how do we measure the return on investment (ROI) of an ivf marketing program?
Jackie Sharpe is Regional Marketing Director for HRC Fertility in Southern California. Once, at an Association for Reproductive Managers (ARM) marketing meeting, I asked Jackie, "Is it easier, or harder, to track the effectiveness of marketing today than it was several years ago?"
I could tell she had thought about it before. "It's harder," she replied.
Harder? We have every tool under the sun, from Google Analytics to every kind of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and marketing dashboard. We can track every click, page view, Instagram like, Yelp review...everything down to how many minutes the average visitor spends on our website. How is it not easier than ever to track our ROI? Yet, you know what? She's absolutely right.
It's harder to singularly track patient sourcing, not only in spite of these infinite tools, but partly because of them. The avenues from which today's patient becomes aware of our services are virtually limitless. So too, are the factors that can influence her decision. We need a system, as opposed to a single figure.
indispensable indicators need to be analyzed together
In my last blog post, I wrote about the Six Indispensable Indicators that IVF Marketing is Doomed Without. There are six, because individually, none of them offer us a wholly accurate synopsis of our marketing results. Whether we use the hottest CRM, or an Excel workbook, tools do not replace our overall system for tracking and measuring results. Two examples explain why we report on multiple sources of data.
- Human Omission: About 1/3 of patients of Fertility Bridge clients do not fully complete their referral-source questionnaires. Furthermore, the number of questionnaires entered by the practice is typically only 75% of the total number of new patient visits.
- Limits to Digital Tracking: We track internet goals (i.e. appointment requests), but sources are frequently only attributed to the most direct channel. In simpler terms, an IVF clinic on the west coast hosts informational fertility sessions at their offices. When we run ads on social media, registrations increase. On the submission form, registrants overwhelmingly check Facebook or Instagram as the sources of how they came to hear about the event. Still, when we look at our goals in Google Analytics or Hubspot, a much smaller percentage are credited for coming directly from any one channel.
Instead of relying on numbers that provide incomplete information, we use a proven system that includes our Indispensable Indicators. Functioning as a whole, the system allows us to measure and understand the effectiveness of our efforts, and subsequently, the money we're spending. These are the seven steps of the Fertility Bridge Proven Process for Tracking Marketing Results that we implement with each new client.
1). Put the right person in the right seat
Someone inside the clinic must own your Indispensable Indicators. If these data are not readily available and accounted for, then the marketing strategy operates aimlessly. This person is often the practice administrator. He or she may be the clinic liaison, marketing director, or billing manager. Ideally, this is someone who is fascinated with being a student of your practice's key performance indicators. If the person has neither the authority nor the capacity to implement all of the steps involved in the Proven Process for Tracking Results, the point is moot. Whoever is chosen, he or she is responsible for reporting on the Indispensable Indicators every single month.
2). Collect existing data
Because of clinical reporting, you likely know your clinic's IVF volume, year-to-year, but that doesn't tell us anything about our monthly progress. We still don't know what impact individual marketing efforts have had on profit and patient volume. In this phase of the Proven Process for Tracking Results, we gather all of the information we have for our Six Indispensable Indicators and enter them into one file. It's likely that you don't have complete figures for all six indicators, but partial information is a start. If you use a practice software like eIVF, you may be able to readily pull some of these fields.
3). create uniformity
Even when clinics do record some of their necessary KPIs, we at Fertility Bridge often find that we're not comparing apples to apples. The way you define your Indispensable Indicators can be customized to your practice, but they must be defined to ensure continuity.
Is a phone inquiry, a website appointment request, and an RSVP to a fertility seminar all worth the same?
2). New Patient Visit
Does this include patients who had a successful IVF cycle with your practice but come back for babies two and three? Only someone who comes to the practice for the first time? Phone consults? Couples (including same-sex couples)? Individual female patients? Male and female patients separately?
Define new patient visits so that there are no duplicate or missing appointment numbers.
3). New Patient Sources
One clinic on the east coast had "the internet" listed as one of four questionnaire options for more than six years. So of course, from 2010 to 2016 the number of people that came from the internet increased by nearly 70%. But the internet has changed a lot in six years. What does "the internet" mean? Online reviews? Referrals from friends through social media? Searching for reproductive health services?
Offer different referral sourcing options to which respondents check "yes" or "no" to reduce ambiguity.
4). IVF cycles: For business purposes, how do we define an IVF cycle? Starts? Frozen transfers? Once the cycle bills? Does our number include restarts? Cancellations?
Again, the objective is to avoid duplication. An IVF cycle, as it is billed, should be unique to a particular month.
5). IVF Conversion Rates
If New Patient Visits and IVF Cycles aren't uniform, this number will start to look really funky.
6). Gross Revenue
4). Set benchmarks
Once we have our figures, month-to-month, we have clear benchmarks from which to measure our progress. The more months of data, the more reliable the benchmarks. It typically takes Fertility Bridge clients at least three months to collect this data; it's not readily available.
5). Set Internet Goals
Many IVF clinics have appointment request forms on their websites, but most do not have goals set for these forms in Google Analytics. Using a thank-you page for these forms, we track how many appointment requests and contact forms we receive on a weekly and monthly basis. Depending on your practice's size, you may have anywhere from fifty to several hundred of these forms completed in a given month. The person in charge of your Indispensable Indicators checks how many inquiries went on to schedule new patient visits. Once we know how many new patient visits lead to an IVF cycle, we can even assign dollar values to these goals.
6). Link the appropriate online properties
All vessels must row in the same direction. When we run a pay-per-click campaign on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, for example, we sync with your website's Google Analytics account so that we can measure the effectiveness of your campaigns in one place. When we run Facebook and Instagram ads, we install a pixel on your practice's website to show us how our ads convert. It's another way of seeing how many people fill out a form submission when coming from these channels.
7). Collect Weekly. Report Monthly
Tracking these numbers at the end of each month would be a bear. It's much easier to record them as they come in. Weekly recording also provides greater accountability; we don't wait until the end of the month to realize that we are missing our Indispensable Indicators.
the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
We have a year of data on IVF cycles, patient volume, and referral sourcing. At month 12, we feel comfortable making a shift in our marketing strategy. We decide to take half of the budget that we had spent on print advertising, and spend it on paid social media advertising. How do we track the return on investment of our new advertising campaign?
If we've only recorded one number, we likely won't be able to. If between months 12 and 15, however, we have the necessary data to see
- A 30% increase in new patient appointments.
- An 18% increase in new appointment requests submitted from visitors coming from social media, and
- A 50% increase in the number of patients who report coming to our practice after having seen us on social media
then we can reasonably conclude that that marketing campaign was successful.
In a vacuum, none of these figures give us enough information to gauge the effectiveness of our marketing efforts. Because there are so many factors for which to account, we implement one system to measure and understand them. Individually, they are incomplete, and can therefore be misleading. When we organize and rely on our Six Indispensable Indicators, however, our IVF marketing's return on investment becomes greater than ever.
For more tools and tactics on measuring your fertility marketing efforts, read chapter 2 of my free e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Fertility Marketing.