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As healthcare marketers explore how to recoup losses from 2020, news of a vaccine presents an opportunity to increase volume and revenue in the new year. Kathleen Ahern, Primacy’s VP of Healthcare Strategy, planned many service line strategies over nearly two decades working in hospitals and health systems. She shares 7 tips for effective service line campaigns to help marketers kick off their 2021 planning.

Whether you are launching a new service line campaign or boosting existing efforts, following this list will help ensure success.

1. Make sure the service line is marketing ready.

There’s no point in spending money to court consumers and patients only to disappoint them. Verify that the service line has capacity. How long does it take to get an appointment? If it’s a surgical service line, how long does it take to get a new case on the OR schedule? Do you have high quality and patient satisfaction for this service? Find out in advance if you have a physician issue that could hinder the campaign’s success. If you have an open medical staff and the service line is lacking in loyal physicians, so-called “splitters” could take your patients to your competitors. Finally, determine the average contribution margin for the service line as that will help you when determining the level of budget investment.

2. Look at the market to identify areas of opportunity.

The beauty of service line marketing as opposed to brand campaigns is that you can be highly targeted. To use this to your advantage, you must examine the market. Are there zip codes where your market share for a given service line is lagging? Is there a region where demographic changes are favorable to a particular service line? Has the introduction or expansion of telehealth enabled you to target a broader geography? How does the payor mix vary across the market and how does that impact your bottom line? If you’re asking the right questions about conditions in your market, you’ll be wise with your dollars and deliver maximum impact.

3. Start at the end of the consumer decision journey and work backwards.

Determine exactly what you want consumers and patients to do once they’ve made the decision to entrust their care to your organization. Do you want them to take an online assessment or register for a screening or diagnostic procedure? Are you driving consumers to make an appointment with a physician or sign up to attend an in-person or virtual seminar? Start your planning by establishing the goals of your campaign and exactly how you’ll track these KPIs.

Service line campaigns

4. Ensure a frictionless path to conversion.

Working as a marketing director in hospitals and health systems, I always found this to be one of the most challenging, yet important, parts of planning a service line campaign. What happens when consumers try to convert? Make sure you have the processes and people in place to effectively handle leads (by phone, email or any other channel) without any barriers to access or delays. Remember, consumers put a premium on convenience. Can you set up online scheduling for that service line? Do you offer virtual visits, and will that enable more timely scheduling of consults?

5. Optimize landing page(s) for conversion.

No matter what tactic you employ, you’re likely driving leads to a landing page to convert. First, the content on the page must closely match the consumer’s search intent. If you’re running an orthopedic campaign, determine if a single landing page can meet the content needs of patients seeking joint replacement as well as spine surgery. Those consumers might be better served by separate pages with more specific information. Second, improving landing page performance will lower customer acquisition costs, help you acquire more customers, and maximize the value of your ad spend. Are calls-to-action clear and prominent on both desktop and mobile? A/B testing of different page layouts will help you determine the best design and functionality for conversion. If you’re asking consumers to request an appointment or physician referral, know that detailed forms are a deterrent for many consumers. Make sure your lead capture form is quick, easy, and embedded within the landing page whenever possible to limit the number of clicks on the path to conversion.

6. Identify your differentiator(s) and realize these may have changed as a result of the pandemic

Study the competitive landscape to uncover potential opportunities for differentiation. In my experience, organizations often point to technology as a differentiator. There’s no doubt innovation advances the practice of medicine and, in some cases, literally saves lives. To be beneficial in a marketing campaign, you must be able to clearly and quickly explain the direct benefit to patients. Does it provide patients new hope for treatment where there was none? Does it save patients from difficult side effects or speed recovery? These are differentiators of technology that get patients’ attention. The pandemic has also awakened a great demand among patients for convenience and connectivity. If your service line has been enhanced through technology like virtual visits, online registration, remote patient monitoring, or other methods of care in the home, these can be new differentiators that give you an advantage in the eyes of your target audience.

7. Understand what your target audience needs and values.

Separating yourself from the competition can give you an advantage, but only if your differentiator is something your target audience actually values. If you’re promoting primary care, consumers tend to search for providers who are in-network with their insurance, are close to their home or work, and those offering timely appointment availability, especially same-day scheduling. Cancer patients prioritize physicians who specialize in their specific type of cancer and hospitals with disease-specific programs, such as comprehensive breast cancer programs. At Primacy, we review our clients’ internal data, conduct patient interviews and surveys along with other low-cost, high-impact research, and leverage consumer research to create personas backed by behavioral and demographic data. Only by uncovering the target audience’s decision factors can you craft a highly effective campaign.

By following these tried and true steps to campaign planning, and looking for new opportunities that have come about as a result of the pandemic, you can grow your key service lines in 2021.