Healthcare Marketing 2.0
Without us observing, we have entered in to a new healthcare era. At the core of additional transformations to come, is digital content and mobile phones. The old ways of marketing may take time to wane, but it’s time to rebrand your healthcare service. Team Healthcare Executive finds out how consumer-centric are the marketing campaigns of Indian healthcare brands.
Indian healthcare marketing is becoming increasingly unique. In the late 90s just 0.5 percent of revenue was spent on the marketing efforts of healthcare companies. In 2015, that went up to 5-7 percent, say many industry insiders.
Today when a patient has a medical question in mind, it is not uncommon for him to “Google” to find some immediate answers even before he visits the doctor. This is a significant change brought about by technology and the internet. Clearly, many Indians trust an online review today as much as they believe the recommendation of a friend.
In fact, while they search internet, they find content that they believe is relevant– and that is where inbound marketing kicks in for the healthcare provider. How can they convert the casual, but interested visitor to their website into a loyal follower and potentially a loyal customer? Again, it is technology that allows providers to maintain a subscriber list for email campaigns and engage followers on social media.
So, now the question in everybody’s mind is: Can new marketing tools lead brands to a new growth orbit?
HOW A HEALTHCARE BRAND NAILED IT?
To understand the status of marketing in the healthcare industry, one needs to understand the nature of the industry itself.
“Healthcare has traditionally been a service – earlier provided by the government and by charitable institutions. The industry has always seen a demand-supply gap , with a large shortfall in supply over demand,” says a spokesperson of Apollo Hospitals.
Corporate chains have brought lot of changes to the sector, he adds.
However, the “for-profit” perception of a corporate hospital does bring with it some negative connotations that automatically accrue to Apollo Hospitals too – premium pricing, overcharging, etc.
“Healthcare providers have hence always been reluctant to “advertise” their services and facilities as compared to other industries. What’s more, the healthcare industry is governed by the MCI guidelines, which are against blatant advertising.
“In any case, especially for secondary and tertiary care hospitals – there are strong influencers and gate-keepers: referral doctors, medical officers in corporate, insurance players etc. who influence the brand choice or doctor choice of the consumer and hence most healthcare providers have focused on B2B marketing, rather than B2C marketing ,” he adds.
“Earlier healthcare marketing communication has been mostly centred on basic feature-led or service-led communication – highlighting the sort of equipment and technology available, the expertise of the doctors, the clinical excellence, milestones etc.
“Over the last decade or so, however, competition in the corporate healthcare segment has increased with many more corporate brands coming up. Apollo Hospitals and other brands have started marketing directly today to consumers. This has started over the last decade and has been gaining strength over the last 5 to 6 years. However, on one side, there are instances of Medical Council of India (MCI) objecting to some of these ads – recently there has been an advisory to the censor boards to not provide censor certificates for hospital ads and can only be given for public service messages,” he says.
Amid raging debates on whether the healthcare providers should ditch traditional tools, the country’s largest healthcare group has found a middle path.
“We have undertaken a multi-media campaign that has been named, “Let’s Talk Health” with the purpose of educating the consumer of healthcare issues, giving them an idea of the symptoms and prevention, and providing them information on the latest advances in healthcare for the different diseases. This campaign has taken the form of 13-episode series on different national television channels-a talk show in CNN–IBN, case-studies in Times Now and doctor’s diaries in India Today TV,” explains the spokesperson.
“Apollo has also partnered with NDTV Good Times and done a series with Rocky & Mayur, on preventive healthcare and healthy eating. The group also shares article on leading dailies like The Hindu, Times of India, Hindustan Times and Deccan Chronicle every Thursday throughout the year. This campaign is being well received and we are extending the same next year too, and in more publications,” he adds.
INDIAN HEALTHCARE COMPANIES ARE MOVING FROM BRAND RECALL TO DIFFERENTIATION
Experts point out that change is possible because of major changes brought in by information technology.
Communication: While earlier, it was sufficient to get “top-of-mind” with the consumer, it is now imperative to showcase the differentiation between one’s services and that of competition. Some of the biggest brands are focusing on sophisticated and in-depth communications, as they strive to cope with challenges of rising complexity in the sector.
