As healthcare margins tighten, the need to demonstrate marketing’s financial contribution has moved from a “consideration” to an “imperative.”

However, several major challenges stand in the way of progress in this area, including lack of data, no mutually agreed upon expectations and a narrow view of marketing’s role.

A publication released in 2016 by the Marketing Metrics Committee of SHSMD (Society of Healthcare Strategy and Market Development) aims to help. It offers, for the first time, a clearly defined set of metrics to help marketers measure financial performance.

It is a breakthrough document.

The plan is laid out in Life Beyond Promotion: Core Metrics for Measuring Marketing’s Financial Performance, a whitepaper that defines a framework of four areas of strategic focus to which marketing contributes:

  • Growth
  • Brand and Image
  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Marketing Communications

In addition to creating this framework for metrics, the study calls for improved dialogue between digital marketing professionals and the leaders of healthcare organizations, proclaiming that “there is often a fundamental lack of meaningful dialogue between marketing and executive leadership on strategy, appropriate roles, measurable deliverables and elements of success.”

Defining marketing’s influence has been, at best, a nebulous exercise, but the SHSMD plan attempts to clarify this influence by defining each area in two ways: accountability (marketing’s singular responsibility) and influence (marketing shares responsibility with other parts of the organization). By assigning metrics to each of the four strategic areas, financial performance can be judged more accurately.

The whitepaper offers specific measurement recommendations for a variety of metrics in each of the following four categories:

  • Growth (Accountability and Influence)
    Take ownership by identifying your role and goals. How will that promotional event lead to an increase in admissions and surgeries? Will market share over your competitors improve? By agreeing on a baseline starting point, you can measure changes in volume, revenue, new patient acquisition and market share on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.
  • Brand and Image (Accountability)
    Few factors play a greater role in your success than image and reputation. Greater brand awareness can help you negotiate more favorable prices, while brand strength creates opportunities for growth. It is vital to annually review where your hospital is ranked, especially among your competitors. Equally important is your reputation. What kind of feedback are you receiving when people are polled about your services? How aware are they of what you have to offer?
  • Stakeholder Engagement (Influence)
    This is about patient satisfaction. How likely would someone be to recommend your hospital to a family member or friend? It’s not something that marketing can directly control. But it is an area where you can have influence by identifying areas of opportunity and suggesting programs that will create a positive impression in the community.
  • Marketing Communications (Accountability)
    How are your media campaigns influencing patient loyalty? Are those paid TV spots and newspaper ads leading to transactions? How many people are you reaching through company-produced publications? How often are you interacting on social media? Is the tone of free coverage positive, negative or neutral? What is the value of free coverage vs. the cost of advertising?

Although finance executives aren’t in complete agreement concerning all the ways to measure marketing’s contributions to a healthcare system, they did agree 100 percent on one thing: “Having metrics in these areas would create dialogue with our management team and our marketing department.”

The document concludes with an eight point plan of action to get started:

  1. Start here by using the applicable metrics offered in the whitepaper
  2. Seek consensus on a broad definition of marketing
  3. Get direction on specific, measurable activities prior to the fiscal year
  4. Get agreement on the metrics in advance of the effort
  5. Clarify when marketing is accountable versus influential
  6. Establish a review schedule
  7. Identify and apply the lag time between events to desired results
  8. Collaborate with peers

Getting to where we need to be to improve the culture of healthcare marketing campaigns is no easy endeavor. But all agree that the need is acute. It is time for more focus and attention to be dedicated to the endeavor. Activating the eight point “Get Started” plan offered by this excellent SHSMD publication would be a great first step.

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