content marketing for fertility clinics

The 7 Steps of the Fertility Bridge Proven Process for Tracking IVF Marketing Results

How we measure and improve our KPIs (key performance indicators) in the fertility field.

How we measure and improve our KPIs (key performance indicators) in the fertility field.

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.

  1. 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.  
     
  2. 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. 

Monthly recorded table of Indispensable Indicators

Monthly recorded table of Indispensable Indicators

1). Lead

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

Marketing dashboard customized for fertility clinics

Marketing dashboard customized for fertility clinics

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.

Tracking how many request appointment forms came from a Facebook campaign

Tracking how many request appointment forms came from a Facebook campaign

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.

 

 

The Truth Is Undefeated: A hard look at "questionable techniques" and the current state of fertility marketing

By Griffin Jones

You can tell I'm still relatively new to the fertility space. I don't appear in the top ten Google search results for "fertility marketing". I'm working on that, that's what brought me to check. I was both encouraged and discouraged by something else that did come up, however.

On the first page of Google search results for the term, "fertility marketing".

On the first page of Google search results for the term, "fertility marketing".

It's unfortunate for the field of reproductive medicine when our top search results for marketing include, "Many Fertility Clinics Use Questionable Marketing Techniques Online", a Jezebel reiteration of a Huffington Post article from three years ago. I would normally argue that we should avoid questionable marketing techniques by using only real patient testimonials and images. But authentic content does not fully address the issue of transparency in fertility marketing . The fundamental problem is that fertility clinics serve two different populations who sometimes overlap and who are sometimes at odds. Until we equally recognize both groups and the value of their experiences, I'm afraid we'll continue to have more problems. 

Flowers over figures

Both articles are sensational summaries of a report called Selling Art: An Empirical Assessment of Advertising on Fertility Clinics' Websites by Jim Hawkins, of the University of Houston Law Center. The report suggests that the content on fertility centers' websites may be misleading--using pictures of smiling babies and the words, "miracle" and "dream". The report offers criticism that these images and words may influence a prospective patient's decision instead of focusing on the Society for Advanced Reproductive Technology's (SART) published data on success rates. Such advertising may suggest that a pregnancy after IVF treatment is a certainty, when we know that in some cases, it's not even likely. 

It does seem that people sometimes feel misled. In a small survey I finished in April of 2015, patients told me that confusion about success rates was one of their greatest pain-points in selecting their fertility clinic. We also read in negative fertility doctor reviews that people sometimes feel rushed into IVF treatment. I recently spoke to a couple at Resolve's Night of Hope who felt the same way. It is certainly the case that some people feel that IVF is being sold to them. 

So why do I also find it encouraging that highly authoritative links to this report ranked so highly in the search results for "fertility marketing"? For the same reason I am building a company that will also rank among those results. I believe in a marketing strategy built on support and transparency. The report suggests that fertility clinic marketing should be more thoroughly regulated because of these questionable marketing tactics. My largest problem with that notion is that it shares a faulty belief with the lousy marketers that implement those tactics: obscurity works. Indeed, not being fully transparent may work in the short term. Some people clearly feel that they were persuaded with unrealistic expectations to pay for expensive IVF cycles. This strategy may have been tenable twenty years ago. Today's data, however, proves that people increasingly make decisions based on what they read in online reviews from their peers

You can run but you can't hide 

Fertility centers need to properly manage new patient expectations or their online ratings will suffer. Social proof in the form of online reviews should be the cornerstone of every good fertility clinic's marketing efforts. If any prospective patients or patient advocates read this post, I implore you to check the reviews of a provider before you decide on them. Investigate both the fertility practice and the reproductive endocrinologist (RE) on Yelp, Health Grades, Vitals, ZocDoc, RateMDs, Google reviews, or whichever of those are the most used in your area. Don't look at the star rating alone, but pay attention to the comments. If there are enough reviews, you will be able to get an idea of the culture of the practice or physician you are considering.

I don't know if fertility practices should be required to post their success rates, but I certainly think that they should post them. Patients are looking for that information and if they don't find it from you, it will be from a site like fertilitysuccessrates.com or from one of your competitors. Clinics should be transparent with success rate info and create content explaining the complex data to patients. 