Target: Even though previously marketing was aimed at the influencers and gate-keepers, with the increasing knowledge of customers and their access to healthcare information, it is becoming imperative that brands target marketing communication directly at consumers.
Lifestyle: Similarly, in an increasingly lifestyle and experience-based economy, it is critical to show how a healthcare service will impact consumer’s lifestyle and quality of life. Also, in the experience based economy, increasingly, healthcare products and basic services are becoming table-stakes and it is important to go into more value-addition and Value Added Services.
Specialization: The era of specialization came in healthcare much earlier – now it is the era of , down to the procedure level, rather than just the disease level. The trend is now moving towards comprehensive care and the care continuum, where preventive care and post-operative care are USPs. For instance, in cancer care – it is no longer cancer cure: It is comprehensive cancer care – tumour boards which co-create a combination of surgical, chemo-therapeutical and radiation-based cure, with organ-specific health checks to prevent or detect cancer early, to post-care support groups that has to be communicated as much as basic things like technology and experience.
IT IS THE ERA OF SUB-SPECIALIZATION
Today, internal marketing can have the maximum impact with the least spend and hence the highest Return on Investment (ROI) in healthcare marketing. It is as crucial as any other marketing effort for keeping the employees on the same page as the company. Informed employees feel more connected and responsible because of the kind of clarity they have about the company, its policies and initiatives.
To begin with, it is critical that the doctors are kept informed of the capabilities of the other doctors in the organisation– cross-referrals can be a huge source of income to the hospital, especially so in a multi-speciality hospital and even more so in a hospital that has tertiary and quaternary care, which may include multi-speciality co-morbidities.
What’s more, healthcare is one of the industries where customer-referral and repeat customers form a large portion of the customer base – it is therefore critical to ensure that each consumer walks out of the hospital as a brand ambassador for the hospital.
“In today’s world where the entire experience – from the moment the person calls in for an appointment, to his entering the hospital premises to meeting the doctor and his leaving the premises (and after) – determines the Value For Money for the consumer, it is extremely critical that all employees, whether customer-facing or otherwise, is attuned towards the consumer, to ensure the best possible experience for the consumer.
Furthermore, healthcare is a very people-intensive industry and a vast majority of the people who connect with the consumer are front-line staff like nurses and para-medical staff. It is critical that all of them are possessed of the organisation’s spirit and culture, so that everyone is working towards customer-delight,” concludes the spokesperson.
HOW HEALTHCARE FIRMS ARE MAKING TRANSITION IN TO THE BIG LEAGUE
Clearly, the Indian patients demand more today. Thanks to the information revolution. Even, the prominence of doctors in the food chain has reduced . Today, doctors are willing to provide services at patient’s convenience wherever they want. The branding and marketing exercises of healthcare brands reflect this change. Brands are willing to offer services for their customers at a much larger scale. When Swine Flu created panic among patients in Bangalore, a home healthcare service provider provided vaccination for more than 20,000 employees of a company, at multiple locations in the city.
“Traditionally healthcare sector has never had any inbound marketing. Indians have always believed that patient care and treatment comes before business. Having said this, things are changing slowly. Today, every healthcare unit is being responsible for their bottom lines. So while maintaining good quality care and treatment, they are also trying to bring in customers by way of establishing a brand which stands for quality and care,” explains Ganesh Lakshmanan, Director of Dreamz.
“The changing technology developments have always had an impact irrespective of the industry. Specifically with regards to healthcare, technology has enabled a consumer to connect with the doctor and the healthcare provider in much easier and friendly means. For example taking appointments has become online, one can see all medical reports online, entire patient history today is available at the click of a button for the consulting doctors. This saves time and money for the care giver and the patient. Now a care giver can reach the patient directly to monitor him irrespective of his location. Giving proper care is mandatory for all care givers, so they use various other additional tools to effectively market their brands.
“Here I would relate the airline industry to the healthcare industry. Any airline’s primary objective is to reach from point A to point B safely. So they market themselves by focusing on the luxury lounges, extra leg room, customised food, on-time performance, loyalty programs, etc. Similarly the hospital uses additional features to market themselves,” explains Lakshmanan.
