Why the Healthcare Sector Isn’t Getting a Healthy ROI from Their Marketing

Digital marketing has transformed how consumers interact with almost every industry, and healthcare is no exception. Based on figures from Google, it’s estimated that one in 20 searches are for health-related information; meaning the expansion into the online world is crucial for healthcare professionals. 

However, considering healthcare marketers have typically relied on traditional methods of advertising (e.g. leaflets and flyers), being successful with online marketing can seem difficult, especially if it’s unknown territory. Obviously, you don’t want to stop using offline media to reach potential patients, but if you’re adding online to the mix, it’s crucial that you know which marketing efforts are generating some ROI (return on investment). 

Here’s exactly why you might not generating any ROI from your healthcare marketing and what you can do to fix it. 

You’re Not Tracking Leads

Investing in a variety of marketing channels will inevitably mean your practice will have a number of ways in which to generate leads. However, simply knowing that you’re generating leads isn’t enough, you need to know which marketing channels were responsible for the most leads. 

Although it is estimated that 79% of consumers now prefer to contact businesses online (e.g. through contact forms, emails, social media and live chats), it seems healthcare professionals rely on phone calls to  generate  business. In fact 41% of patients who found a private dental practice online have subsequently called to book an appointment. Additionally, if your clients are finding your healthcare profession online and then deciding to convert offline, knowing which marketing channels are driving these phone call conversions is essential when determining your exact ROI. 

Call tracking software, from companies such as  Mediahawk, completes the loop between advertising spend and lead generation. You can assign dynamic phone numbers to each of your marketing campaigns and this enables you to determine whether a lead has discovered your website via organic search, a remarketing ad, a referral, or a PPC (pay-per-click) ad and finally contacted your business over the phone through the number assigned by the call tracking software. The data collected by the software will provide a detailed report on which channels are generating phone call conversions for your business and the exact ROI for each.  


For example, imagine somebody needed to register with a dentist and decided to find one in their local area, they searched for ’dentist in near me’ and came across Team Care Dental who were top of the PPC results. 

However, as the dentist practice has listed their phone number in their PPC ad, the user was able to phone their practice without needing to click on the ad. Unfortunately, this means they cannot attribute the online marketing method which generated the phone call conversion and could cause them to assume their AdWords campaigns aren’t generating sufficient ROI or even correctly counting the number of leads. 

But, if the practice integrated call tracking into AdWords, every user who visited their website from their PPC campaign would be given a unique, tracked phone number. With this information they could determine whether their PPC campaigns are profitable or whether they need re-adjusting to earn a higher ROI. 

You’re Using Last-Click Attribution 

Consumers are now able to access healthcare providers through more channels than ever before. Although these additional channels give potential patients more opportunities to engage with your practice, surgery or brand, it can make pinpointing which channels are used the most throughout the patient journey more difficult. 

Healthcare marketers have often relied on the last-click – the very last touch point (how someone contacts you) leading up to a conversion – to measure the effectiveness of their marketing channels. This might offer a simple answer to marketing attribution but it actually creates a whole heap of problems. Furthermore, in a now omni-channel environment, last-click attribution has become a thing of the past. 

Focusing solely on last-click methodology completely ignores the other interactions a user has had with your practice before they, for example, submit an appointment request. According to Google, consumers will engage with a product or service 4.3 times on average before converting. Last-click attribution will only give you information on one of those touch points. What about the other 3.3? Relying on last-click, you’ll have no idea of when, where or how. 

In healthcare, last-click completely disregards the typical patient journey, i.e. the route they took when conducting research about medical care over several sites, devices and platforms. Without taking these additional channels into consideration you’ll be missing the complete overview of your marketing activity and the ROI.

Instead, with omni-channel attribution, you can identify the ’supporting players’ in your patient’s journey and thus help your practice to allocate the appropriate resources to the right channel throughout all stages of the conversion process. This can be done through Google Analytics.

By enabling cross-device and cross-domain tracking in Google Analytics, your practice can conclude whether you should be investing more money into, for example, paid ads that direct to a subdomain. This way, you’ll be maximising your ROI from all your marketing efforts. 

You’re Paying for Expensive Ads

Although traditional methods of advertising might seem tried and tested for healthcare professionals, the ways in which potential patients want to communicate with medical service providers has changed. Undoubtedly, social media has been the biggest influencer.

Social media can be a bit more complicated for healthcare providers. Remember, you can’t just go around sharing patient stories. However, this doesn’t mean that it should be avoided, and in fact, social media could not only be enhancing your profitability, but also your patient’s satisfaction. According to EMR Thoughts a healthcare IT publication, 60% of doctors say social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients.

Social media advertising has also been proven to be significantly more cost-effective than traditional methods. Based on a study by Seriously Simple Marketing (see above),  social networking costs just $75 to reach 2,000 audience members; whereas direct mail – the most expensive form of traditional advertising can cost $900. If your healthcare practice has a limited marketing budget, then keeping the costs down will certainly help you generate the highest ROI possible. 

If your practice is new to social media marketing then knowing which channels to choose can be difficult. However, Facebook seems to have emerged as one of the most profitable, and cost-effective, social media channels for the healthcare industry. 

According to Disruptive Advertising, Facebook can help healthcare businesses:

  • Build trust and relationships with patients through continual interaction whilst demonstrating expertise
  • Create an additional healthcare marketing platform to earn more reviews to earn trust quickly
  • Provides you with another method of connecting with target audiences with all your contact information showing on the right side of the page
  • Share your message and manage your reputation.  

With regards to advertising costs, research from Facebook’s ad benchmarks per industry discovered:

  • The average cost-per-click for medical campaigns was $1.32 – that’s $0.40 below the average $1.72 across all industries. 
  • Medical ads on Facebook also converted at 11%, while the average across all industries was a mere 9.21%. 
  • The average cost-per-action for medical ads was $12.31, compared to a pricey $18.68 across all industries.

BetterHelp, a private e-counselling platform have used Facebook advertising to promote their online counselling services. They have included a ‘Sign Up’ call-to-action in their ad which leads directly to their website. This will increase the likelihood of a potential patient interacting with their site as it will take them directly to the relevant landing page. 

Call-to-action buttons allow you to select from a variety of options, such as: Book Now, Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up or Watch Video and these can also be downloaded and run on mobile devices. You can measure the click-through-rate (CTR) of your call-to-action button by using Facebook Insights.


They have also used Facebook to share promote their video campaign ‘What Depression Feels Like Inside’ for World Mental Health Day. Considering the video received 81,000 views, it’s clear that the shareability of Facebook advertising helped to promote their business with a large, engaged audience who are more likely to sign up to their services thus generating a high ROI from a relatively inexpensive advertising campaign. 

Although the healthcare industry might feel out of place in the nailing the digital marketing world, improving your online presence will not only help you find new patients but will help you to connect better with the ones you’re already treating thereby ensuring you’re actually generating a ROI from your efforts. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

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