Patients will find your success rates from one website or another. Fertilitysuccessrates.com

Patients will find your success rates from one website or another. Fertilitysuccessrates.com

Miracles happen and dreams are real 

I disagree that it would be appropriate to remove baby pictures and words like "dream" and "miracle" from your site.Those words belong to the patients themselves. If you look at the Facebook pages of nearly any fertility clinic in America, there is almost certainly a photo post from a happy patient that includes the word, "miracle". That child truly is a miracle for the parents that ventured that hard, lonely journey for so long. Their fertility specialist and their practice helped bring that miracle into existence. And for those couples and individuals that are struggling with infertility, it is their dream to have a baby of their own, a dream stronger than any other. We should speak to people in the language that they use, especially when it's based on results you've achieved. Your practice exists because people vividly dream of a miracle. Ideally, we should use baby pictures from actual patients. I think it's time to get the HIPAA release forms ready. The authentic account of someone who has actually realized their dream  is critical motivation for people under enormous emotional stress who are making a complicated medical decision. Sadly, however, we know that dream will not come true, in that form, for many people. So we must recognize the value of two communities rooted in the journey of infertility.

The word miracle belongs to the infertility community.

The word miracle belongs to the infertility community.

Serving two communities at the same time

I will oversimplify the infertility community for the sake of fundamentally understanding our responsibilities to them. As I see it, the infertility community is one population of people that becomes two. There are those who have ended their journey by achieving their dream of a biological child. In parallel, there are those who are still very much on their journey who may never realize that version of their dream. I hope this is the beginning of a much longer dialogue, because not recognizing the significance of both groups' feelings leads to many problems. We often hear complaints from patients without children when little ones are in the waiting room. Yet, we hear grievances from patients with children when they are asked not to have their child in the sitting area. For one group, Facebook and Instagram are places to celebrate their triumph over the darkest period of their lives. For the other group, they are in the midst of darkness and every pregnancy announcement on Facebook and every baby photo on Instagram is excruciatingly painful . Both communities have an inalienable right to the way they feel. These two communities overlap and we serve both of them. Because we're serving two communities, we have to be able to offer them a variety of benefits or some will never get value from their experience with us. I think fertility centers need to consider themselves agents of help beyond clinical treatment. Both groups need access to support; a peer support group member should never have to find out about her support group on her own. To better serve both populations, we need to

  • Send patients home with information on support groups in their area. RESOLVE facilitates infertility patient support groups in most mid-size to large U.S. metro areas and Fertility Matters is their peer in Canada. These are only two examples of support networks. There are patient advocacy groups and countless independent support groups throughout North America. I believe it's our responsibility to promote support groups when they ask for our help in distributing their information.
  • Empower people on social media. Whether it's on your fertility practice's Facebook page, or in a private forum, people coping with infertility use social media to connect with people who know their struggle. Promote RESOLVE Fertility Matters, and other groups online and share their groups if they ask you to. We don't not need to participate in these support forums (it may be better if we don't), but simply connect the people who are interested in them.
  • Give patients a list of popular infertility blogs and infertility podcasts so that they can interact with people who share their experience. 

Can you grow your practice by reconciling your results as a "miracle worker" with empirical expectation setting? I am building a business with my vote of confidence that it's the best way to do so.

Setting up for success

There are real life examples of the virtuous cycle I propose--attract new patients with the experience of delighted former patients, offer support and other resources, temper with very realistic expectations, and repeat. Dr. Ilan Tur-Kaspa is one of the highest rated REs in the Chicagoland area. I spoke with him about his approach. Dr. Tur-Kaspa says that the number of new patients that tell him they chose him because of his online ratings has increased. He credits a strong emphasis on properly managing expectations with the patient before treatment. "We talk a lot about the difference between disappointment and surprise," Tur-Kaspa says. "Whatever the probability of success is, it is important to communicate that in the terms of the probability of failure. i.e. if there is a 30% chance of success, we should communicate that there is a 70% chance that it won't work. The patient should preferably  acknowledge the odds of failure. Wait until they say 'I understand'".

When a patient looks at your online reviews on a site like ratemds (pictured), they are one click away from every other RE in your city. We want your reviews to be the best they can be.

When a patient looks at your online reviews on a site like ratemds (pictured), they are one click away from every other RE in your city. We want your reviews to be the best they can be.

