When you’re ready to use automated notifications in wellness outreach efforts to patients, planning and preparation is every bit as important as the outreach itself. Each of these three points is essential to a successful campaign:
- Plan early. Ideally, you want to begin working on campaigns about 3-4 months before you want the messages to go out. While it’s a fairly simple process to get the campaigns out the door, you’ll want that time to make sure you can pull the target list of patients you want to receive the message. You’ll also want to look at the scripting of the messages – what actions you want patients to take and any tweaks to the wording.
- Consider the “big picture”. Before starting, you also want to have a plan for how these automated campaigns are going to fit in the big picture. Are you investing in any other health awareness efforts? If so, you might be able to play off of those and build a true marketing mix. For example, referencing a mailer in a phone call or using the outbound messages to point to additional information on your website. Just make sure you’re thinking about how this outreach works with other efforts you’ve got in the works to create a true “campaign”, rather than one-off messages.
- Know how you’ll measure success. What are you looking to achieve here? Is it about how many additional appointments you book as a result of the outreach? Is it about being able to cover the same ground for a lower cost? In other words, is it just about lowering your outreach costs per patient? Is it ALL of these things? Knowing how you’re going to gauge the success of the outreach efforts is crucial before you get started, and I’m always amazed to see how many organizations haven’t focused much attention here before launching their campaigns.
As you may be able to tell by this post’s title, I’m biased toward that third point as being the MOST essential for your outreach efforts. After all, if you don’t know what’s working – if it’s serving patients, if it’s profitable, etc. – how will you know if and when to continue the outreach?
Here are some best practices from clients who have a strong understanding of their success in wellness outreach campaigns:
- Tracking appointment booking volume
One easy way to determine the impact of your outreach is in terms of raw appointment volume growth. Measure volume for several months prior to the launch of your outreach messages to set a baseline for your efforts. Then measure appointment bookings for 60-90 days after the campaign’s completion to get a good feel for the impact of the campaign. Some organizations may ask why it’s important to measure 60-90 day success rather than immediate results. Since automated campaigns give patients immediate avenues to schedule appointments through call transfer options, callback numbers and more, wouldn’t immediate post-campaign figures be a better measurement? Not necessarily. Research has shown that, like other promotional efforts, it can take weeks for the campaign to reach its full impact.
- Accounting for seasonality
It’s also important to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. If you’re delivering outreach, take seasonality into account when measuring results. For example, if you’re promoting mammograms to female patients in conjunction with October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness month (a commonly promoted wellness initiative), compare results to the same time period from the previous year, rather than only observing the summer months leading up to your campaign. The same idea holds true for any campaigns that naturally experience higher volumes at certain times of year – flu vaccinations, sports physicals, etc. Accounting for seasonality in wellness outreach gives you a more accurate picture of its effectiveness.
- Creating A/B splits
Head-to-head comparisons of outreach efforts are another effective and direct way to measure their success. It’s as simple as dividing your target list into two groups and reaching out to each group with a different outreach approach. However, when doing this be sure to limit any differences in the lists as much as possible – when they are contacted, demographic differences in the two lists, etc. This gives you greater confidence that it’s actually the outreach that leads to different response rates rather than some other external factor. If you don’t want to experiment with two different types of outreach, you could also consider having one of the two groups receive no communication at all. Whether comparing results of two different outreach techniques or placing one campaign against an untargeted control group, A/B splits are often an effective way to measure success of wellness outreach efforts.
- Tracking through promotional codes and unique inbound channels
It’s the “American Idol” method of tracking outreach success. And it works. By having patients respond to specific phone numbers, text shortcodes or other unique inbound vehicles, you can know which responses came from which outreach efforts. For example, by mentioning a specific 800-number in one campaign only, you can be sure that any patients who call that number were driven to do so by that particular campaign. It’s the same method used to track voting on reality contest shows, providing an easy way to quantify response. If the unique inbound channel approach isn’t a good fit for your organization, you could consider having patients mention a specific keyword or promotional code when they call in – “Summer Special”, “Fall Flu Shots” or whatever phrase makes sense in the context of your campaign. Staff members answering incoming phone calls can track those mentions to gauge the success of the campaign.
- Comparing “per response” cost of outreach vehicles
Of course, true measurement of an outreach campaign’s success includes the amount spent up front to communicate with the patients who have been targeted. There are major cost differences between mailers, automated messages, local advertising and any other patient communication vehicles, and those figures can be combined with the quantity of responses they deliver to calculate a per response cost for each communication channel.