According to Lakshmanan, it’s not just start-ups but new business ideas that influence healthcare marketing trends . “Home care was almost absent so the challenge was to create the interest in the consumers for those business ideas and also generate more customers for them. Social media would be increasingly used when it comes to reaching targeted customers whether it is B2B or B2C,” says Lakshmanan.
So, what about patients who prefer to go to their favourite star doctor in their locality? “When it comes to regular and normal ailments you tend to go to the doctor whom you have always trusted. This stands true even when at times you need a specialist, you will trust that family doctor’s recommendation. But where marketing helps is to build customers for a certain hospital/clinic. The additional features can be used to get the patients to their hospital. Since the same doctor consults in several hospitals consumers prefer to go to hospitals which gives them something more than just care and treatment,” explains Lakshmanan.
FROM YELLOW PAGES TO GOOGLE MY DOCTOR
There is a lot of hope and hype around healthcare marketing.
Says Avanti Pawar, head marketing and business development, Nanavati Super Speciality hospital, “The need for healthcare marketing was never felt due to the demand-supply gap . There are not many enviable marketing examples as the whole industry is still evolving and quite conservative in its approach. With corporate chain hospitals coming up to fill this gap and en-cash the business potential, the competition has gone up along with the need to retain existing customers and gaining new customers.”
Interestingly, brands highlight customer-centric features rather than their strengths. For instance, several home healthcare service providers have clearly positioned themselves as experts in diabetes management rather than highlighting that they offer services at their door steps.
Most experts point out that the demand from patients can longer be ignored as growing smart phone penetration and aspiration levels lead to surge in e-healthcare services. Some of the brands who have tried out new marketing schemes agree that contrary to their earlier perception, they found it as a useful tool.
“With increasing awareness, demand from the customer for the most current procedures is increasing. The technological developments are bringing in better cures for diseases and also making such advanced information only a click of mouse away. To address and satisfy such, much better informed and aware customers the marketing also needs to address this newly created need. Digital marketing campaigns are gaining prominence as a well-read customer seeks information from the net . Social media also is a source of information and patient reviews are best utilised by this section. Testimonial route through Twitter especially in mother and child care, skin and hair care, fibroid, hirsuitism , acne are gaining popularity amongst consumers,” explains Pawar.
But the big question is whether the concentration of marketing strategists will generate enough leads for the brand.
Says Senthil K., General Manager, Ayurvedagram,“I would say healthcare industry was a slow adaptor once upon time, but not now. Majority of business at Ayurvedagram (60 percent) is generated through web lead digital marketing.This is mainly because of a good, efficient and a responsive website – which allows us to increase the visibility, larger reach and easy conversion.
Most experts point out that the demand from patients can longer be ignored as growing smart phone penetration and aspiration levels lead to surge in e-healthcare services. Some of the brands who have tried out new marketing schemes agree that contrary to their earlier perception, they found it as a useful tool.
Ayurvedagram had considerably increased its customer share in Bangalore using its SEO/SMO strategy.
“With having a large number of web users to find health related information, we work on a SEO/SMO strategy which helps us in search engine ranking and overall web presence. To be more effective, we regularly work on analysis of keyword performance and adaptation.
Unless you have the right content, it is very difficult to build the SEO – we need to constantly produce new content –it captures people’s attention and interest and successfully help them to take appropriate decisions. On an average, I get about 5-6 emails from digital marketing service provider offering their services. This exactly tells us how this sector is growing,” explains the general manager.
DEVELOPING YOUR OWN UNIQUE CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
There is no perfect marketing plan that can fit the requirement of everybody. However, with tools like content marketing it’s possible to position yourself as a thought leader through blogs, white papers and podcasts. It can increase a brand’s visibility and reach wider audience.
For instance, conventional wisdom would suggest that people have apprehension consulting a doctor online, which is based on the traditional thinking handed down from generations to generations. This thinking, however, has changed over the past few years with the advent of technology. Success of start-ups like Lybrate is proof of this fact.
And changing this thinking is possible with the help of marketing. These fast growing start-ups use a mix of digital and offline marketing to reach out to users and this has got us tremendous response in consumer acquisition.