I'm not a physician, so I certainly can't advise physicians on how to speak to their patients. Nor do I want to offer an incomplete solution, because I see that positivity is hugely important.  I'm simply a marketer who sees the impact that clear expectations have on the public image of the practice. Some marketers may ignore expectation setting for the sake of scheduling more IVF cycles in the short term. A good marketer will use the patient delight that comes from proper education as the pillar of their marketing strategy. For highly rated REs and fertility clinics, those reviews belong front and center on your website. A window to Yelp and Facebook  provide a balance to the testimonials that you've selected . It's okay for patients to see the occasional one-star review. Not every one will be satisfied 100% of the time. I believe that when we publicly acknowledge that, we begin to ensure that people are satisfied as much as possible.

The truth is undefeated (eventually)

We don't have to use "questionable marketing tactics" because they won't grow our practices over the long term. For those that embrace transparency and connection to support, market share will grow and marketing will be more effective and less expensive. We have to provide the best possible patient experience in order to build public social proof. That social proof, tempered with clear expectations and information, is the best way to attract new patients. In order to preserve this virtuous cycle, delighted patients bringing in more patients, we have to recognize the dynamics of both populations in the infertility community, and the equal worth of their experiences. 

Why on Earth Would an RE Review Google and Yahoo?

By Griffin Jones

Did I miswrite the title of this blog post? Aren't reproductive endocrinologists reviewed on Google and other search engines, not the other way around?

If you believe in content marketing, it's because you've seen results from it. If you've seen results from content marketing, then you likely agree with Gary Vaynerchuk when he says that every company is a media company.

Your fertility center is a media company. This is the thesis of the free e-book, Digital Marketing for Fertility Centers. Content marketing works because it engages, educates, or entertains people. 

The issue of IVF coverage as part of employee compensation is a hot-topic issue for many professional women, especially in silicon valley. Hot issues invite commentary. Most fertility centers will leave this commentary to CNBC, CNN, the Huffington Post...you know, the media companies.

But you're a media company too, remember? People find and choose your practice online because of the connection they form with you. Content builds connections. This is a simple assignment for you, as an RE, to baby-step your fertility clinic into a small media company.

Take a look at all of the benefits offered by different  companies in the US and Canada. This message board may give you a head start. Just do a little bit of research to make sure the information is correct. You can rate companies from your own experience, you can interview company representatives, or you can simply add your take to the latest news article on the subject. You can record video or  write a blog post; this is just an assignment. The habits toward a much greater shift from fertility center to media company/fertility center are what enable your practice to grow in the Digital Age. 

28 Scathing Words for REs Across Fertility Center Reviews

By Griffin Jones

If you are a reproductive endocrinologist (RE), you don't have an easy job. I don't mention this to state the obvious, nor flatter you, nor am I referring to surgical talent, study, or training.

It's heir-apparent that one of the most difficult aspects of the role of an RE is serving a population under enormous emotional and mental stress, who are often financially burdened, subject to unfair social pressure, all within great deal of outcome-uncertainty.

I chose to make the wordcloud from the 28 most common negative adjectives used, those that were each used in five or more reviews.

I chose to make the wordcloud from the 28 most common negative adjectives used, those that were each used in five or more reviews.

When the fragility of this accord is overwhelmed, the RE's public image often suffers in the form of negative online reviews. I'm not referring to recurring themes across several reviews that really help us understand the personality of a doctor before meeting him or her. If twelve different reviewers use the word "arrogant" to describe you, then you're arrogant. If it's common enough, then it's true that perception is reality.

I'm concerned when an RE's message is interpreted in a completely different way than it was intended. It's bad for the practice, and above all, so many of you have told me how it really upsets you. I have begun a project to comprehensively analyze RE and fertility clinic reviews, to establish a resource of actions that lead to the highest possible level of patient satisfaction.

This second phase of this project is an in-depth analysis I did of 130 RE reviews on ratemds.com. I formed several key anecdotal observations, but I was most interested in aggregating a set of data for you.  So I focused only on the negative adjectives used to describe REs and their staff. I skipped over those reviews where no adjectives were used. Each adjective counted only once per review, regardless of how many times it was used. The final tally included:

  • 130 REs 
  • 349 reviews
  • 119 different adjectives

As you can see from the word cloud above, the word "rude" was the most common adjective used. In fact, it appeared in 91 different reviews. The data is important because it frames how certain experiences are later recounted to a much broader audience on the web. Understanding the language of dissatisfied patients provides insight to the interactions that lead to their expression of frustration.

