A business of compassion and care
Marketing, an important tool to raise profitability, is also now being employed by the healthcare sector. Healthcare marketing, in particular, is a very sensitive topic as it deals with trust and confidence of the entire ecosystem. As is the case with any product, a differentiated, relevant and inspiring brand makes every marketing effort more effective.
Globally, the marketing of healthcare and hospitals is gaining importance. In Bangladesh, however, it is still a relatively new concept. In the last three decades the healthcare industry has transformed drastically. The image that is portrayed by a hospital allows the company to build the idea of trust and confidence in potential patients, and the hospital’s ability to provide efficient medical services.
The perception of the local healthcare sector can be described as mildly positive at best. This is due to the lack of proper treatment and other related medical services in the country. Expert physicians are not always the answer, especially when supporting service providers such as nurses are in short supply or are unskilled. While we mostly blame public hospitals for their negligence, sometimes even private hospitals are not careful about service delivery. They neglect the service agenda, provide poor customer care, foster inefficient management style and build an overall toxic organizational culture.
The owners of health care businesses need to understand that marketing is not just about selling products and services, or focusing on building the hospital’s brand value in the eyes of the customer. It needs to consider the entire healthcare ecosystem at the local, regional, national and global level to create messages that fit each segment to build its overall image, reputation, trust and confidence. There is a need to hire professional marketing and public relation experts to help run the show. There is a need for professional marketers with diversified knowledge, the right skill set, and a broad understanding of brand, marketing, service, communications and media.
Organizations that are dependent on conventional Below-the-line (BTL) marketing activities face obstacles because these modern marketing tactics are widely used. Similarly, if the brand doesn’t have any trust and confidence in the people or if the brand preference is not created, then the BTL approach will not be successful.
ROLE OF THE CMO
In this era of omnichannels and digital media fragmentation, the role of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for a healthcare centre is very challenging. The CMO is the perfect leader to drive business innovation because the nature of the business requires in-depth knowledge of the market and the competitive space. Creative inputs and staying updated about new technologies or business trends that may affect the business is also imperative. Simple, cost effective marketing tools can be used for hospitals to make it the preferred choice for patients by creating awareness about the brand.
A professional hospital CMO can help blend old industry practices as well as engage in disruptive thinking in order to make a breakthrough in the industry. The misconception about patient care, lack of service quality, media fragmentation and above all, the lack of belief in the hospital’s services, are the main bottle necks. Regardless of these challenges, today’s healthcare CMOs and marketers need to be more strategic, customer-centric, experience-driven and communicative in moving towards a leaner organization to allow the business to grow.
The healthcare system has been slow in meeting consumer demands in terms of marketing efforts. But we need to understand that patients are healthcare consumers too. It has been seen that healthcare is driven not by what the patient wants, but what the hospital or organization wants. And therein lies the problem.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
The brand of the hospital should aim at designing a marketing scheme which promotes the idea that the organization goes above and beyond for their patients. This strategy becomes even more important in the age of digital and mobile advertising. Every business wants to see a return on investment and the healthcare sector is no different. That mind set that health care service providers don’t need marketing must change. The industry needs to invest in image building campaigns to drive interest and leads. A great place to start would be by training customer care staff or service equality teams to be passionate advocates for their area of word. Since they are the first point of contact for any patient, a positive interaction between the two will help attract more patients to the hospitals. As Maya Angelou rightly said, ‘They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’
BALANCING SUSTAINABILITY AND PROFITABILITY
A hospital’s marketing budget might be limited which can be a challenge for most CMO’s. However, they must find new ways to use these limited finances to their own advantage. The fragmentation of media may be frustrating, but it also presents ample opportunities to redirect budget and leverage one media against another to grow their marketing footprints.
Through strategic alliances, businesses can co-create mutual benefits which also means less of a strain on the budget. Now is the time for healthcare CMOs and CEOs to start thinking like entrepreneurs. This can only be done by encouraging a cultural shift in the organization.
Every employee of the organization are their very own spokesperson or brand ambassador. The HR head can extend their hand in making an employee’s work experience at a hospital beneficial and rewarding, which will encourage a positive generation of word-of-mouth.
Branding is not what you tell your customers, it is also what they tell others about you. Putting an emphasis on patient care guarantees that they will remember it for a long time.
If every member of the healthcare team understands their role in keeping the brand promise, then it will be easier to communicate the same to the patients. CEO’s can help communicate the brand position internally though internal marketing channels. Initiative needs to be taken to shift company culture to brand culture based on the core values of the hospital.
Nothing works better than word of mouth. Word of mouth (WoM) publicity is still the best way to market healthcare, especially hospitals. In today’s world WoM happens through online medium as well. The best way to attract new customers is to treat current ones like gold.
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Involvement in the traditional advertising methods is one of the major reasons that the healthcare industry is lagging behind. A one-time investment in total marketing services will boost digital presence within a stipulated time frame and can help the business to grow.
Media relations will support the brand in creating a positive image. As the saying goes, advertising builds awareness while public relations builds brands.
Organizations need to redesign their virtual marketing strategy to align it with their strategy. A responsive hospital website is a strong marketing tool for the community, and continuing to invest in this strategy will have a greater impact on consumer engagement, thereby increasing revenue.
A huge leap has been seen in the preference of digital marketing over traditional marketing. Content marketing builds trust and boosts traffic on the hospital’s websites and blogs. Content is always king, which also holds true for healthcare marketing.
Experiential marketing will definitely have some impact on customer behaviour and buying decisions. So while deciding on the website design, marketers should consider the user experiences, appeal and over all look and feel.
CREATE A POSITIONING STATEMENT
A positioning statement is a short, concise, honest, memorable statement that distinguishes your hospital from the competition. It sets a precedent for how internal teams should align with healthcare brand’s image. It should set the stage for all branding efforts moving forward if all employees live up to brand promise or mantra.
Healthcare organizations must aggressively market their business just to remain competitive. Marketing is needed to invest in new facilities, expand services or high-priced advertising campaigns and investing in the powerful strategy of brand building. All this should be done in an effort to get a stronger foothold of the market.
Every patient wants value for their money and it is the marketer’s responsibility to build a customer’s faith in a hospital. Only a clear marketing strategy which has been executed with discipline, high standards and professionalism can achieve success for a business.
*The writer is a Business Marketer and has been recognized as the ‘Most Influential Marketing Leader’ in 2015 World Marketing Congress. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org