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Posted on May 11, 2013 in Articles

A Call for Evidence-Based Marketing

A Call for Evidence-Based Marketing

The next time I’m in a meeting with a physician and he he tells me how he can just go get his teenage son to build him a website, I might just put my own eye out with a dry-erase marker.

Healthcare marketing and web teams have a respect  problem. Unfortunately, I think its one of our own creation.

We’ve created campaigns at the whim of powerful physicians who want their faces on a billboard, ignored best practices in web design to get that “Letter from the Chairman” on the home page.

At best, we’ve been pushovers – not sticking up for what we know to be the right thing and not offering any evidence to back up our claims.

At worst, we’re been slackers, letting down the very business we’re supposed to be promoting. We are poor stewards of the marketing dollars we’ve been given if we can’t make a compelling enough case to leadership to overrule ineffectual strategies.

No wonder clinicians don’t seem to take what we do seriously. WE aren’t taking what we do seriously.

The Problem

Think about the last time you and your team slinked back to your offices after a meeting, muttering under your breath about how you don’t tell physicians how to do their surgeries.  The reason we don’t presume to tell them about their jobs is because physicians have a highly specialized body of knowledge – one which they are constantly improving upon through research and measurement. It’s prestigious and commands respect largely because physicians have the evidence to support their claims of being life-savers.

This is not to say that marketing needs to be considered as essential as medicine in the eyes of society, but we can’t command respect for our field if we don’t have the evidence to back us up.

If we truly believe that we can build a better website than some doctor’s kid, or design a better marketing campaign that whatever a department administrator thought up while watching TV last night, we need to prove it.

The Solution

We need to practice evidence-based marketing:

  • Research what others in the field have done. Read the books. Go to the conferences. Look outside of healthcare for great ideas.
  • Form hypotheses and test them. Use A/B testing on web pages and email marketing campaigns. Set different URL’s or QR codes on different print media sources to better track the success of each campaign asset.
  • Collect the data. Go beyond page views and visitors, “likes” and followers. Get in to the nitty gritty of your data. Sift through demographics. Get a CRM. Use the full suite of tools in Google analytics, including heat-mapping.
  • Analyze it and implement changes accordingly. Track before and after a campaign so that you have some benchmarks. There are a lot of great resources out there on how to get started measuring your marketing efforts on every front, from social media to pay-per-click campaigns. My colleague, Chris Boyer, has written a lot about this, as have others. Once you know what does or doesn’t work, be willing to change.
  • Set quality standards. Though it may sometimes upset traditional power balances, hospitals are trying to encourage all staff members to keep each other accountable for hand washing. We need to be willing to upset own own power dynamics within marketing. Friends don’t let friends go out with bad campaigns.

That way, the next time a physician comes up with a “brilliant” marketing idea, you can tell them:

Thank you. We’ll take that under consideration.

But just as you practice evidence-based medicine, I practice evidence-based marketing.

I’m going to let the data guide this decision.