The demise of a marketing officer in the health sector

I recently caught up with a friend (a fellow health professional) for Friday night drinks; as usual Friday night drinks conversations go, the work week’s trials and tribulations inevitably take the lion’s share of the discussion. Typically we discuss different cases we’ve seen, given our distinct case mix, his in the private sector, and mine in a tertiary (teaching clinic) sector.  However, this catch up took a different turn, given a new predicament faced by his clinic: an empty appointment book.

Six months earlier, patient numbers had been meeting the needs of the business. However, at about this time, due to management decisions, the marketing officer’s budget was significantly cut, and funds usually allocated to printed material and other merchandise were ceased.  The marketing officer focused on other avenues to maintain a good ‘fill rate’ in the appointment book, specifically through the use of social media, and other electronic campaigns.  However, following intimations that further cuts were imminent to the already shoestring budget allocated to this area of the business, and the difficulty the officer was having at providing evidence to support the need and value created by the position, the incumbent resigned.  The position has remained vacant for the past 8 weeks.  Over the past 4 weeks patient numbers have plummeted.

Importance of marketing metrics

You can’t manage what you don’t measure… or in this case, you can incorrectly manage what was incorrectly measured.  Marketing metrics are a set of measures that assist marketers and businesses in meeting their goals and defining what ‘success’ would look like for their company (Ambler, 2000).  Metrics also increase marketing’s accountability which contributes to marketing’s influence within companies (Verhoef & Leeflang, 2009).

There are currently two fields of thought, around marketing metrics. The first involves identifying a single metric (typically a financial metric) to evaluate marketing performance, whereas the second framework bases marketing evaluation around a suite of marketing metrics, both financial and non-financial (Gaskill & Winzar, 2013).  Whilst currently there is a lack of a universal model of measurement, the suite, or ‘dashboard’ of marketing metrics is falling into favour.

It has been shown that the use of metrics correlates directly with improved marketing-mix performance, nevertheless, many companies continue to have a low uptake on their use of marketing metrics. Characteristics of companies with less managerial support of metrics are private firms, firms with poorer recent business performance, B2B and service-focused firms (Mintz & Currim, 2013) as well as companies with minimal prior investment in marketing and reduced resource availability (Bennett, 2007).  Unfortunately for my friend, his company also shared many of these characteristics.

Moving forward

A simple representation of financial and non-financial metrics as well as comments on the subsequent benefits to marketing were summarised well in the table presented below in Bennet’s study (2007).

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These key points provide a good platform for management of companies that are not using metrics, to begin collecting this data. At the next level, there are dashboards that can be purchased, that are tailored more specifically to the industry in question, and the requirements of the company’s management.  As an added bonus, the visual representation of these metrics via the dashboard can be quite eye-catching.  An example of a healthcare dashboard from klipfolio.com.

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Whilst I’m not convinced my friend’s employer will be overly supportive of the initial costs involved with setting up a similar dashboard given their history, I’m sure a simplified version would not be outside the realms of possibility for my friend to start creating. And I’m pretty sure he has some time free at the moment not seeing patients…

 

Author: Shelley Hopkins, 216008321

References:

Ambler, T, 2004. Marketing metrics. Business Strategy Review, Summer, 1-8.

Verhoef, P & Leeflang, P, 2009. Understanding the marketing department’s influence within the firm. Journal of Marketing, 73, 14-37.

Gaskill, A & Winzar, H, 2013. Marketing metrics that contribute to marketing accountability in the technology sector. SAGE Open, 3, DOI: 10.1177/2158244013501332

Mintz, O & Currim, I.S, 2013. What drives managerial use of marketing and financial metrics and does metric use affect performance of marketing-mix activities? Journal of Marketing, 77, 17-40.

Bennett, R, 2007. The use of marketing metrics by British fundraising charities: a survey of current practice. Journal of Marketing Management, 23, 959-989.

Source of banner photo: http://www.mobili-furniture.com/images/clinic_waiting_room_furniture_manufacturing_vendors.jpg

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