By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
How to revisit the fundamentals of medical marketing and discover opportunities for success
A regular and pragmatic medical marketing self-examination can be revealing, positive, negative and ultimately, extremely valuable in keeping your healthcare marketing plan operating at peak performance. Here’s how to approach each of the seven classic fundamentals.
Read any Marketing 101 textbook and you’ll find a list of the basic analysis elements of marketing mix: The 7 Ps of Marketing—PEOPLE, PRODUCT, PRICE, PROMOTION, PLACE, PACKAGING, and POSITIONING.
These are foundation elements for successful marketing. And because they change quickly—especially in healthcare marketing—examine each of these regularly, with fresh eyes, to sustain maximum marketing results.
Older texts listed only four elements; then there were five; and now seven. We felt it was time to revisit the list, and offer a fresh look at each for healthcare marketing.
You’ll find that some of these categories overlap. Better that you look twice at something than to not notice a problem at all. This is an exercise in self-examination, so keep an open mind to both the good and the bad.
And keep in mind that our comments here are idea starters. Your situation will be unique for hospital marketing and advertising, for a specialized group practice marketing, for a healthcare organization, and/or for different medical professions and healthcare practices.
The patients, clients, customers, prospective patients, providers, staff, management – everyone – involved in the healthcare organization, facility, or practice.
Surprisingly, this heading wasn’t one of the four original Marketing Ps. (What were they thinking?) Above all else, healthcare is a people business—so it’s first on our list.
The people who deliver a service are a significant ingredient in the product itself. Consumers evaluate service and satisfaction based on perceptions and personal interactions. A patient doesn’t have much insight to a physician’s clinical skills, but they will know if they are pleased based on dealt with them as a person. Your reputation and your brand are not yours alone—it’s a matter of teamwork.
ASK YOURSELF: Have the people (demographics, psychographics, geographic) we served changed? Do we have the right staff people in the right positions to serve the people we see? Do they have the right training, experience or other skills needed? Do they know what’s expected?
Presenting the correct product (goods and/or services) with values that meet or exceed the needs and expectations of the target market.
When was the last time you took an unbiased and critical look at yourself—products, service, value proposition, facility—the works? For a toothpaste company, the “product” is a box on the store shelf. But the product for service organizations is usually defined in terms of personal happiness: less tangible than a pretty box and not easily quantified.
The primary determinant is in knowing that customers perceive and receive value and satisfaction by way of your healthcare practice or organization.
ASK YOURSELF: Does the current product, service, or product mix answer the needs of the customers? Do they deliver significant value? Are they properly presented? How do they compare and distinguish their value above the competition? What should be changed or added? Is there a product or service that you could offer that answers a need of the target audience?
The amount paid in exchange for the value received. Price must be competitive and lead to profit, but may vary within promotional and/or bundle purchase options.
Price is a toughie in the healthcare industry. Sometimes there are few or no options: Price is what it is, or maybe it’s paid through an individual’s insurance. Elective care or cosmetic procedures, of course, are a different animal. Anywhere in this spectrum, price is also a function of value, competition in the marketplace, and affordability. Take a serious look at those areas where there is flexibility, and be open to adjusting prices.
ASK YOURSELF: Is perceived and delivered value in line with price? Are prices connected to the realities of the marketplace, including competition, economic environment, etc.? Do I need to raise or lower prices selectively, add value to current prices, or eliminate specific services? What affordability options do we offer, such as patient financing, special offers, or product mix?
The many and various forms of communicating with the target audience to effectively present benefits, answer needs and inspire action.
For this list, it’s convenient that Promotion begins with a P, but some healthcare professionals react negatively to the “retail” or “blue-light-special” connotation. A better label for this category is communications, meaning all the direct and indirect ways of expressing yourself (your practice, your brand, your services) to those who need and want your services.
This includes both personal or direct interaction (one-to-one, inspiring referrals), and interacting with many (advertising, public relations, publicity). In all instances, this is done in a professional way. The objective is to critically examine how, where and when you let others know about what you can do for them. (And those in need want this information.)
This is also where you consider changes in the media that’s in play. A few years ago, nobody had a website. And a few moments ago, Social Media Marketing had yet to be invented. Some newspapers have disappeared or gone online only. Magazines and other publications, online and in print, adjust to capture audiences.
ASK YOURSELF: What’s playing on all my communications channels? Is it the right message? Is it being seen and heard by the right audience? Does the message need to be revised…the volume increased…the presentation refreshed? Am I sticking to my Marketing Plan, measuring results, and making adjustments? What new marketing approaches, strategies and/or media are available and need to be considered?
Presenting products or services to the customer (patient, client, end-user) in the right place and at the right time.
The most obvious “place” is the office, facility, SurgiCenter—where the product meets the user. In healthcare, the place for purchase decision is often separate from where and when product/service is delivered. Keep this spectrum in mind…a change in location can impact the decision to buy. And it’s likely that more than one “place” is involved when there are multiple providers in the practice and/or multiple offices.
(Importantly, place can also refer to your marketplace demographics, or even the world if you deliver services over the Internet.)
ASK YOURSELF: What’s the ideal place or location to offer or provide your products/services? Do different locations require different approaches or presentations? How does the end-user get the necessary information to reach a buying decision? Are there other or additional places (locations) where your products/services should be offered?
What the customer perceives and experiences about you, your product/service—tangible and intangible—in every form of visual contact. (Sometimes “Physical” or “Physical Evidence.”)
This is not only the hands-on, physical container of a physical product…the definition is also experiential, and often more so for healthcare marketing. Look at this through the end-user’s window, and everything counts. Take a fresh look—as if for the first time—at the appearance of the physical office or location, the impression of your reception area, the look and feel of brochures and website, and even the appearance of staff.
Some doctors never walk through the front door of their own office. Try it. You might be surprised to see what patients are seeing as they form their first impressions. (First impressions take about 10 seconds to form…and you’ve only got one shot at it.)
Packaging can also refer to how you bundle services (think of a plastic surgeon offering a “mommy makeover” —lipo and tummy tuck—for moms who have finished having children).
ASK YOURSELF: What does a new patient see and feel? Will the first impression exceed expectations? What would “secret shopper” discover and report to me? How do new patients describe their experience to others-good, bad, or ordinary? Does the packaging create an impression of confidence? What changes—large or small—would engender trust? How can I bundle our services?
How your brand, product or service is perceived in the hearts and minds of customers and prospective customers.
Positioning means, “Why you?” Another toughie.
Think of positioning as what you would want people—both patients and prospective patients or customers—to say about you? Would they use the same words that are part of your marketing message? Acknowledged experts in positioning, authors Reis and Trout, say that what your customers think and say about you is an absolute critical success factor. And that saw cuts in both directions—positively and negatively.
ASK YOURSELF: What is the specific message that you want others to use in describing you, what you do, and your hospital, facility, business or practice? Is there a gap between perception and reality-your perception or intent and what people think and feel? Where does your positioning and marketing message need adjustment? Has your positioning changed; has your message changed; has your audience changed?
We’d be happy to keep this conversation going with you and to dig deeper on the specifics of your situation. Please give us a call today at today at (800) 656-0907, or visit with us in person at one of our Healthcare Marketing Seminars.