How Providence succeeds at digital marketing on a budget

Renton, Wash.-based Providence, which comprises 52 hospitals and 1,085 clinics, is working with a fraction of the budget traditionally available to marketing organizations, yet its initiatives have significantly reduced the costs of advertising dollars while continuing to drive clinic reputation.

According to Shweta Ponnappa, chief marketing and digital experience officer at Providence, one way the health system has alleviated advertising costs is by using proprietary algorithms. 

The algorithms, built by Providence, turn the health system's ads on and off based on capacity. For example, if a patient is searching for care and the health system doesn't have appointment availability, an advertisement doesn't show up. If the health system has appointments available, an advertisement is shown. 

The algorithm also works without human interaction, turning on and off automatically using a business logic created by Providence. 

"We're not wasting time advertising services where we really have no appointments available, which is the easiest way to lose money," Ms. Ponnappa said. "And so that's why we invested the time in building those algorithms, which have saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising."

The health system also puts heavy focus on reputation management, specifically targeting Google. 

"You can spend all the money you want on the digital space but Google is ultimately the arbitrator of healthcare demand," said Ms. Ponnappa. 

Providence actively manages clinic reputation, working with clinic operations, solicited and responder views to drive its first impression for patients on the search engine. 

"Because of this work we've done in this space, we've been able to drive improved views by 350 percent when clinic reputation was actively managed," Ms. Ponnappa said.  

Being budget conscious and creating digital marketing initiatives that are providing a return on investment is needed now more than ever as company revenue dedicated to marketing is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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