Posted: May 25, 2017

Dreaming of becoming a leaner, meaner healthcare marketing machine? Effectiveness and marketing ROI might as well be the official buzzwords of 2017. Even if you aren't yet feeling the stress of delivering ROI within your own team, chances are you're about to hear from your executives that their expectations have grown. Health systems everywhere are facing pressure to cut costs, and many have put their marketing teams on notice: You can keep on spending where you expect strong returns, but it's also time to trim the fat from your budgets.

How you do so, of course, depends on your organization (and especially on the population you serve), but one place to start is with your digital campaigns. Is your digital outreach strategy as tight as it could be, or are there areas that could use some shoring up? Are you putting every dollar you have to best use, or are you throwing a good chunk of that money away?

Fortunately, you can get answers to these questions right now — and avoid wasting money in digital marketing in the future. Here are 10 simple things you can do to get started.

1. Take stock of what works…and what doesn't. Whether you're just starting out with your first campaign or you've already been around the healthcare-digital-marketing block, it always pays to take a step back and evaluate the assets you've relied on in the past. To do this effectively, you'll need access to performance data — information on everything from the leads you've captured through your website to the chatter you've created using Facebook and mobile apps. Is your website mobile friendly and optimized for local search? Are consumers reading your content and sharing it with others? Sign up for a free monitoring service like Google Analytics to be off and running in a matter of hours or go deeper with marketing analytics platforms and services to get an enriched picture of where you stand.

2. Assess the competition. When you know what other hospitals are doing better than you, you can target your spending to fill in the gaps. Do your competitors have websites that are easy to navigate? Did the hospital across town just launch an oncology campaign you wish your team had thought of doing first? Get an idea what's working for others so you can find things that will work for you.

3. Define your audience. To have any hope of connecting with consumers, you have to first understand who those consumers are and why they might be interested in what your hospital has to offer. The better you get to know your organization's current and prospective patients (refer to the data from your healthcare CRM), the easier it is to determine how you should reach out to them — and the less apt you'll be to waste money in the process.

4. Aim carefully. One sure way to waste money in digital advertising is to send your message out to an audience that's too big. That ad for your organization's new service for diabetics? You'd better make sure it's seen by patients with diabetes and not just the vast world of other people. Fortunately, most social media channels (including Facebook) employ special algorithms that allow advertisers to target specific populations. This kind of targeting requires practice and experience, but you can also partner with platforms and service teams with healthcare-specific know-how. Healthcare-specific CRM solutions employ algorithms that look at consumer data to send the right message to the right audience. These technologies may cost a little more to use, but they can pay big dividends down the road.

5. Chop your channels. It's tempting to think that more is always better, but when it comes to paid media the opposite is usually true. If a digital media channel isn't producing new leads or helping you achieve your goals, chances are it's not worth the expense.

6. Develop a strategy. You'd never build a house without a set of blueprints, and the same can be said for building digital campaigns. Before you set out, settle on a strategy for achieving your goals so there's a roadmap you can follow along the way. Make sure to also decide on the objective of each channel you plan to utilize; success of each objective is measured differently. With a plan in hand, you'll still have the flexibility to make changes as necessary (see #9, below) — but you won't waste money on ill-conceived promotions.

7. Include calls-to-action. Every campaign should include a clear call-to-action that drives prospective patients to your physicians and services. If you're trying to get visitors to your Facebook page to come to your organization for their mammograms, your call-to-action might be to fill out a risk assessment or make an appointment. Without that extra “nudge" a call-to-action provides, most consumers will see your content and immediately move on — and your ROI may suffer as a result.

8. Don't forget to publish. Many healthcare digital marketing campaigns drop the ball when it comes to publishing fresh content. But if you want your audience to keep coming back for more, that's the best tool you have for getting them to do so. The key to success: Focus your efforts on blog posts, infographics, videos, and other resources that address the unique needs of your consumers. Show your audience you understand their specific concerns, and chances are they'll look to you as their go-to source for answers.

9. Make modifications. Try, test, and be willing to adapt. If you designed a campaign to generate interest in women's services, and a month after launch there's still no uptick in new appointments, you may need to change your approach. As you did at the start when you evaluated your assets, measure the returns you're getting on your investments and then use your findings to learn and improve.

10. Partner with a pro. Especially when it comes to the data side of digital marketing, it's important to ensure you have the right experts on your team. Is there someone who can handle the consumer tracking and analysis? Do you have the tools in place to get the job done? As with any complex endeavor where money is on the line — and where a miscalculation can annihilate your budget — in healthcare digital marketing, it pays to invest in what you need to succeed.

Want to learn more about budgeting and delivering ROI in healthcare digital marketing? Download our free Healthcare Digital Marketing Toolkit.