What the C-Suite should be demanding of healthcare marketing teams

In today’s healthcare marketplace, there is no shortage of available data – including EHR, CRM, financial, marketing, call center, to name just a few. In fact, an EMC report recently found healthcare to be one of the fastest growing segments in the digital data universe with 48 percent annual growth.

The data from each of these systems and departments is vital. However, understanding, analyzing, and communicating the meaning behind data points is no small feat – and something many organizations struggle with today.

A couple of years ago, at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), we recognized the need for a better way to analyze and present top-level data that would not only showcase marketing successes, but also correlate specific marketing actions to organization-wide goals.

Our primary objective with this shift was to make our marketing more accountable to the bottom line of the organization. We wanted to leverage our expertise in behavior change, communication, and demand generation to prove marketing’s value and further align our efforts with business objectives.

We invested in big data, adopted a healthcare CRM, re-energized our marketing staff to love data as much as they love great creative, sought cross-departmental cooperation, and ultimately developed a 360-degree view of our patients as consumers. Through our work, we continue to discover how our customers interact with our organization and use that data to drive demand and revenue in our service areas.

In less than two years, we’ve launched 50 marketing campaigns and are seeing impressive results: lead-to-patient conversion rates above 35 percent, and overall aggregate marketing return on investment (ROI) north of 9:1. These metrics, when presented back to our C-suite, validate our new data-driven approach to marketing.

With our success – and what we now know is possible – it’s clear that all healthcare CEOs should be demanding more from marketing, especially in terms of demonstrating ROI. In today’s disruptive healthcare environment, where retail giants like Amazon and WalMart have the potential to leverage retail and healthcare data analytics to capture top of funnel healthcare demand nearly overnight, healthcare CEOs must direct their marketing departments to act as revenue and consumer-insight generating centers.

7 Directives the C-Suite Should Make of Healthcare Marketing Teams

A key to success with this strategy was being able to efficiently and effectively communicate marketing progress toward defined goals with our leadership team and C-suite. We knew developing a new kind of executive dashboard that truly – and clearly – answered the C-suite’s most critical questions would be essential to earning leadership buy-in.

In our case, our executive dashboards not only earned C-suite buy-in, but also accelerated our success and positioned marketing as an essential business function to drive revenue.

Here’s a look at what the C-suite demanded of marketing and some insight into the development of our executive dashboards:

1. Put Aside Current Limitations

In developing the executive dashboard required to showcase marketing ROI, current limitations had to be put aside. Leaders should not accept “that’s not possible” or “that’s too difficult” as answers. It may be true that certain data points are not feasible (or highly inefficient and/or unreliable) now, but with cross-departmental cooperation, the right partners, and technology, they can be uncovered. Think bigger picture about what data is needed to prove marketing’s impact.

2. Be Involved in the Process

To assist in identifying those data points that would be most helpful – and most needed – members of the C-suite and other key stakeholders (i.e. board members, department heads) should meet with marketing teams to discuss the development of executive dashboards. Be clear about the business questions you need answered by the dashboard, and the most valuable way to present the data points.

We came out of our leadership team meetings with two clear objectives. First, the data had to convey how marketing performance correlated to business and financial performance. Vanity metrics, such as email open clicks, while important for the marketing team to know and understand, aren’t going to inform a CEO’s decision on developing a new service line or building a new regional office. Second, the information had to be presented in a way that it could be clearly understood in 30 seconds or less.

3. Report on Insights That Matter

A final takeaway from our meeting with key stakeholders was the identification of eight key metrics they wanted to see in a dashboard. Each metric in associated to one of two overarching marketing strategies at LVHN; brand strength or demand generation. These metrics range from comparative brand strength by region, to rolling campaign performance, to payer mix by patient type, to leads and ultimately, ROI. These may seem like straightforward data points, but in healthcare, there is a significant amount of backend work necessary to calculate.

Leaders need to encourage and facilitate cooperation between multiple departments: IT, finance, call center, and CRM vendor. It’s a matter of working backwards and integrating multiple systems and data points to uncover the insights that are truly valuable to the C-suite. This step is complex and each organization will have unique challenges in ensuring connectivity of the data and producing clean data.

4. Show Progress (and Setbacks) Toward Business Objectives

An executive marketing dashboard should be used over and over again. When thinking about the best ways to present data insights, make sure that there’s opportunity to clearly show progress toward business goals quarter-to-quarter and year-over-year.

Innovative marketing departments are constantly pushing the envelope of new channels, new platforms, new copywriting styles, etc. In this environment, where our marketing team is constantly searching for the ‘perfect playbook’, failure teaches as much as success. We use our dashboard to celebrate wins and, conversely, to elevate areas where we’ve used data to identify and correct failures.

5. Develop Clear and Concise Data Visualizations

Once the data is integrated, the numbers crunched, and the insights revealed, it’s time to design data visualizations. Keep the design streamlined and focused on key takeaways. Dashboards shouldn’t be cluttered with unnecessary data or text.

6. Regular Updates on Key Metrics

The development of the executive dashboard allows for key marketing data points to be pulled efficiently. In the past, the creation and updates of the high-level metrics sought by the C-suite was a time-consuming process that could take multiple analysts weeks to develop; an executive dashboard significantly reduces the time required to produce these metrics.

Establish clear expectations on when the executive dashboard will be updated, it could be monthly, bi-monthly, or (at least) quarterly. Our ultimate goal is to be able to update our executive marketing dashboards in real time, eventually making it possible for members of the C-suite to easily view updated metrics at their convenience.

Final Thoughts

The development of an effective executive marketing dashboard has allowed us, as an organization, to define metrics and accountability across all departments. And that’s an important point to emphasize: the priority metrics desired by the C-suite are not only a reflection of the marketing department’s efforts, it’s a representation of the work done by individuals, teams, and operational leaders across the organization. At its core, the key marketing metrics are meant to demonstrate joined success for a care delivery system to drive patient conversion and ROI.

Author Bio: Dan Lavelle is the lead strategist and forward thinker for brand strategy, demand generation and multi-channel campaign execution at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). He is responsible for the rapid adoption of LVHN’s data-driven, digital-first marketing approach as well as the usage and maturity of LVHN’s enterprise CRM/PRM platform. Drawn to health care by a passion for helping others, Dan’s prior marketing experience includes roles with the American Cancer Society and several health-focused not-for-profits. Dan holds a BS from Drexel University and is currently pursuing his MBA from DeSales University.

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