According to Saurabh Arora, Founder and CEO of Lybrate, serving the right content at the right time to the users yield results and this is true in the case of healthcare too.“For instance, we run Lybrate Ask the Specialist on World Health days in our attempt to bridge the gap between specialist doctors and the people in the country through our online doctor consultation platform. Also, during the recent Chennai floods, we provided informational content on ‘Dos and Don’ts for Chennaites to Stay Healthy’. These led to maximum share-ability quotient and huge organic traffic. So, what matters for inbound marketing is right integration of content creation, publishing and timing and this is no different for the healthcare industry,” explains Arora.
Knowing and understanding target audience is extremely important for marketing. For instance, cosmetic dental services might not be of interest to lower income group and if the competition has same strategy, then the brand will have challenges.
Arora feels that technology helps marketers to understand user behaviour and aid in identifying different target segments – be it age-, gender-, city- or age-gender-topic-wise, among others and help them serve better content. “Our advanced machine learning techniques help us to curate personalised and customised content for the users. This has greatly and positively impacted our different metrics and given a boost to the ROI.
“Also, Indians are waking up to the new technological advancement in healthcare and accepting the changes . Online doctor consultation, one such advancement, is on the rise. Lybrate introduced online doctor consultations in January 2015 for the first time in India and today more than 5 million interactions happen on the platform by way of searches of doctors, health queries sought and patient-doctor consultation. Even though major usage of the platform is from Tier 1 cities, people in Tier 2 and 3 cities are also adopting it. This will gradually happen as this is certainly the future of healthcare delivery in India,” says Arora.
“Stressing that healthcare is a serious and an uncompromising industry he stresses any company which wants to establish itself in this space needs to gain absolute trust of the consumers. Unlike a travel or an e-commerce portal, where consumers can be forgiving and are most likely to return despite a bad experience, a user once dissatisfied on a healthcare platform is not going to come back. After all, it’s the question of his/her health and life.
“What we try to do at Lybrate with any of our marketing campaigns is to establish that trust, confidence and emotional connect with the users that we care for them and are here for good and to do this we bank on creative marketing ways. For example, we do topic-specific targeting to capture the right user at the right time. So if the user is watching a diabetes video on YouTube, we run a relevant ad there on the topic. And if the user clicks on our ad, we make them land on the information related to that topic only on our platform,” explains Arora.
He also adds that use of technology is rampant today in every field and mobile has brought in a revolution in the way people consume content, go online to purchase things of use and even do business. Healthcare is no exception. “People are normally apprehensive to consult doctors online, but we have changed the way healthcare was being perceived and delivered in the country. We are solving both delivery and communication aspect of healthcare through online consultation and our health feed which consists of health tips that are shared by doctors themselves,” says Arora.
MARKETING STRATEGIES THAT ALL BRANDS CAN USE
Clearly, if a healthcare brand wants to attract more patients, simply placing some ads or creating a website, won’t be sufficient. However, with targeted focus it’s possible to get more patients, with the worst advertising campaign.
“Changing scenario is bringing more focus on disease specific clinics thus creating awareness and leading the consumer where to go. Topics like urinary incontinence, Gynecomastia which was a taboo to be discussed publicly or was a matter of only closed door discussion with the respective doctor is now being brought to light. This is easing out the consumer and providing solutions to the once deprived patient,” says Pawar.
Experts also warn that brands should have couple of things in place, before they take any major decisions. First, they should have a unique selling proposition or a competitive advantage. Second, they need a user-friendly website.
“Word-of-mouth plays an important role in promotion. Any one in need of a health care service does not know where to search for relevant information. He consults his family members, relations and friends first. The patients who come to a hospital generally have the old patients of that hospital as referrals. Word-of-mouth plays an important role during information acquisition stage of the customers as there are no objective performance measures to judge the various alternatives available to them. Therefore, satisfied past patients can bring more number of patients than a number of advertisements. But in today’s competitive world marketing is necessary for larger reach and Image building looking at the technological development.
“We see a sea change in moving from the traditional print and external marketing to digital and inbound marketing. Healthcare marketing today is mostly word of mouth and perception based. Influencers are present online through the day in huge numbers and communication with them, their feedback and experiences decides the fate of many brands. Hence brands must constantly watch and monitor the digital communication channels,” says Gururaj Rai, Director- Marketing, Zulekha Hospitals.
