Creating a new website can be an enormous undertaking for a healthcare system. There is the layout, the creative, the navigation, the content and much more to consider. However, what developers often leave out of the equation is the element that should be driving all of it—a strategy that drives business goals.
Whether your new website launch is part of a larger marketing campaign, or an independent initiative, there is a great deal at stake. A hospital’s website is one of the most important communications vehicles. Not only does it give you the means to communicate a great deal of information in many different formats, but it allows you to track and convert users in real-time. That is an invaluable asset that requires a strategic marketing plan behind it. How does the web development fit into your overarching mission of the organization and how will it help achieve its business and marketing goals? You may already have a strategic marketing plan in place that answers these questions. If not, consider conducting a brand discovery process and strategic analysis of your brand, which should include reviewing quantitative research, leading consumer focus groups, interviewing executives and conducting a competitive marketing audit and positioning analysis. This process will shed light on where you are and where you need to be as an organization in order to have higher web conversion rates to achieve target goals. Then, you can determine how your website can help you get there. You should also consider other digital assets such as mobile and social networks. Collectively, these items should encompass your digital strategy and feed into your larger strategic marketing plan.
Case In Point: Mercy Health System
Mercy Health System (Mercy) is the largest Catholic healthcare system in the greater Philadelphia and Delaware Valley area and is an integrated health system comprised of more than 6,500 employees, four acute-care hospitals, a program for all-inclusive care of the elderly called Mercy Life, a home healthcare agency, and a Medicaid managed care plan. It sits in one of the country’s most competitive markets for healthcare services with literally dozens of acute care hospitals and hundreds of ambulatory and practice sites. Mercy was struggling with its brand identity and connecting to consumers through its digital platforms. In January 2011, Mercy’s CEO reached out to DeTora Consulting, who quickly identified the need for a new branding campaign that would cut through the overly saturated “clutter” in the marketplace and build out an engaging digital platform to drive and convert new patients.
We began by bringing a strategic approach to the health system’s marketing plan and implementing an integrated branding campaign aimed at improving overall brand awareness of the health system and its core services lines. The rebranding efforts culminated in the launch of an award-winning new Web presence for Mercy Health System.
Setting Business Goals and Marketing Objectives
Once marketers work with strategic planning and administration to determine how many surgeries and medical procedures are required by service line and sub-service, they need to “back out” their marketing objectives to achieve those business goals. Ask yourself, “How many consults do we need to attain the surgical volume required? Knowing there is attrition, how many online patient consultation requests does it take to achieve the consultation goals? How many landing page visits does it take to attain the online conversion goals?” And so on. If these numbers are not known, national benchmarks can be used for forecasting. Tracking tools can be put in place so the actual website numbers can be used for forecasting in the future.
Before you can layout your marketing plan, you must first collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data to determine your greatest opportunities for achieving the goals defined above. We implemented a three-month long brand discovery process and strategic analysis of Mercy Health System’s brand, and some of the most useful information in terms of branding came from the focus groups. You can learn a great deal by listening to your target audience talk about your organization. We were able to identify key attributes, and how the audience defined each attribute.
By speaking with consumers, Mercy identified three attributes the organization is known for: its top doctors, state-of-the-art technology and advanced medicine. Surprisingly though, the group defined top doctors not as those who are the best in their field, but the doctors who take time to talk and comfort them.
It’s important to identify physicians as one of your target audiences, since so much of their attitudes and actions drive hospital volumes. Physicians played an important role in our research. Mercy needed to understand what physicians thought of the system, so they could strengthen strategic partnerships. To find out, they held two physician focus groups. One focus group included “splitters,” who are physicians who send cases to Mercy Health System and other area hospitals. The other group included physicians who never send cases to Mercy Health System.
Listening to the physicians, particularly the ones who don’t send cases to your organization can be eye-opening. Their feedback led to the implementation of a new physician alignment strategy and new job descriptions for physician liaisons.
These insights fed an overarching brand campaign with more focus on the health system. We changed Mercy’s tone to align with how their target audiences talk about them. We also identified key service lines poised for growth and assessed internal resources in those growing service areas. We selected four services lines to focus on – heart, bariatrics, cancer and orthopedics – because they support the bottom line and help fulfill the mission.
