilized service lines. Many times, community education programs are simply a call to action for a marketing campaign because people are more likely to attend a free seminar than they are to make an appointment with a new physician. A truly successful community education program would attract a full room of highly interested, commercially insured patients who make appointments with your physician as they leave. More likely, however, is a mixed crowd that includes students, your competition and retirees just looking for something to do. Don't fret - remember to include the full value of the promotions used to attract attendees including traditional print, radio and outdoor advertising, targeted direct mail, media relations and social media when evaluating a program. The exposure that is received from those aforementioned tactics can be extremely valuable to the presenting physician and the services promoted.

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Service excellence really does matter

Posted on October 14, 2010

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Quint Studer, arguably one of the most influential health care experts in the country. As founder of the Studer Group, he has helped transform countless hospital organizations from underperforming money-losers to profitable ones featuring exceptional service.

One such facility that has benefitted greatly from Studer's influence is Black River Memorial Hospital, which also happens to be a client of mine.  As such, I was invited to attend his visit there to honor hospital leaders and staff for achieving some of the top quality and patient experience scores in the country.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Black River Memorial, it is a community-owned critical access hospital that continues to thrive despite constant competitive threats from larger facilities in the nearby communities of LaCrosse and Eau Claire.  It has done so by investing in its facility and technology - the amenities and diagnostic tools are comparable to those found in metro hospitals - and because of its commitment to providing great care which was elevated with its introduction to the Studer Group.

While Black River Memorial happens to be a rural hospital, the messages Studer delivers are effective across even the largest health organizations and he has the client base to prove it. Studer's trademarked "Nine Principles" are what he calls "a roadmap to help leaders navigate the journey to developing an excellence-based culture."

The Nine Principles™ of Service and Organizational Excellence were developed to provide organizations and individuals with a sequenced, step-by-step process to attain desired results. Here's the full list:

  • Principle #1: Commit to Excellence
  • Principle #2: Measure the Important Things
  • Principle #3: Build a Culture Around Service
  • Principle #4: Create and Develop Leaders
  • Principle #5: Focus on Employee Satisfaction
  • Principle #6: Build Individual Accountability
  • Principle #7: Align Behaviors with Goals and Values
  • Principle #8: Communicate at all Levels
  • Principle #9: Recognize and Reward Success

Most of us have probably heard and/or implemented some of these principles at various times in our careers. But Studer has packaged it in a way that is moving HCAHPS scores and improving bottom lines - which should be of interest to any health organization.

You've heard the expression before, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." That adage holds true today-even mores so than before. My point is this: before you invest in marketing your facility, make sure it's ready.  Spend those dollars creating a culture that truly differentiates you from your competition.

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We’re off to see the wizard: launch

Posted on October 26, 2010

There's been a fair amount of buzz surrounding the launch of, the new consumer health website led by WebMD founder Jeff Arnold and celebrity doc Mehmet Oz.

Sharecare claims to be an "interactive social QA platform designed to greatly simplify the search for quality healthcare information and provide consumers with the necessary tools to make smart health choices and live healthier lives." In the future, there will be greater contacts with existing social media sites and more direct interaction with medical providers.

I admit that any time I see or hear Dr. Oz I immediately think of flying monkeys and munchkins from the 1939 musical fantasy film sharing his name (seriously, can't you picture Dr. Oz pulling the levers when Toto pulls the curtain away?).  Obviously the cardiac surgeon turned TV medical expert is full of health tips and is likable.

Hoping the new website would be the same, I made my way down the sharecare yellow brick road looking for answers to simple questions like "How do I treat high blood pressure?" and "What is incontinence?"

As it turns out, the site draws you in and is easy to use. Search results are broken down in several categories including Q&As, Topics, Organizations and People.  Exactly how contributors are assigned to the different categories isn't clear, which clouds the credibility of the information within.

Corporate sponsors signing on to deals reported to be as high as $7 million include Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive, Pfizer, United HealthCare and Walgreens - each presented as "knowledge partners." Hospitals are also signing on as sponsors, creating a natural connection between the information and a local care provider.

Clearly the line between medical information and marketing has been blurred once again.

I'm not saying sharecare isn't going to work or that it's going to go broke.  For sure, there are some big names behind the project including Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions, Sony and Discovery.  And make no doubt about the quality of the content contributors including the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and medical giants Johns Hopkins and Cleveland Clinic among others.

But there's something just uncomfortable about the corporate sponsorships that makes me wonder if curious consumers who experience the site will ever come back.  Just like in the movie when Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion find out that they already had what they were searching for all along, consumers might discover that they already had access to what is offered on sharecare and decide to click their mouse button three times and go home.

Don't let my view of this Emerald City dissuade you from trying it yourself.  Go to and check it out.  And then post a response back on and share your thoughts.

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