The truth has finally come out — crystal balls don’t work and fortune tellers can’t tell the future.
Just ask convicted storefront psychic Celia Mitchell. After years of fleecing customers in Manhattan, she was convicted of grand larceny. During a hearing, she was asked point blank whether the psychic business is real or a bunch of baloney. She answered, “It’s a scam, sir.”
“The whole thing is a scam?”
Like Magic – Only Better
Fortunately, there is a way for marketers to peek into the future (or, at least make some very educated assumptions about it) that doesn’t involve any hocus pocus. It’s called predictive marketing.
Predictive marketing involves gathering and examining information to determine patterns and predict future events. When Netflix suggests a movie or Amazon recommends a book to you, they’re using the power of predictive marketing. They have recognized patterns in their data (your behavior and the behavior of people like you) that lets them offer ideas they think you’ll find useful.
Health care marketers can do the same. Putting the predictive marketing abracadabra into motion involves three key steps:
1. Start with a clearly defined question. Before you can look for answers, you have to decide what questions are appropriate. Maybe you’re interested in growing your birthing center and need to know where young families live and how they choose a hospital. Or, if you’re building your brand, you might want to start by figuring out what the market thinks about you right now.
2. Gather information. The blessing and curse of data is that marketers can easily drown themselves in a deluge of information — or spend big bucks chasing down narrowly defined inputs. Your best bet is to focus on relevant data that is already available or that can be acquired easily. Good sources of data include:
• Internal Data — You may already know more than you think you do. Gather all the input possible from inside your organization— everything from census and internal physician data to CRM, PRM and even Google analytics.
• Research — Do your own primary research using face-to-face interviews, online consumer surveys, exit surveys from events and focus groups. Also, look for secondary research that other organizations have already done for other purposes. The U.S. Census is a great source for deep demographic data, for example.
• Big Data — Consider hiring an expert to aggregate and simplify data. They know how to access appropriate data sets from private and public sources and can help you figure out what they mean for your organization. Companies like ESRI, Radian6 and Kantar can provide very detailed insights. Companies like Wax Custom Communications (shameless self-promotion alert!) can help you interpret them.
3. Develop insights. Don’t just crunch data for the sake of crunching. Analyze it to solve the problem you defined in step one. Remember the birthing center question? If your marketing team is trying to generate excitement about your hospital’s new birthing suites, your decisions might be based on findings from your Facebook page (internal), a local survey of moms-to-be (research) and public sources of demographic information about various neighborhoods (big data). By gathering the right data and analyzing it thoughtfully, you can make educated decisions about what messaging and which channels will drive the desired results.
The VooDoo that You Do
You don’t need tarot cards or a Ouija board to help your organization see into the future. If you follow the principles above, you’ll be well equipped to tap into the magic of predictive marketing – and to make yourself look like a wizard.