Data-Driven Marketing: A SHSMD 2018 Recap

Data-Driven Marketing: A SHSMD 2018 Recap

Measure Effectiveness and Communicate Value to Your Organization

By Brian Dailey

One of the great things about attending the Society of Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD) annual conference is talking directly with our customers. If one were to build a Venn diagram of SHSMD attendees and Stratasan clientele, the circles would very nearly overlap.

A common thread I've heard in these conversations is that proving the value of planning and marketing to the rest of the business can be very difficult. Businesses want to see a very clear return on investment, and it's on marketing and planning departments to not only do their jobs, but also communicate the value of their jobs to the rest of the organization. This is especially true as the industry continues to do more with less (as has been very succinctly described in SHSMD's "Bridging Worlds.")


In his session titled Driving Thought Leadership for the Nation’s Largest Nonprofit Health System, Johnny Smith, Jr. of Ascension Health, gave a great overview of how his non-profit system has worked hard to not only fulfill their function, but also communicate value. As he put it, they set out to:

  • Increase recognition of their brand
  • Increase their thought leadership position among their peers
  • Promote Ascension's service lines and clinicians

As they developed the Ascension brand from just a holding company to a system of non-profit hospitals, they faced a unique challenge in that their efforts were not tied to increased patient volume. Rather, they were laying the groundwork for their B2B opportunities and crafting a tight message to communicate that Ascension, as a brand, was innovative and transformative.

While they had to execute on this, it was still necessary to communicate the value of all of their work to the rest of their organization. They did this by measuring earned media results and working very hard to, as Mr. Smith put it, merchandise the results. Even with that focus, when he finished speaking and an audience member asked him what keeps him up at night, he still answered, "Communicating the value of what we do internally."

Daniel Lavelle of Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) gave a another great talk later in the day that framed this conversation in similar terms. Going into the discussion titled Marketing Metrics That Matter: How Lehigh Valley Health Network Demonstrates Marketing's Revenue Contribution, the first question he asked the audience was, "How many people here can say their CEO knows what value marketing is driving for their organization?" Maybe about half of the audience raised their hands.

He then went on to explain how his eight-hospital system in Pennsylvania has consolidated data from many sources (EMR, finance, consumer information, claims, ACO, and others) to gain a comprehensive picture of their market. They developed this data internally, which was quite a feat, and used it to quickly begin marketing. Their goal was to fail fast and iterate marketing campaigns as needed. He gave a great overview of the ways that his marketing team communicates effectiveness to CEOs.

Two things he said really stuck with me:

  • "We have to learn to love analytics like we love creativity." Marketing teams love to come up with creative ways to raise awareness and convert leads, but if you aren't data driven, then there's no way to measure effectiveness and communicate value to your organization!
  • "Your worst pains will be data capture and data hygiene." As a company that lives in the data space and alleviates this for our customers: you can certainly say that again! This is such a time-consuming process for companies, especially smaller systems that may not have as many data wranglers available to assist them.

In the healthcare business, data has two purposes: first, to make strategic diagnosis. As Richard Rumelt in Good Strategy / Bad Strategy points out, this is a step that many companies skip. Stratasan lives in this space—enabling our partners to ask: Who are my competitors and how do we compare to them? What service lines do we do well in and which ones do we not do well? Where should we direct our marketing resources? Performing this exercise of situational awareness without data is much like navigation without a map or compass. You could end up anywhere! Next, data is used to measure the effectiveness of how marketing resources are deployed. As Daniel Lavelle pointed out, data is the common language in organizations. Anecdotal evidence won't cut it.

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The Takeaway

The key to ongoing, well-funded marketing and planning efforts is a well-communicated, data-based understanding of how your work is driving growth and providing value to your organization. It doesn’t suffice to simply have the data. You must be able to present it in a way that is easily digestible. This is one of the reasons that we built a presentation tool, Storyboards, right into our analytics platform. Users can take snapshots of market share, service lines, payor mix, and maps of their facility and add them to presentation-ready decks within minutes, all within our application. With data-based insights that validate your efforts and the right tools to communicate your contributions, your leadership team will be ready and willing to your green light your initiatives.

BrianDailey_White_400x400Article by Brian Dailey, Founder & CTO for Stratasan

Attending SHSMD? Come meet our team! We’ll be at exhibit booth #300 and would love the chance to meet you.

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strategic growth planning healthcare marketing SHSMD shsmd18