There’s nothing that can make you feel more defeated than a failed marketing campaign. Factor in the often higher stakes of this space, and it's especially true of failed healthcare-specific marketing campaigns. It’s happened to even the best marketers and media buyers.
The real question is, what can you do to generate better results next time? In the words of Abraham Lincoln (who, incidentally, is one of the most famous self-described failures in history), “[m]y concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
If your healthcare marketing campaigns are producing disappointing results, it’s time to figure out what went wrong, and create a plan for improvement.
Are Your Campaigns Failing, or is it Your Strategy?
The very first thing you need to consider is the strength of your overall strategy. Think of your healthcare marketing strategy like a house. When there’s a problem, it could be an issue with components like windows and floors (your individual campaigns). Or, there could be a more serious issue, like cracks in your foundation (your overall strategy).
If your overall strategy is the weak point, it may be because you’ve been operating under incorrect or unproven assumptions. Use failed campaigns as opportunities to re-examine your overall strategy and be sure it’s aligned with your goals. If you find multiple points of failure, like the five listed below, in multiple efforts, it's likely not a coincidence. The foundational strength of your healthcare marketing strategy may be compromised. Singular healthcare marketing missteps may have propagated into significant cracks. Structural pillars or cornerstones of your strategy may have been misplaced. Whether you're seeing isolated issues or systematic shortcomings, the bad news is these things only get worse when left unaddressed.
The good news is there's only so many ways things can go wrong, and the five most common (yet very fixable) offenders are as follows:
1. Misplaced Marketing Measurements: You’re looking at the wrong metrics
If your healthcare marketing campaign is built around the wrong metrics, then it’s doomed from the start. Always consider whether the metrics you’re focusing on translate to the business outcomes you’re trying to achieve. Knowing the right metrics will help you plan the right campaigns.
How do you know you’re focusing on the wrong metrics? The biggest sign is if you’re not able to make a connection between the metrics you’re tracking and the results they represent. Even the traditional “vanity metrics,” such as clicks, impressions, shares, etc. need to be tied to specific measures of success for outcomes like reach, awareness, or engagement, for example. If they’re not, then it will be even more difficult to prove the business value of your campaigns.
2. People Power Outages: Your subject matter experts lack credibility
Subject matter experts (SMEs) are a necessary component to creating engaging marketing content that resonates with your audience — content that is accurate, insightful, and honest. But finding the right SMEs isn’t always simple.
Consider carefully who you choose as a subject matter expert (SME). Be sure whoever you select isn’t someone with zero credentials who no one’s heard of. At the same time, your SME should be someone who is able to speak relatively freely while being aware of compliance and quality.
On the other hand, your subject matter expert shouldn’t be a person with an obvious bias toward your solution, even if they work for your brand. Make no mistake: if you go with this strategy, your audience will be able to see through it. To avoid the risk of too much bias, consider widening your pool of subject matter experts, and build relationships with experts your audience can truly trust.
If you want the lights to come on for your buyers, you need to plug in the right people, the right SMEs, to power your performance.
3. Unstable Connections: You’re working from assumptions vs. reality
Even the most successful marketers and media buyers sometimes face a discrepancy between the best practices of a particular tactic and the actual execution of that tactic.
Take account-based marketing (ABM) for example. ABM can be extremely effective—as long as it’s done correctly. There are many misconceptions about what ABM is and what it is not. If you’re building campaigns based on any of these incorrect assumptions, then they will surely fail. One of the most common mistakes marketers make is thinking that they are doing ABM just because they’re segmenting audiences by accounts. This assumption is false, and yet it’s one that many people make.
Basing campaign strategy around false understanding of a tactic is a surefire way to set your campaigns up for failure. Before launching any campaign, be sure you’re operating from a place of full understanding. Do your intended activities have consistent connections to your desired outcomes? Are your buyers consistently consuming the kinds of topics you cover in content for your campaigns? If you build it, will they come because what you're building is something you know will be worth the trip for them?
Things connected only by assumptions fall apart with the slightest push. Things built on real connections hold up under pressure.
4. The Unseen Errors: You’re blinded by data bias
One big pitfall for any marketer or media buyer is not using data to make any significant changes. Are you getting caught up in a vicious circle of data, looking at the same numbers over and over and spinning your wheels?
Data should be used to implement changes that generate results. When creating campaigns, avoid data biases to get the best results. Data biases are any behavioral or operational patterns that obscure the accuracy, clarity, and/or utility of data. These biases may be intentional or unintentional, and the tricky part is that bias is often hard to identify when it's your own. So, to plan marketing campaigns that don’t fail, check yourself for any data biases that may be impacting your decision-making.
5. The Wrong Tools for the Job: You’re not differentiating your campaigns for the healthcare industry
The healthcare industry is complex and unique, and it needs to be treated that way. But often when building healthcare marketing campaigns, marketers and media buyers can forget all the subtleties of the healthcare industry.
Campaigns can fail when marketers fail to speak in healthcare’s language. Pursuits like interoperability or the Quadruple aim may sound strange to most marketers, but in healthcare IT, these are everyday pursuits. Your solution may integrate with other platforms, for example, but to healthcare IT professionals, if it facilitates further interoperability, it's much more likely to stand out from other platforms. Similarly, profitability may be enough to captivate a typical buyer in a typical industry, but profits, patient experience, provider experience, and population health are the four aspirations of the quadruple aim. All four matter independently and together in healthcare, and your messaging may need to articulate all four points in order to be effective.
Healthcare-specific goals, goals uniquely focused on moving the healthcare industry forward as a whole, need to be considered when building healthcare marketing campaigns. Not only will it help marketers position their organization as leaders in the healthcare IT space, but it will also add layers of depth to your campaigns that will resonate with your audience.
How to move forward
If your healthcare marketing campaigns have generated disappointing results, think of it not as a failure, but as a result you can learn from. Accept what happened, document the results, and learn from your mistakes. As Honest Abe said, don’t be satisfied with failure. Use it to move forward.
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