Trusted by over 1.2 Million Global Healthcare Seekers
Economics & Investments

A Case Study in Online Marketing ~ Barbados Fertility Centre

Economics & Investments

The Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC) is one of many providers of fertility services seeking to distinguish itself on a global stage namely among patients in the U.S. Led by Dr. Juliet Skinner BFC had established itself as a leading provider of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) services. BFC had a great story to tell it just needed an effective way to reach and engage its target audiences.


Health care institutions across the world have been preparing to compete for global health care dollars in the burgeoning medical tourism industry. Armed with JCI accreditation local support and high hopes aspiring hospitals clinics and surgery centers are now facing the biggest challenge of all: creating awareness and demand for their services in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.Some rely 100% on facilitators to bring patients to them.

Others are experimenting with targeted outreach programs aimed at corporations insurance companies and the general public. While these are not bad avenues to test the most powerful and efficient marketing channel is the Web: social media search email and online advertising offer the most effective means for reaching your target audiences delivering your message and creating demand for your services.

At the 2009 Medical Tourism Association Congress in Los Angeles I met Veronica Little BFCs director of marketing. After learning of BFCs outstanding success rates 5-star service tropical island destination and very attractive pricing I believed they could be successful in attracting US patients. A few months later BFCs first U.S. digital marketing campaign went live with three objectives over a 10-week period:To reach and engage target audiences in the United States

  • To build brand awareness and consideration among prospective patients
  • To convert patient interest to action generating inbound inquiries and consultations

Like most niche health care specialists BFC had a limited budget raising the need to achieve these goals listed above in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Below is a summary of the program and the results to date based on a 5-step framework for launching an interactive campaigns.


Below is the 5-step roadmap used by BFC to build its brand and create demand for its services in the U.S.

1. Planning

Successful campaigns start with an objective analysis of your markets audiences objectives requirements challenges and metrics for measuring success. For this effort planning focused on:

Audiences : gender age and demographics as well as their needs concerns and factors that impact their decisions. In this case BFC targeted women ages 30-45 with household income above $60k.

Target markets : with a limited budget BFC had to target specific cities namely those in urban (high-stress) markets with direct flights to Barbados. The campaign started in New York and expanded to other markets over time.

Competitive landscape : understanding the competition and how they were positioned. In this case BFC competed against IVF specialists that were in many cases cost-prohibitive for the target audiences.

Online media mix : defining the digital media for reaching and engaging audiences. In this case the goal was to create awareness through targeted display advertising and harvest the awareness through paid search. The budget was front-loaded on display advertising recognizing that as brand awareness grew results from paid search would improve. Social media (Facebook and Twitter) also played a supporting role in the effort.

User experience : While getting the attention of target audience is an important first step maintaining and building on it is another matter. When targeting US patients you must address their specific needs and concerns the first of which is a brand-enhancing intuitive and effective web site. While BFCs existing site was sufficient for European audiences a different approach would be required to engage US patients.

2. Positioning

The next task was to define BFCs positioning based on the reasons patients would choose BFC with equal attention to the reasons they might not. We used the reasons for BFC (industry-leading success rates great service tropical location and attractive cost) to develop the positioning and messaging for the web site and the ad copy. We then looked at the issues that might prevent a patient from choosing BFC namely questions about the perceived quality of care and accessibility from the U.S.Using the insights from this exercise we defined the key messages that needed to be communicated via the web site ads email and social media.

3. Site Design

While BFC had a web site it was not tailored to the specific needs of US patients. Based on the key insight that BFC needs to be perceived as a place favored by Americans a site was designed to speak directly to US patients in a way that would resonate with them. The approach to site design is summarized below:

  • Define the visitors objectives (find information and/or a provider for fertility treatment)
  • Define BFCs objectives (educate engage and build credibility with visitors)
  • Define the desired user paths calls to action and strategy for getting visitors to call or contact BFC online
  • Develop the site navigation structure (or information architecture) based on visitors needs and the desired path of engagement
  • Define the content requirements for the home page top-level pages and sub-pages
  • Create copy and imagery to educate and engage visitors
  • Integrate links to BFCs social media presence on Facebook and Twitter

Through this site design process www.BarbadosFertility. com was created. In the image below you can see the site supports the strategy of educating engaging and starting conversations. The home page displays a rotating series of messages that are designed to address the common questions a visitor might ask including:

  • Why should I choose BFC (vs. another specialist)?
  • Why should I come to Barbados (vs. another country)?
  • Do Americans frequently go to BFC for IVF procedures?
  • Is it hard to get to BCF?
  • The home page also includes the primary calls to action (CTAs)
  • Request a consultation
  • Download the BFC Fertility Guide

The top-level sections of the site address the most pressing questions and needs of patients:

  • Why Barbados with a focus on what makes Barbados such a popular destination for couples seeking fertility treatment
  • Why BFC with a spotlight on BFC success rates and patient testimonials
  • Finance with information about pricing and significant savings over U.S. clinics.
  • FAQs which addresses the most common (and important) questions asked by prospective patients.
  • Resources which offers a wealth of information about infertility and treatment options

To address the overarching goal of the site (generate inquiries) CTAs are persistent throughout the site making it easy for visitors to start a dialogue that will eventually result in new patient admissions for BFC.

