Your Doctors Use Data to Guide Their Work. Do Your Marketers Do the Same?

2016 Alliance sponsor feature article provided courtesy of Marketing Works

By Tina Rudisill and Gail Schwartz

Medicine is a data driven profession. Diagnoses are based on data provided in the form of patient symptoms. When doctors care for patients, they rely on clinical evidence on what treatments are most effective. But when it comes to marketing a healthcare organization, the basis for decisions is often not so clear.

Yes, there are medical practices that have developed sophisticated, data-driven approaches to marketing. They understand who their customers are, have insights into what they want, and know how to reach them with messages that will resonate. If you’re managing one of those practices, congratulations.

But all too often marketing decisions are reactive instead of proactive, with tactics selected in an information vacuum instead of being anchored in data-driven strategies that support the organization’s goals and objectives. Basing marketing decisions on the latest marketing fad or “deal of the day” from an advertising sales rep, or on which doctor was most vocal at the last board meeting, isn’t very strategic.

You need the right data to guide your marketing decisions and help you focus your time and resources more effectively. Hence the importance of an approach that marries insightfully analyzed data with compelling creative executions. You want to identify the service lines that have room for growth and find audiences in need of those services.

A creative approach to your data analysis must then come into play to help you formulate an in-depth understanding of those audiences—what their pain points are, what motivates them, and what drives their decisions. Then and only then are you ready to knock their socks off with exciting, remarkable creativity that has been shaped by your analytical process.

The types of data that medical practices need to inform their marketing can vary. However, through observation of many practices across the U.S., we have identified five categories of data as essential to virtually any provider doing business in a competitive environment, especially in specialties that are heavily referral-driven.

1. Patient Origin. Do you know where your patients are coming from geographically? The answer affects your marketing decisions in various ways. You probably already capture each patient’s home address. Take the next step, and generate a report on ZIP codes from which you’re drawing the most patients. Then study the demographics of those communities. The resulting intelligence will help you better target your marketing strategies and messages.

2. Volumes and Revenue by Facility. Suppose you offer a particular service at several sites and notice an overall drop in volumes for that service. Analyzing volumes by facility can help you understand whether the declines are relatively even across sites or concentrated at specific locations. This can help you identify—and address—possible reasons for the declines, from internal factors such as customer service missteps to external issues like changing demographics of the market.

3. Referral Volumes by Physician and Service Line. Do you know which of your referrers are bringing you the highest—and lowest—volumes and revenue? Do you regularly analyze referral trends to guide where referral marketing efforts should focus? If you’re in a specialty in which referrals are your bread and butter, detailed referral data can help you build a marketing program that is strategically targeted and successful in measurable ways.

4. Payer Mix. As reimbursement pressures escalate, understanding the proportions of your revenue that come, for example, from public vs. private payers can be important to your financial forecasts and marketing strategies. Payer-mix data can help you develop strategies to attract more patients who have desirable insurances or develop messaging specific to those paying more out-of-pocket for care.

5. External Market Intelligence. Do you know your market share relative to competitors? In your region, are the rates of medical conditions relevant to your specialty above or below average? Data on these and other external market characteristics will fortify your marketing program with invaluable intelligence to guide decisions and measure outcomes.

The Bottom Line
Yes, creativity is a huge part of successful marketing. But to maximize success, those creative efforts need to be framed and directed by incisive analysis of hard data that can guide sound, strategic decisions.

Once you realize that, an important question follows. Ask yourself whether you can honestly say that your marketing is both creative and data-driven. If you’re not answering yourself with a confident “Yes,” perhaps it’s time to assess whether a fresh perspective could benefit and complement your existing marketing resources, whether they are currently internal, external, or a mix of both.

About the Authors
TINA RUDISILL brings more than 30 years of experience to trg Marketing Works, the agency she leads in York, Pennsylvania. Rudisill has delivered presentations on healthcare marketing strategies and spearheaded strategic marketing programs for clients in healthcare, garnering awards for external marketing, advertising, and general brand awareness initiatives. Tina can be reached at trg Marketing Works, 3315 Concord Rd., York, PA 17402; 717-852-7171; trudisill@marketingworks.net.

GAIL SCHWARTZ, Vice President—Healthcare for trg Marketing Works in York, Pennsylvania, has an extensive background in planning and executing strategic marketing and branding initiatives for entire healthcare organizations and specialty service lines. Her work has been recognized with Quest Awards, Aster Awards, and the Annual Healthcare Advertising Awards. Gail can be reached at trg Marketing Works, 3315 Concord Rd., York, PA 17402; 717-852-7171; gschwartz@marketingworks.net.

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