Most medical practices know that they need to market themselves in this changing medical landscape, but in many cases their marketing budget is limited.
You want to spend your practice’s marketing budget wisely, but traditionally, there haven’t been a lot of metrics to tie marketing efforts to actual appointments and procedures. Stats like pageviews and ad clicks give you part of the story, but they won’t tell you how many people actually made an appointment based on your marketing efforts. There may be better ways to spend your marketing dollars, but you won’t know if you aren’t able to effectively track your return on investment (ROI).
Fortunately, if you set up the right tracking methods, you can take the guesswork out of making marketing decisions. Follow these steps, and you can prove the ROI for each of your practice’s marketing methods.
1. Choose a HIPAA compliant analytics tool.
In order to tie your online marketing efforts to actual appointments and procedures, you first need to be able to analyze your website traffic. Google Analytics has been one of the most popular tools to use for this, in part because it is free. However, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued a bulletin in December 2022 about the use of tracking tools like Google Analytics, and the implication is that it may not be HIPAA compliant.
That said, there are paid analytics tools that are fully HIPAA compliant or can be configured to be compliant. Before committing to an analytics tool, ask about their status with HIPAA compliance.
2. Define what counts as a conversion.
“Conversions” refer to the number of times a desired action is taken. For an orthopedic practice, that might include:
- Submissions from your appointment request form
- Email signups, if you have a newsletter, seminar, or other similar communications
- Phone calls from your website
You should only count something as a conversion if it gives you the result you want from your marketing. With most practice marketing, the primary goal is generally getting more appointments, so you might count every appointment request form submission and phone call from your website as a conversion. If you’re running advertising around a special event, like a seminar, you might also count signups as conversions. All of these actions indicate a patient who may be interested in your services and is one step closer to coming into your office.
Once you clearly define your conversion goals as a practice, you can start working toward connecting them to your current marketing efforts.
3. Tie your conversions to your marketing data.
With the right tracking methods in place, you can begin to take marketing data and connect it to conversions. Implementation will depend on what conversions you’ve defined, but there are a few key ways to get more information from your marketing data.
Call tracking replaces your practice’s actual phone number with a special tracking phone number that automatically forwards to your practice’s phone line. You can use call tracking on your website, your online ads, and even print ads. By using a different tracking number for each marketing channel, you can connect those calls to actual appointments and see which marketing channels are the most effective in getting patients to call. Just be sure to use a HIPAA compliant call tracking service, as these tools usually collect caller data that would be considered PHI.
Online Form Submissions
Your website provider should be able to help you get HIPAA-compliant forms on your website and a means of easily accessing form data. Appointment request forms not only give you another way to book more appointments, but also give you another means of tracking conversions.
Goal Tracking in Your Analytics Reports
Ideally, you should be able to tie online call tracking and form data into your analytics data. If possible, make sure you choose a call tracking provider that allows you to easily integrate with your analytics tool of choice. Your website provider should work with you to ensure that you have all of the proper tracking codes on your site to get the data you need. This will allow you to quickly and easily see how many website visits actually resulted in appointments.
Surveys can help you get a better idea of how your patients found your practice. It’s as simple as adding a quick “How did you hear about us?” question on your sign-in forms or your website. Give some options for your patients to choose, like your website, an online directory, the Yellow Pages, a billboard, etc. so that you can start to get an idea of how patients are finding your practice. Surveys may not provide all of the information you need, but they are a good place to start if the other tracking methods are a bit too technical for you to look at every month.
Tracking URLs (or web addresses) can help you determine the effectiveness of a particular campaign. You might use a tracking URL in an online ad, email message, or a landing page to see how many people visit that particular page from that particular link. Tracking URL data will show up in Google Analytics under Acquisition, and because the link is specific to that campaign, you can easily track it back to that. If you aren’t recording a lot of visits for a particular tracking URL, it might mean that you need to tweak your approach, or maybe try something else entirely.
Once you have all of the pieces in place to begin tracking their conversions, you’ll have more data to present to your practice and make marketing decisions.
4. Compare your marketing costs to your conversions–what is worth the investment?
When you have data on your conversions, you can start to compare the cost of each marketing channel with the amount of procedures and appointments you got from each channel. Your practice probably already has an idea of how much money you earn from appointments and procedures. You can then take the number of conversions, figure out how much they are worth, and compare that with the cost of each marketing channel.
If you’re losing money or just breaking even on your return on investment for a particular marketing channel, then those marketing dollars would best be spent elsewhere. On the other hand, if you are getting a healthy return on investment from a particular marketing method, you will have the numbers to prove it to all of the decision-makers within the practice and make a case for continuing on with marketing.
When you can prove the ROI of your practice’s marketing efforts, you’ll be better equipped to help your practice spend its marketing budget wisely, and it will be easier to get practice partners to invest in marketing.
Even if you don’t have the time to dig into your conversions on a monthly basis, there are still some things you can do to keep an eye on your conversions. In most cases, the ultimate goal of marketing your practice is to get more patients in the door. Are you booked up for the next week? How about the next month? If you aren’t getting the amount of appointments you want, it might be time to re-evaluate your marketing efforts to see where you can improve. If you are booked up for the next several weeks and even months, that’s a good sign that you are on the right track with your marketing efforts and are getting that return on your investment.