4. Marketing

With the new web site the next step was to create awareness and demand for BFC among its targeted audiences in the U.S. To achieve this paid media (display and search ads) were employed with support from social media namely Facebook and Twitter. The media strategy is summarized as follows:

  • Focus on target audiences in strategic markets (women 30-45 in cities with direct flights to Barbados)
  • Create awareness through Display (banner) advertising on sites frequented by target audiences using a series of ads to test performance of unique headlines and images.
  • Harvest awareness through search engine marketing (pay-per-click ads served when specific keyword searches are conducted) testing a broad range of keywords and ad copy to determine which combinations yielded the best results
  • Complement paid media with social media: daily tweets and Facebook posts with links to BFCs new site.
  • Provide numerous options for visitors to contact BFC including consultation requests guide request news list signup and toll-free calls (using a dedicated number with inbound call tracking)
  • Closely monitor the performance of display and search campaigns to understand which audiences geographic markets creative units keywords and ad copy performed the best.
  • Using these insights to refine the campaign and maximize return on investment (ROI)

5. Measurement

Campaign measurement and analysis is a critical aspect of online marketing if you don't measure it you cant manage it. To maximize BFCs ROI from this campaign daily monitoring and analysis of key metrics were required. While online media can be very effective if not properly managed it can be very costly. Especially in the early stages of a new campaign active monitoring and measurement are critical.Daily metrics included:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Visits
  • Page views
  • Time on site
  • Inquiries
  • Phone calls
  • Spend

Even with a modest budget opportunities for improvement appeared quickly allowing budget to be directed to those ads audiences and keywords that outperformed the others. Through this process media spending was optimized increasing ROI throughout the life of the campaign.


BFCs first online campaign was a great success based on all key metrics including:

  • 30 million targeted impressions
  • 10000 site visits
  • 150 requests for information and/or consultations

While sales cycles may range from 3 to 12 months its too early to tell how many new patients will come from this effort. But assuming 1 in 10 inquiries convert to a new patient the campaign will have yielded $150000 in direct revenue and at least that much in referral business through word of mouth sources. From an ROI standpoint the campaign appears to have been extremely successful.Beyond these immediate results several key insights emerged that will allow BFC to reap even better results in the future. While not all insights can be disclosed here are a few key insights that emerged:

  • Search works best when complemented with Display Advertising. While paid search is very effective for harvesting demand (i.e. those who are in the market) customers are much more likely to choose you if they know who you are. As is normally the case in health care marketing brand recognition is important (awareness = safety). To get the best in reach scale and efficiency use both search and display ads in concert. If you can educate audiences with display ads before they are actively looking for a solution they are more likely to engage you when they are in the market.
  • Seek to be #2 or #3. While most marketers (especially physicians) want to be in the top paid position in search engines its rarely a good investment (unless you are buying branded terms such as your name). The #1 ad generally pays more per click and has a lower conversion rate for non-branded search terms than those in the #2 or #3 positions.
  • Give visitors a reason to contact you. As in life your chances of getting something (an email or call) are much greater if you offer something in return (e.g. valuable content). BFC offers a 20-page Fertility Guide for those who are seeking to learn more about IVF. For those who are still early in the research cycle (and not ready for a consultation) the Guide has proven to be a valuable asset in enticing visitors to register with BFC.

While there is no silver bullet in online marketing the BFC campaign demonstrates that with solid planning execution and measurement combined with a good story to tell health care providers of all sizes can leverage the Web and digital media to grow their practice. Remember the proverb measure twice cut once and you too can be successful in this rapidly growing medium.

About The Author

Steve Latham is the founder and CEO of Spur Interactive a strategic digital agency with a focus in health care marketing ( Since 2002 Steve has planned and managed successful interactive campaigns for both large and small brands in the health and medical industry including The Scooter Store eCardio Barbados Fertility Centre American Institute of Gastric Banding Lasik Vision Institute Memorial Hermann Health System Obesity Surgery Specialists and Methodist Healthcare System. Steve is a frequent industry speaker and contributing author to numerous publications. Steve speaks frequently at industry events including The Latin America Global Medicine Congress the World Medical Tourism and Global Health Care Congress Search Engine Strategies Online Marketing Summit and Interactive Strategies. Steves articles have been published by MediaPost Online Media Daily iMedia Marketing News and Steve has been quoted in B2B Magazine PR Week Fortune and Steve received an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BBA from the University of Oklahoma. Steve blogs at

Learn about how you can become a Certified Medical Tourism Professional→
Disclaimer: The content provided in Medical Tourism Magazine ( is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We do not endorse or recommend any specific healthcare providers, facilities, treatments, or procedures mentioned in our articles. The views and opinions expressed by authors, contributors, or advertisers within the magazine are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of our company. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, We make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, regarding the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability of the information contained in Medical Tourism Magazine ( or the linked websites. Any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk. We strongly advise readers to conduct their own research and consult with healthcare professionals before making any decisions related to medical tourism, healthcare providers, or medical procedures.
Free Webinar: Building Trust, Driving Growth: A Success Story in Medical Travel Through Exceptional Patient Experiences