The business opportunities for healthcare organizations and service providers are increasing at a fast rate with the growing healthcare needs of the people.
This has given rise to increased competition among the emerging healthcare service providers for availing of these business opportunities.
This further necessitates the healthcare service providers to have complete knowledge about the various marketing tactics for targeting potential customers through their advertisements designed specifically for spreading awareness about their services.
The marketers of healthcare companies are still facing numerous challenges despite the fact that marketing now experiences more growing acceptance.
Many times, marketers find that only a few of the healthcare managers are trained in marketing aspects of healthcare fields.
However, some of them still work as a trainee having no experience in the field of marketing. On the other hand, the health professionals that support marketing are unsure whether adequate ROI (return on investment) will be generated through marketing or not.
With the growth of healthcare service providers, many healthcare firms are still unable to evaluate the costs of delivering particular services, thereby making the cost-benefit analysis problematic.
Nowadays, marketers share a common belief that a comprehensive Healthcare marketing strategy is important for continuous growth in the market and targeting new patients.
For effective implementation of marketing strategies, healthcare firms and service providers must evaluate the competition from direct as well as indirect competitors.
An alternate product or service available in the market against a particular offering can be considered as indirect competition.
In addition, psychic competition should also be considered, which encompasses the outlooks, beliefs, and decisions of the potential customers to avoid the healthcare services.
The healthcare firms can thus address these issues in their advertisements or promoted messages so as to relieve the fears and anxiousness of people and build reliable relationships with them.
Market Segmentation of Health Services
The market segmentation of health-related services can be done on the following basis:
1. Segmentation Based on Patient Characteristics: There are certain characteristics of patients based on which healthcare services can be segmented. Some of these important characteristics are:
i. Patient Demographics: Age and affluence are the two most pertinent attributes of the patient. Segmentation of the healthcare market can be done according to the age, i.e., kids, teenagers, adults, and senior citizens, like the kinds and incidence of diseases alter with the patients’ age.
ii. Patient Psychographics: Different individuals have different attitudes regarding modem healthcare services. Thus, it is wise to segment the market accordingly.
But, the notion of segmenting patients, according to psychographic, is comparatively new and does not have a consistent typology like the demographics of the patients.
iii. Usage Pattern: Segmentation of the healthcare market can also be done on the basis of patients’ usage pattern regarding healthcare services, i.e., attitude regarding how they care for their sicknesses or diseases.
For example, many people believe in self-medication, while some belief in home remedies. On the other hand, some people prefer non-pharmacological therapies like acupressure chiropractic or acupuncture methods.
2. Segmentation Based on Marketing Practices: Another criterion for segmenting the healthcare market is on the basis of marketing practices. The following types of marketing practices are helpful in the segmentation of the healthcare market:
i. Competitive Positioning: Segmentation of the healthcare market can be done on the basis of quality-price variations.
The service provider needs to choose a group (as defined in the boxes in the figure given below as a market segment) and provide its services in such a way that the combination of price and quality is consistent.
For example, the best doctors, surgeons, paramedics, nurses, etc., will provide the care to the patient if the premium positioning segment is chosen as it will be the maximum prized facility in the overall market.
Generally, depending upon the existing and past practices, most healthcare firms can certainly be positioned into the cells of the matrix.
ii. Full Service versus Speciality: Next marketing practice for segmenting the healthcare market is by adopting the concept of completely integrated (full service) or one-stop (specialty) healthcare centers.
For example, Jurang Medical Centre in Singapore and Kaiser Permanente in California are one-step, completely integrated healthcare centers that provide varying healthcare services in one place.
However, specialization can be done according to some sickness or disease like heart diseases, allergies, oncology, gynecology, etc.
iii. Payment Plans: These plans can also be used as a criterion for segmenting the healthcare market.
For example, a healthcare service provider can limit his practice to some selected insurance plans, offer internal prepaid plans, provide service only to a particular firm, etc.
Marketing Mix of Health Services
It is vital for the healthcare industry to integrate a combination of the appropriate marketing mix in order to market their services.
Healthcare service providers need to take extra precautions while planning their marketing mix because healthcare is a service where people are only satisfied if they get nothing but the best.
Thus, it becomes important to develop the right balance of marketing mix components so as to achieve the set targets.
Following are the components of the marketing mix in healthcare services:
1. Product: In the field of healthcare, the product components encompass training and education provided by medical institutions and nursing homes, medical treatment given in the hospitals, and R&D activities conducted in research centers.
For hospitals, there are three major products category, namely, diagnosis, treatment (through medicines or operation), and post-operational care.
2. Price: Most medical centers and hospitals adopt differential pricing strategy. Patients are charged with different prices depending upon whether they want personal or general wards.
Similarly, a different set of formalities are provided to patients opting for the different service package. Customers having membership cards are treated at discounted prices.
3. Place: It is another important marketing mix component in a way that the patients can easily access the services offered by the healthcare service provider. Further, these services should be simultaneously guarded against pollution.
For example, corporate hospitals may offer their services through private clinics and doctors. Some doctors also work as a consultant or visiting doctors for corporate hospitals along with a private clinic.
Such doctors often refer their patients to corporate hospitals for medical tests, diagnosis, operations, etc.
4. Promotion: In the healthcare business, promotion should be done in a way that the right message reaches the patients and their caretakers or relatives.
Such a message can be directly promoted through doctor-patient interaction or through a supporting staff. Communication in the healthcare industry is usually regarding treatment and secondary facilities like diet, transport, information, amenities for patients, low prices, etc.
5. People: People (patients, doctors, caretaking support staff, etc.) are the fundamental requirement of the healthcare industry.
Further, since healthcare is a knowledge-based industry, people involved in this industry like technicians and doctors form as the knowledge base and handle all the activities related to the diagnosis and treatment of the patients.
6. Process: It refers to how healthcare services are provided to the patients. Usually, there are two major classes, i.e., services for outpatients and services for inpatients.
Both of these services follow different processes. However, the fundamental starting process remains the same, i.e., reporting at the reception at the allotted time and meeting the doctor.
If the doctor advises the patient to get admitted to the hospital as he/she requires special and continuous medical care, then such patient is known as an inpatient, while if the doctor suggests treatment based on medicines, then the patient is known as an outpatient.
7. Physical Evidence: Hospital’s location and ambiance are significant factors for creating a positive image in the minds of patients as well as employees.
Thus, the corporate hospitals must provide a suitable environment for patients and employees, which is not just relaxing but hygienic too.
Most of the hospitals now have a big open area garden or lawn with adequate seating arrangements for patients and visitors. Nowadays, it has become important for hospitals to develop a good ambiance.
It should be pleasant right from the reception as it plays a significant role in forming beliefs and opinions regarding the hospital.
When a patient leaves a hospital, he/she develops thinking regarding the hospital and share his/her experience with other people accordingly.
Many hospitals have a dress code for staff members portraying a sense of professionalism and discipline. Further, the staff members are trained for being comforting, understanding, and kind to the patients as they are already frustrated or disturbed.
Therefore, a hospital should be divided into individual departments and must be well-organized. There must be well-equipped cabins for doctors, and the hospital should be air-conditioned and hygienic. It must have proper lighting and ventilation.