Stephanie Burton

What the health system CEO wants marketing departments to measure

By Stephanie Burton on September 8, 2017

You probably opened this hoping to find the silver-bullet answer. The list of five things that every health system CEO wants to measure. I wish I could provide that. But, here’s the problem: It doesn’t exist.

Let’s back up here. Every CEO is different. He or she will have different expectations about how to measure marketing’s impact. Our job is relational, not transactional, and with that in mind, it’s up to us to determine what works best for the health system we serve.

There is good news. There’s no shortage of things we can measure as healthcare marketers. Though, if we’re not careful, that can also be the bad news.

In 2016 the Society for Healthcare Market and Strategy Development published Life Beyond Promotion: Core Metrics for Measuring Marketing’s Financial Performance. In the report, SHSMD defined four strategic areas of measurement:

  • Growth: Accountability and influence
    • Metrics include: Volume change, increased revenue, new patient acquisition, market share
  • Brand and Image: Accountability
    • Metrics include: Brand awareness, brand preference, key service line reputation
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Influence
    • Metrics include: Patient satisfaction
  • Marketing Communications: Accountability.
    • Metrics Include: Paid media, earned media, owned media, social media metrics, digital media, direct marketing, physician liaison or sales, other sales, return on marketing investments.

These are guidelines that can help provide insight into what you could measure. Work with your CEO to determine the key marketing metrics he or she finds most valuable. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure your success:

  • Shoot first. Arrive at this meeting with suggestions of things you can measure and prepared to defend the items you’d like to measure, but that are out of your control.
  • Be honest. Guess what? It is virtually impossible to measure a direct patient conversion from an outdoor board. There are and will likely always be parts of our media mix that exist for the sake of brand building and awareness. Serve in the consulting role you were hired to fill and educate your C-suite about what can and cannot be measured as a direct conversion.
  • Tie metrics back to the system’s strategic plan. This should be an easy one. But, in my experience, this is one of the guidelines that is most often overlooked. Everything your marketing department measures should support your health system’s strategic plan.
  • Set a schedule. Don’t wait for a board meeting to prepare your reports. Set a schedule to provide marketing reports (monthly and quarterly are two of the most common options). While reviewing the results in person is best, don’t let the lack of a face-to-face meeting prevent you from sharing the results you and your team are working hard to achieve.
  • Don’t count for the sake of counting. There’s so much we can count, but not everything counts. So, how do you decide what to count? Divide your metrics into two separate categories:
    • Outcomes: Measure a change in behavior, opinion, awareness or support. Outcomes are generally the big, strategic objectives we’re trying to achieve. Things like an increase in patient volumes or a rise in brand perception.
    • Outputs: Measure the component of a campaign (the things you can count), but don’t necessarily indicate that you’ve been successful toward accomplishing your true objective. For example, measuring traffic to a website may be a metric you report on, but that traffic may or may not be directly related to your desired outcome: an increase in volumes.
  • Search for best practices. What are others in the healthcare marketing space measuring? How has it been successful? Leverage resources such as the SHSMD marketing discussion board. And, by all means, turn to other industries for best practices in measurement.

And, a final note. I’ve often found that some marketing/communications professionals are afraid to measure the results of their work (“What if it’s not working?”). Here’s the deal: We live in a profession of experimentation. Some things won’t work, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth trying. These learnings can help us fine-tune our approach until we find what does work. And, let us not forget, if we don’t measure our efforts, we won’t get credit for the strategies and tactics that are working.

Stephanie (Hungerford) Burton, APR, is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Creative. Follow her on Twitter @shungerford.