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Marketing Like a Scientist

As a healthcare marketing and communications professional, you’ve probably heard doctors and nurses talk about evidence-based medicine. When they use this term, they are talking about treatments that are based on thorough scientific testing. And as our eighth-grade science teacher would remind us…scientific testing means having a hypothesis, creating an experiment and not assuming an outcome!

Doctors rely on evidence-based medicine to make sure they are providing the best treatment for the patient. These tests determine the treatments that help the patient get healthier as quickly as possible with as few side effects as possible. We rely on this rigorous testing and trust that the treatments that have gone through it will help us achieve our goal - getting healthier. Shouldn’t it be the same with marketing campaigns?

Imagine the following scenario:

You walk into your doctor’s office with a stomachache. You explain your symptoms. The doctor quickly prescribes ibuprofen. This seems odd to you because you know that ibuprofen is used to treat headaches. You ask the doctor if she is sure that is what you should be taking. She responds with, “Don’t worry about it. Everyone is using ibuprofen now. It will be fine.”

Would you really trust that doctor with your health? No! Of course not.

Now imagine the same scenario from a marketing perspective.

You meet with your new marketing consulting company. You want to reach new healthcare consumers moving into your neighborhood. The consultant suggests doing a digital email campaign. This seems odd to you because how will you get email addresses for people just moving into the area? The consultant says “Don’t worry about it. Everyone is going digital now. It will be fine.”

How do you respond? How do you know that the campaign will achieve its goals? How will you know if you are reaching the right audience?

This is where evidence-based marketing comes into play. Evidence-based marketing is making marketing and communications decisions based on proven results from rigorous testing. In other words, it is the art and science of testing. And it has the potential for record-breaking return on investment (ROI).

Evidence-based marketing has three basic components:

  1. Understanding your goals and what you are trying to achieve
  2. Testing methods of message delivery
  3. Maximizing the method that the consumers prefer

Evidence-based marketing can take several forms.

A/B testing is when marketers try two versions of the same collateral (A and B) with only one thing within the campaign changed. They then compare the results of the two groups.

In this A/B split test, we found that an envelope without a teaser performed better than one with a teaser and it had a lower cost per response.

A Control Group is when you isolate a small portion of your target audience, called a control group, and do not communicate with that segment. This allows you to see what percentage of the control group would become patients without receiving a marketing communication.

The performance of the test group is then compared to the control group to determine lift and provides a foundation for determining ROI.

Testing allows you as a marketing professional to know how your customers, clients or patients will respond to different marketing campaigns or methods. One case study found that a health system lost more than one million dollars in downstream revenue when they switched from mailing printed collateral to consumers who requested additional information to sending an email with links to the same content. The direct mail delivery of requested collateral content resulted in an ROI of $56 for every $1 spent.

Evidence-based marketing allows you to get to know your consumer better. It allows them to tell you what they want and how they want to receive your message. And it puts you in control of messages that work. The best way to get started with evidence-based marketing is to find a partner who has extensive experience in healthcare marketing and testing.

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