I preach the importance of creating value. I promise it to prospective and current clients, as well as, constantly reiterate the importance of it to our digital marketing team. It’s core to what we do and it’s critical for building long-term partnerships with our customers.

The beginning of the year is a great time for reflection and looking forward to the year ahead. With this in mind, we’d like to share a healthcare success story in hospital digital marketing.

A lot of people ask about setting reasonable expectations from paid advertising efforts. And while it is easy to provide general benchmarks, it’s a lot more impactful to provide actual client results. And that’s exactly what we’d like to do today.

A hospital asked us for help running ad campaigns to promote their offerings within a local market.  Over the course of four months, we worked with this hospital to design campaigns across many networks and to define and achieve growth.

I’m beyond proud of my team, I’m proud of what they were able to achieve, and I’m even more proud of the value we could offer to our client.

The Hospital’s Digital Marketing Goals

The most important part of any initiative, PPC or otherwise, is to know what you’re working towards.  We had a conversation with the marketing team at the hospital to ensure that the objectives of the PPC campaigns made sense in the context of their overall marketing and strategic plans.

The hospital’s digital marketing goals were threefold:

  1. To increase awareness of the hospital’s offerings, especially among key demographics most likely to be able to take advantage of available services
  2. To engage with the local community at large, not just those currently requiring medical treatment
  3. To increase appointment volume in a measurable way.

Each of these digital marketing goals informed the decisions we made in the process of optimizing the campaigns.

Primary: Increased Program Awareness

One of the major challenges faced by hospitals’ marketing departments is that the path to conversion is rarely simple.  Each person’s medical journey can be a long and winding road, meaning that getting an ad in front of someone at the right time can be a challenge.

A better strategy for long-term growth hinges upon prospective patients knowing where to turn as their needs change. By emphasizing program awareness, emagine worked to reach not only people who are in the middle of determining which course of treatment is right for them but also ensuring that people who do not have an immediate need for medical services understand the options available to them should the need arise.

Patients often do a large amount of research as they consider the right course of action, and building awareness and trust among those patients and their support systems can help ensure that they have the ability to consider all of their options during this critical phase.

We understand the importance of understanding and marketing to the buyer journey. This need is amplified with hospitals because the buyer is a patient and the patient journey is a very personal, and many times, stressful process.

Secondary: Community Engagement

Quick, name every product you’ve seen an ad for in the last 2 days.  That probably didn’t take very long, because you probably don’t remember most of them.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Traditional marketing knowledge says that people need to see an ad seven times for it to be effective, and that doesn’t even take into account the unusually long latency periods so common in healthcare marketing.  Companies typically use retargeting ads to drive re-engagement with potential customers, but privacy regulations unique to the healthcare field made this impossible for the hospital we worked with.

In order to stay top-of-mind among people who had seen our ads, we set up a goal around community engagement.  We wanted to make sure that the ads we promoted were not only seen but remembered.

Providing opportunities for people to engage with the hospital’s social media pages and website content was important to our definition of a successful campaign, as people who spend more time thinking about the hospital are more likely to consider its programming even after the campaigns have ended.

Tertiary: Book Appointments

Long-term goals are important, but it’s hard to say no to a quick win.  In addition to working to promote greater knowledge of the hospital’s programs and services, we wanted to look for short-term improvements to appointment volume.

We worked with the hospital to track incoming call volume associated with the PPC campaigns for the first time ever so that we could understand the extent to which the new campaigns drove immediate results.  This knowledge helped us get a sense of the potential scale of the impact the campaigns could have as people that we reached during early 2018 began medical journeys in the future.

Additional Challenges Hospitals Face

In addition to the challenges described above, there are many additional factors that need to be considered when marketing on behalf of healthcare professionals.

  • Patient confidentiality is of the utmost importance to any good healthcare provider, which can be a challenge for marketers who are used to making decisions with rich, detailed data.
  • Coming up with a variety of KPI’s that provide actionable information, but can also be observed at a holistic level, is an important step in the process of setting up optimizable campaigns.
  • Advertising networks are also respectful of the privacy of medical information, which means that there are relatively few targeting options compared to other verticals.

These restrictions, coupled with geographic constraints, mean that advertisers have to be clever to get in front of the right audience in a way that is both effective and respectful of the sensitive topics and information involved in targeting.

The Marketing Campaign’s Results

In order to meet the hospital’s goals, we launched digital marketing campaigns in the following networks:

  • Google Search
  • Google Display Network
  • Display Ads on US News
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter

The team worked with the hospital to understand the exact nature of the programs they wanted to promote and the demographics of the patients who would benefit most from knowledge of those programs.  The team was able to translate this data into a custom strategy for each network that would allow us to target the desired audience to ensure that the ad budget was spent in the most effective way possible.

