MARKETING STRATEGY IN HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY
Healthcare patients have more options than ever before. With so much information available online, these patients no longer feel the need to visit the closest hospital from home, a primary healthcare provider nearest to their location, or even healthcare practices with multiple locations in the community they live in. Info such as which hospital should I go for? Who is the best eye doctor for my conjunctivitis problem? What should I do if my kids get infected by jaundice? Who should I ask either I’m having heart issue or not? All these are just one click away; so, healthcare marketing does matter?
Establishment of marketing department (read as sales) in Malaysian healthcare industry was one of the latest department ever exist in a normal private hospital setup. There was a time where private hospitals were limited in Malaysia, even there were only few in Klang Valley; Tawakkal Hospital, Pantai Hospital Bangsar and Assunta Hospital to named few. Gone are the days when private healthcare market was less competitive as each of the players serving their own unique market segment in their own approach.
As time goes by, an excellent and sustainable hospital performance can’t happen without a planned marketing strategy to keep the healthcare brand at the forefront of people’s minds. Think of all the reasons loyal patients might decide to change healthcare providers overnight, changes in the type of healthcare 3rd party payer, relocation, dissatisfaction with past experience or just one negative perception shared by a close friend or immediate family members; each of the hospitals are not guaranteed to keep up with patient volumes forever. Fluctuations of patient’s preferences are very much to be expected in this digital era as competition are getting stiffer with private healthcare players are seriously looking into holistic patientcare with top-of-the-line technology investment.
For the time being, marketing strategy the most essential component in sustaining current business performance; maintaining loyal customers and exploring new business possibilities. Based on experience and observation, there are six elements marketing leaders need to focus on in achieving desired goals in each identified financial period. Firstly, ‘Brand Consistency’ must be placed and practiced accordingly. The importance of the customers on brand feeling and promise must be executed efficiently, organization’s tagline should be felt physically and brand perception must be managed excellently. There is at least one thing that makes the hospital unique, and that’s what helps patients remember the organization’s name. Secondly, it is vital in having a responsive physical and digital patient evaluation system. Comments and reviews of customers must be managed and recorded consistently. Data gathered would be requisite in benchmarking customer’s perception and to consider improving service deliverables in near future.
Thirdly, building and maintaining strong digital brand presence. A responsive website is important in maintaining a strong digital brand presence. Web users tend to navigate elsewhere if a website takes a longer period to load and resulted to loss of business opportunity (and it takes only seconds to happen!). Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a powerful tool for getting the hospital name to be the top of the search engines. Although it is more complex than most of us realize, engaging with the right people, well equipped with the right expertise in the marketing team will make things easier in no time. On the other hand, a marketing leader should leverage social media platforms as part of digital healthcare marketing strategies. Organic social media means posting photos, updates, events, and more directly to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other popular SocMed platforms; and it’s an effective strategy to build the hospital brand and let patients know on what’s happening, available products and new things that might get their interest in utilizing the hospital’s services.
Fourthly, exploring options in conventional approach. Though we are in a digital age, there are situations where conventional approach might produce a better sales conversion results. A&P options like television, radio, billboard and even newspaper brings another set of unique reach and followers for the marketers to look into in getting a better ROIs. Since these options are major investment choices, the marketing leader must be careful about where to spend the marketing budget in getting the best, tangible and intangible results. Fifthly, a primary-care referral program to be included in the main marketing plan. Primary-care providers; General Practitioners need to be seen as one of the most important piece in of the whole patient cycle. The referrals made by the GPs are some of the best organic marketing strategies for bringing in new patients to the hospital. Establishment of a good, appealing and effective program for the primary-care providers is significant as referrals are largely resulted from a good relationship between both parties.
Lastly, tracking and monitoring of the strategy effectiveness. Execution of all initiatives, programs, investments and others need to be monitored accordingly as planned and the most important is to measure the effectiveness of each. Info and data collected must be discussed among the stakeholders and immediate improvisation should be identified and executed in the next marketing strategy.
As John Scully quoted – “Marketing Strategy is a series of integrated actions leading to a sustainable competitive advantage”.
KPJ Klang Specialist Hospital