We worked with advertising agency Swanson Russell to produce brand materials that promote the key attributes, and a campaign using the tagline “You deserve more.” The integrated campaign included traditional television, print, out-of-home, direct mail, and events, as well as digital banners, social media, and pay-per-click search marketing.
To allow Mercy to stand out, we refreshed the brand to feel less like a healthcare organization, adopting a hipper, more engaging voice that you’d generally associate with a consumer products brand. The new brand style scored extremely high with the system’s target audience in both qualitative and quantitative campaign testing research.
Strategic Web Development
With the new brand defined, DeTora Consulting and Web partner Geonetric began development of a new online presence.
Mercy Health System maintained a number of websites to promote its many facilities. This fragmented structure worked well if you happened to start at the right point, and if the facility you were researching offered everything you needed. However, if you landed on the wrong site or section, it was impossible to find services at another facility. There was leakage from the system simply because consumers couldn’t find the services they were looking for!
The branding strategy for the system’s new site focused on consolidating all of the websites into a single site with an intuitive navigation. The main site allows Mercy Health System to balance the strength of the health system brand with the individual hospital brands.
The new site prominently displays the four key services lines – heart, bariatrics, cancer and orthopedics. The site offers a single services directory, and each service listed directs visitors to the facility where the service is available.
The new design coordinates with the new brand materials. The rotating banner reminds visitors of Mercy Health System’s strengths: State-of-the-art technology? Absolutely! Dedicated specialists? No doubt! Great doctors? Of course! The home page navigation – Find, Act, Visit, and Care – encourages visitors to take the next step with Mercy Health System.
We also worked with Geonetric to create a dedicated mobile version of the health system site. Having a robust mobile platform is essential to our communications strategy. With Geonetric’s help, we created a mobile site with priority functions such as a physician directory.
Mercy Health System launched all of the new brand materials at one time, and by doing so, we were able to unify the entire consumer and physician experience and maximize our exposure. It fully aligned our strategic marketing plan and it allows us to track the entire branding campaign at once, so we can measure the success of each component and the collective impact.
Measuring Your Results
Metrics are important to online success. It’s easy to get lost in pretty pictures, but the key to using the Web successfully is to never underestimate its importance as a trackable point in the patient’s pathway.
We identified a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) before the site launched so the team could keep a watchful eye on conversion points. For example, with the goal of improving brand visibility, we set an online KPI of increasing site traffic by 20 percent.
It’s important to identify operational metrics before the site launches and track them through the process. That way we can react and adapt quickly to ensure that the KPIs are accomplished.
To show your success, you should share metrics through dashboards with your executive team every quarter. Built around Mercy’s key services, the dashboards we created allowed us to track marketing activities back to volume goals.
Mercy’s initial goals were aggressive based on where the site was before we began this process. But the peer benchmark data that Geonetric provides tells us that we should be far more aggressive as we set our goals for the next year.
Maintaining Your Success
Your work is far from over after the site launch. The Web is so fluid and organic, and requires a great deal of effort to cultivate results over the long term. You want to continually monitor your KPIs, refresh your content and optimize your online presence to ensure that you are meeting or exceeding your goals. In particular, if you are integrating social media into your digital strategy, it is vital to maintain fresh content and fully engage with your audience to gain and maintain momentum. Be sure to measure your activities to ensure that it is tying back to your goals. You also want to create connections between your social media efforts and your website activities. Provide links and call-to-actions within your posts, Tweets and other comments to convert engaged followers into engaged customers.
For Mercy, the new site has been live since March 2012, and Mercy and Geonetric meet quarterly to review the metrics and make adjustments. We have monthly checklists to ensure the site continuously evolves.
Current projects include integrating the CRM system as well as building out the Web to support the needs of referring doctors.
The “go-live date” is not the end. You need to establish check points to ensure you meet your goals, and up the ante on your efforts. You’re never done optimizing content, analyzing the effects of mobile, and working on search engine marketing. You’re continually re-evaluating.
To learn more about how DeTora Consulting can help you define your hospital’s business goals, develop an integrated strategic marketing plan, and align your web development efforts to drive conversions, contact us today.