Increased Program Awareness

We launched the campaigns at the end of January 2018, and the impact on February’s impression volume was immediately obvious:

Impressions from Brand Awareness
Impressions from Brand Awareness

Total impression volume from social and display tripled in the span of the first month of activity and had increased by close six times by the end of the campaigns’ run in May.

I’m super proud of our digital marketing team and their ability to provide substantial shifts for our customer.

By leveraging a variety of different ad networks, including multiple social media channels and Google’s vast network of publisher websites and videos, we were able to reach hundreds of thousands of people in the hospital’s region who fit the desired demographic profile.

This uptick in impression volume was very much in line with our primary objective of reaching new audiences and building awareness of the hospital’s offerings.

Community Engagement

Millions of ad impressions are great (seriously), but we needed to know that the impact of the campaigns wouldn’t immediately dissipate after they stopped running.  Since it’s not possible to look inside the brain of everyone who saw our ads and ask them what they remember (yet), we decided to use social media engagement as a way to measure the extent to which the ads will have a lasting impact on the behavior of prospective patients.

People who spend time interacting with social media pages are more likely to retain what they learned and may even continue to follow the brand after the campaigns have ended, allowing for additional opportunities to learn about the hospital’s services. As a minor benefit, the more social media interactions a page gets, the more credible it looks to those who are learning about it for the first time, so social media engagement can often pay dividends in every subsequent social media campaign.

Digital Marketing Campaign Results for Hospital

We saw a substantial volume of interactions with our posts on Facebook and Instagram.  Over the course of the four-month campaign, we drove 661 Facebook page likes and close to 15,000 Instagram post reactions and comments.

That’s an average of 5 new Facebook page likes and 115 Instagram reactions per day.

We also measured PPC traffic volume as an indicator of long-term brand awareness and engagement.  People who visit the hospital website to learn more about the programs available have a greater likelihood of remembering this information should it become relevant to them in the future.

We compared traffic volume during the first month of the campaigns’ run to the last month, and the findings were clear: we were getting far more traffic than we had been previously.

Sessions from Paid Traffic
Sessions from Paid Traffic

Not only does this graph show a positive result as regards our goal of engagement, it also illustrates something more subtle.

By the end of the campaigns’ run, average monthly traffic volume had increased 126% relative to the first month’s worth of data.  We were able to achieve this by leveraging the data that we collected throughout the flight to continuously adjust our strategy and optimize the campaigns on an ongoing basis.

Active management of the campaigns, not just budget, was critical to their overall success.

Book Appointments

Prior to this campaign, the hospital had done very little to tie phone call volume to their PPC campaigns.  While this meant that we didn’t have a strong baseline of data to compare to, we were able to track the growth of phone call volume over time.  Since its implementation in March, we saw dramatic increases to call volume from the call-only PPC search campaigns.

Tracked Calls from Call Only Ads
Tracked Calls from Call Only Ads

Even looking at only a small portion of the data collected by the PPC campaigns, we can see that our team was able to effect a 34% increase in call volume from April to May.

Although some of these calls did not turn into appointments, the overall increase in interest indicates success in this area which can be built upon in future campaigns. We also used this data to contextualize the volume of calls that were received in the months after the campaigns ran and to help us come up with more concrete goals for future campaigns.

Key Takeaways for Marketers

The work of a marketer is never finished, as there are always more avenues of growth and optimization to pursue.  We saw substantial increases in exposure, engagement, and call volume for this hospital during the four-month flight of these campaigns, and the data shows that we were able to apply our learnings throughout the run to improve performance on an ongoing basis.

We learned a lot about which networks had the greatest potential to reach our targeted audience and what types of targeting drove the highest-quality engagements. We also get a sense of what call volume could look like during a period of active PPC marketing, which can help us understand what the lift of running campaigns should be.

As we look to running similar campaigns for this hospital and other healthcare providers, we will use the knowledge we gained to create better, more ambitious goals and meet them with greater efficiency.

Can We Help You?

At emagine we pride ourselves on our extensive knowledge of the challenges faced by marketing in the healthcare industry.  If this healthcare success story resonated with you, let us know so we can discuss how to meet your needs together.

If you’d like to get a quick idea on how your PPC ad campaigns are aligning with best practices, we encourage you to request a free PPC audit. Our team will review your account and provide some insights and recommendations on improving your success and ROI.