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Where do your patients come from? Do they hear about you from current patients? Find you during a Google search? Pass your building and its really big sign on the way to the office? Hear about you from a friend? Follow you on Facebook? Talk to you at a community health event? The answer is yes.

Urgent care patients have more ways to find you than ever before—through a string of digital and analog touchpoints or interactions. Marketing attribution is the process of identifying touchpoints in the customer journey that have the biggest impact on conversion. When done right, attribution tells you how to best optimize your marketing dollars to have the biggest effect.

With the rise of technology, a great deal of emphasis is placed on your website and social media, and rightly so. According to a Pew Research study, 95 percent of Americans now own a cellphone, giving them access to every kind of information they want, where and when they want it. They use it to find out information about human health, and look for healthcare providers. And they do it a lot.

Smart digital marketing is important for urgent care clinics to get and keep patients. But it’s not the only tool in their marketing toolkit. Clinics should use a multichannel approach to reach all their potential customers. Patients often find an urgent care after seeing a sign every day on the way to work, or listening to the experiences of a friend.

As you put on your marketing hat to develop your budget, you need to know which marketing touchpoints have the most impact. With that information, you can decide the most efficient way to get the most leverage for every dollar spent and get the highest ROI possible. To see which marketing activities were most successful, you have to determine where your patients are coming from. Assigning credit to a specific touchpoint is attribution.

Technology tools like Google Analytics make it easier to track the digital journey that led your patients your way, but it when it comes to healthcare services, following their online steps seldom gives you the entire picture. So where do you start?

About marketing attribution

You have choices in your approach to marketing attribution that range from simple to complex. All have pros and cons, and virtually everyone has an opinion about what’s most effective.

What works best, though, is as unique as your clinic. For neighborhood clinics, where everyone knows everyone, word of mouth plus a strong social media presence drives business. In larger markets, it may be a sign at the location, plus locally-targeted online marketing and a website that compels patients to “schedule now.”

And because urgent care is generally a service chosen when a person needs healthcare, the decision-making process is usually pretty short.

Digital marketing attribution

Since most everyone uses a smartphone and touches technology in their daily life, the digital customer journey is a good place to start. Google Analytics offers an entry point for tracking where prospects enter the journey, how they engage with content, where they bounce (click off your site), and when they actually make an appointment. Learning how to use Google Analytics will help you trace your patients’ steps to your door.

Once you can see the journey, you have to ask yourself which of those steps had the biggest impact.

Here’s where it starts to get complicated.

First determine your goal. Do you want to learn the last touchpoint before they made an appointment? Or the first time they made online contact? Do you want to find out how many steps they took before they arrived? Or which touchpoint sent the most patients straight to your clinic. All of these are valid questions, and you can find a model that answers yours. The following is a short list of common options, but there are more, and the list is always growing and changing.

  • Single Source Attribution ” Assigns all the credit to one touchpoint, usually the first or last, and in urgent care, because patients need healthcare on-demand, it can be one in the same.
  • Multi-Source Attribution ” Each channel gets credit for contributing to the final outcome, i.e. appointment, or new customer. The challenge becomes deciding which channel gets what percent of the credit? Which was the most effective? There are six common multi-touch attribution models: linear, time-decay, U-shaped, W-shaped, full path, and custom. All of these models have pros and cons. Some put more emphasis on the touchpoints that happen at the beginning and end of the customer journey. Others give the same weight to every touchpoint.

For urgent cares with one or two locations, it is a little easier to track attribution and determine your marketing spend. With the help of free programs like Google Analytics and someone that understands how to access the digital information, you’re on the right track. But just as important, your staff has to ask, either in person, or as part of the check-in process, how they chose your clinic for urgent care.

For larger urgent care chains and enterprise groups that want to create marketing materials to use across markets, a deeper dive into analytics across markets requires a bigger investment in software tools, people, and time. But the goal remains the same—find out which marketing messages and channels lead to more customers.

A word of caution: Vanity metrics like open rates and social shares are super easy to find, but they don’t necessarily convert to new patients. You need to look for data that tells you which touchpoints helped you keep your business at the top of patients minds, and which actually led them to your clinic.

No matter what size your organization, understanding the impact of each touchpoint and its impact allows you to optimize your marketing spend using message, channels, and tactics that are cost-effective and drive patients to your clinic.

Final Thoughts

  • Once you’ve determined your most effective marketing channels, create a plan that includes a range of tactics and channels to reach patients based on the information you learned.
  • Test digital messages and ad options to see which get the best results, then test again.
  • Be fluid and adapt your marketing efforts with the market, season, and changing demographics.
  • Think about the Lifetime Value (LTV) of each patient and how to keep them as patients over time.
  • Always ask patients why they chose you. No exceptions.

Marketing attribution tells the story. Where did the lead first meet the brand, what made them buy, and what happened in between? With a complete map of the journey, you can see the impact community events, each tweet, each blog post, and every digital ad have on your business. Then spend your money where it makes the most sense—and gets the most results.

This resource was first published prior to the 2019 merger between DocuTAP and Practice Velocity. The content reflects our legacy brands.

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