Equally, analyzing the language of positive reviews is just as important. Will those words be the exact opposites of the most common negative adjectives, or will others be used? More importantly, the feedback of delighted patients is the compass for the growth of the practice. Comparing the languages of delighted patients and of aggrieved patients will help us form a support-guide for maximizing patient delight and improving staff and physician morale. I expect to have the positive review word cloud done for you by Thanksgiving (2015).

If you would like the raw data from this report, I will be happy to send you the spreadsheet. Just e-mail me at griffin@fertilitybridge.com or leave a comment below.

If you'd like a little further explanation of the data, you can watch my video post here:


Turn Your Social Media Channels into an IVF Referral Network

By Griffin Jones

A fertility center’s Return on Investment in social media can be traced back to the activism of its community.The value of social media is not that we have a free broadcast mechanism to reach people with any time we like. None of that is true—it’s neither free, nor a broadcast mechanism, nor will people see our message whenever we please.

The value of social media is your community.  Fertility centers acquire new patients through social media when they have a passionate, connected, community of people that zealously advocates for them.  This is "word of mouth". Communities will gladly rise up for their fertility centers—providing better advertising than we could ever hope to buy—but only if they are engaged. To engage your community:

•    Respond to all direct messages as quickly as possible
•    Reply to all comments and posts
•    Thank those who leave reviews and compliments
•    Crowdsource: Ask for input on various practice initiatives

Responding to comments and reviews is a critical part of community management for infertility clinics. 

Responding to comments and reviews is a critical part of community management for infertility clinics. 


The most direct way to use social media to attract new IVF patients is to empower current and former patients with a "word of mouth" referral network. When you interact with your community of supporters, the number of people who are they are able to refer to your practice increases dramatically.  If you look at the Facebook pages of the vast majority of fertility centers in North America  you will find that patient communities are largely ignored. If you are unable to dedicate the time it takes to respond to, thank, and inspire your community, your ROI on social will be very limited.

 

The 5 Most Common Mistakes Infertility Clinics Make on Facebook

 By Griffin Jones

I have reviewed the Facebook pages of nearly every infertility clinic across the United States and Canada. (Not an impressive bragging point at cocktail parties, by the way). These are the most common mistakes.
 
5). Having a lot of likes with little to no interaction. It doesn't matter if you have 60 fans (page likes) or 6,000, if only 2 people like your posts on average.  It´s your mother-in-law and your uncle and they are not prospective patients.
 
4). Not Paying for Facebook Advertising. Interaction is more important than fan size because it leads to reviews, recommendations, and referrals which generate new patients. That said, you need distribution and paying as little as $500/month on Facebook will build a community of hundreds of people in your area who are researching your services. 

No one has interacted with this fertility center's content on Facebook, so very few people will see it. 

No one has interacted with this fertility center's content on Facebook, so very few people will see it. 


3). Too Much Medical Content. But wait,  expertise is paramount in REI. You need to establish yourselves as the the best trained and most knowledgeable. Yes you do...on your website and on your blog. This is what Gary Vaynerchuk means when he talks about respecting why people are using each social media platform. People are not on Facebook to research medical advice.
 
2). Not Enough Community Content. Much to the contrary, people spend record time on Facebook looking at and posting baby pictures. This is why every fertility clinic should be generating plenty of new patient referrals on Facebook. But they´re not. With HIPAA release authorizations and patient generated content, your practice can play to its strengths on Facebook. 
 
1). Not Responding to Positive Reviews Though not the most common, this is the most grave, and it makes me want to pull my hair out. We all know (I hope) that we have to respond to negative reviews. But the vast majority of Facebook reviews for fertility clinics are positive, and we shouldn't ignore them. We have a bit longer to respond to positive comments, let´s call it 3-5 days, but we need to thank these people for being our strongest supporters. These are the patients who refer the most people. Responding with enthusiasm deepens the relationship with the patient and makes them even more vocal advocates of you and your practice. 
 
 
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People who generate the most new patients for fertility centers are ones who leave reviews like these. They should be thanked and acknowledged.    

People who generate the most new patients for fertility centers are ones who leave reviews like these. They should be thanked and acknowledged.