The Future of Healthcare Marketing: It All Begins with Your Data

Author: Brad Dodson

As a business owner, you know more about your customers than you might think. When you make a sale or answer a phone call, you learn a little more about the people purchasing your products and services.

However, you’re not only working in your practice every day, you’re working on it — adjusting your operations, purchasing new equipment, or nurturing relationships with current customers. That leaves precious little time to hone your marketing and reduce spend on everything from appointment scheduling to fielding phone calls.

Fortunately, you have the tools to make this possible, all while focusing on the elements of your business where you can add the most value. The data you collect from customers on a daily basis — the data already at your fingertips — could be the key to unlocking valuable insights in your prospective market. With this information, you have a clear understanding of your current customers; where they live, their demographics, and their shopping behaviors. By combining it with online digital marketing tools, you can create effective multi-channel, event-based marketing initiatives that drive higher results for your business.

In today’s digital landscape, full-scale agency services and tools — data modeling, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) — are available to small and medium business, making it easier than ever before to find the ideal prospect, eliminate wasteful spending, and improve your response rates. Let’s open your file cabinets and get started.
Your Data Drives Success
Big data, machine learning, and AI are swiftly shifting the marketing landscape. While consumers can still find the information they need on billboards, in pieces of direct mail, and via radio ads, avenues for communication continue to grow. Your patients and prospects are wearing smart devices, uploading personal information to healthcare apps, and sharing statuses on social media every day.

As your target market’s behaviors evolve, so must your marketing efforts. This influx of data must be at the core of your omnichannel marketing plan. This way, people see your hearing care practice’s name among multiple platforms — direct mail, targeted top prospect email, PPC, social media and outbound calling efforts — for the highest impact.

But where do you begin? Understanding your ideal customer and how they respond to marketing efforts is the first step to marketing more intelligently.
The Data Model
Using geographic, demographic, financial, and behavioral attributes of your current customer base, AI can identify top responders in the market and optimize your marketing spend. These curated data models create segments, giving you a clear picture of surrounding competitors, community home values, and the population density around your practice’s location. Figure 1 and Figure 2 contrast a traditional approach to identifying potential selecting customers (Figure 1) to a more targeted approach.
Figure 1. Traditional Selection. Traditional selections organize your market by a few key demographic filters.
Figure 2. Modeled Selection. The modeled approach applies the learnings from our in-depth analysis of your customer database to identify both top responders and importantly, non-responders. This approach lets us rank everyone in your target market by their propensity to respond.

Armed with such granular information, you can then market in an ordered, principal way, starting with those most likely to respond before hitting budget goals. As Figure 3 summarizes, data science makes this possible, as it can use the unique attributes of your current customers to find look-a-like patients in your market and surrounding zip codes. Thus, you’re not only communicating with prospects who would have been targeted using traditional approaches but finding those who would have been missed without the help of segmentation.
Figure 3. A data-driven marketing approach identifies the most likely candidates for your services.
Who, What, When, and Where
People who have already done business with you and trust you are the most important, most high-yield prospects for future services. With direct mail, you can reach them in a multitude of ways:
  • One-to-one patient communications: Birthday greetings, service mailings, annual hearing test reminders, and warranty expiration notices.
  • Trade-in and up events, special financing promotions, and buy-back events: For experienced hearing aid wearers who may benefit from new technology.
  • Strategic communication: To people who have contacted your clinic, but have not ultimately sat for a hearing test and/or purchased hearing aids.
  • Automated trigger-based marketing set to send pertinent messages based on flags “triggered” within your patient database.
Making these communications consistent can turn one-time buyers into loyal patients, maximizing the lifetime value for your practice. And using the data collected around your current customers, you can build custom mailing lists targeted to the aforementioned best prospects.

Equally as important as timing and the right message is consistently reaching out to your prospective and patient databases; you know who you want to mail to, but now you need to determine how often you want to correspond.

According to Bluewing Hearing Care’s benchmark data, you should be reaching out to your prospects at least four times per year at a minimum. The data further suggests that reaching each target and prospect at least six times per year will provide the best return on your investment.

Machine learning informs data models, allowing you to mail just enough to drive response without tiring the list or burning through precious marketing dollars. The higher quality prospects — those more likely to respond — are hit more frequently, while those who may live further away or don’t match your current customers’ profile are hit less frequently. Either way, both segments are given a chance to respond, extending the life of the list and touching all prospects as dictated by your dollars.
Focus on Direct Mail, Complement with Digital
Direct mail has a 10 times higher response rate than traditional paid searches, email marketing, and social media marketing. It is imperative you create a strong presence in your patient and prospect’s mailboxes, all while using data to target the most lucrative destinations.

In order to maximize effectiveness of direct mail marketing, you need to take a systematic approach to reinforce both online and offline efforts. Strategically implementing digital techniques with your direct mail campaigns ensures increased ROI, no matter the success metric you’re targeting or goal you’re trying to reach. The most widely used digital marketing tactics are shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Components of a systematic marketing strategy using digital tactics.

Here are a few ways to synthesize your digital and direct mail efforts.:
  • Email: Campaigns that complement your direct mail to reach the right hearing care patients at the right time to increase campaign response. Whether you’re announcing a new product, sending appointment reminders, or advertising a sale, well-designed email campaigns can capture attention and spur action.
  • Pay Per Click: This form of search-engine advertising can drive more traffic to your website by local area patients who are actively searching for hearing care services. Using high-converting keywords, you can easily make your practice appear more visible, driving more hearing tests and appointments.
  • Retargeting ads: When someone visits your website, they provide valuable data in the form of IP address. Running those addresses through a “reverse append” algorithm can determine their physical home address, making it easier to send interested prospects pieces of direct mail.
  • Display Ads: Using the same IP technology, you can send digital display ads to direct mail prospects for increased exposure to your message.
These practices, in turn, help you better target your prospect and customer base. Knowing which content performs best on email, for example, also helps your messaging and image selection on physical mailers. Unified direct mail campaigns and digital efforts can serve healthcare providers and marketers in many different ways.

Digital marketing also gives you an easy way to pass on important information about events. Then, simultaneously, direct mail, which is shown to be a more memorable medium than digital, can be used to create a buzz around the event.
Final Thoughts
Unlike the “old” days, these practices aren’t just happening in bigger firms or through larger retailers. When run consistently and cost-effectively, small and medium business marketing campaigns can drive just as much value as the ones coming from competing corporations.

While building a robust digital presence is important for just about every business, it’s now evident that it’s even more important to build it as a complement to a robust, consistent direct mail marketing plan. Gone are the days of blasting 10,000 mail pieces to your clientele with the hopes of booking as many appointments as possible; together, direct mail and data can elevate not only your marketing, but the bottom line of your business.

When used in conjunction with big data, machine learning, and AI, traditional channels for marketing only enhance your online marketing efforts. Direct mail marketing can trigger an emotional response, but also adds value to your overall campaign message. Together, they make your marketing efforts memorable, but more importantly, successful.    
Brad Dodson is a regional account executive for Bluewing Hearing Care. He can be reached at [email protected].