COME UP WITH AN ATTRACTIVE OFFER
Sometimes it’s not just enough to get visitors on your website, it’s also important to convert them to repeat patients.
Rai also adds that teams must step away from traditional methods and get ahead. “Constant and real-time communication with sustainable projects and campaigns will ensure innovation and creative engagements yielding good results. Three percent is a cost-effective budget however a judicious luxury would be 5 to 7 percent to have a proper balance on print and digital side.”
“Social Media has become a norm today and our younger community is extensively involved in creating a brand of their own on the channels available. New start-ups, the brain child of younger generations is definitely changing the equation in communication. We have our relations with many digital healthcare facilitators such as whatclinic, Medigo and we have seen good results on lead generation for some of our digital run campaigns over obesity. The response from younger generation is amazing,” explains Rai.
“With an optimistic outlook toward the future of healthcare system complemented by medical tourism growth in India in the next couple of years, organisations must look at private-public innovative partnerships through awareness campaigns on various healthcare areas. Patient-centric healthcare systems leveraging IT solution that aim at reducing TATs must be implemented. Branding will be effective only if the strategies communicated and initiatives planned are quality driven. Customers follow experiences,” says Rai.
“In India we haven’t had a full-fledged campaign as such and we look forward to do so in future. However, we have many brand campaigns launched in UAE. And our breast cancer awareness campaign launched in UAE “Pink it now” was ranked the best in Middle East by step feed a middle digital media monitor. We have also seen good business success in UAE with our service campaigns such as weekend campaigns and meeting specialists after working hours, fast track services and more that have yield good results for the business,” explains Rai.
It is important to use a proven strategy today and stand out in a group for a healthcare brand and integrate the brand’s USP in to the marketing strategy.
STEP UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
“Earlier, healthcare marketing always happened via the traditional mediums of print, TV and radio where no heed was paid towards personalisation and individual users. Now healthcare marketing revolves around personalisation and the needs of individuals. Mass marketing is no longer the strategy to adopt as it only gives eyeballs . But for user retention and engagement, we need to look at behaviour and pattern of users to serve them with relevant information and services.
DO YOU WANT FANCY OR FUNCTIONAL?
But how can you decide which medium is good for you? “While mix of all medium is a good approach, it depends on which target audience you want to tap and accordingly you select the medium. For us, digital channel has turned out to be the best so far to spread a word about Lybrate ,” says Arora.
Any marketing medium be it Out of Home (OOH), Radio, Social, SEM, tie-ups, etc. has its own effectiveness. The key is to find out where your target audience is and how they like to receive the content. Majorly the budget distribution happens between online and offline marketing (Above The Line, Below The Line), where expected outcome is measured against the effectiveness and the response expected from the various mediums. “We focus majorly on Online Marketing (SEM, Display, etc.) and do focused OOH,” says Arora.
HOW CLEAR IS THE MESSAGE THAT YOU WANT TO CONVEY
According to Ganesh Lakshmanan, when it comes to building sales the most effective has been the print. “This is very geographic to the hospital/clinic and with an offer sends a clear message with enquires. Even the internet is a growing media platform along with mobile messaging. TV and radio are more used to create awareness and building a long term brand,” explains Lakshmanan.
He also adds that every hospital has to find its unique selling proposition. “It could be in terms of providing the best care, the best of facilities, the best of care givers, the best of packages, the lowest mortality rates, etc. Some of the hospitals also provide home care which is an extension of the care given at the hospital. With insurance playing a major role, patients expectations from hospitals are growing for example they expect hospitality as a part of the package at a hospital,” he says.
HOW TO CREATE A PERFECT MARKETING BUDGET
Whether it’s building a new website or rebranding your practice, marketing cost a lot of money and time.
Plus, the budget allocation for branding activities also often changes based on the phases of the company. When a healthcare company decides to go for IPO, one can often see a high level of activity, which is often not seen during the other phases.
“A 2 – 3 percent of marketing budget, of what revenue volume is something that really matters. For a start up the percentage has to be much higher. However, with the established institutions with adequate revenue flow the 2-3 percent in real terms is sufficient funding for effective usage.
“In today’s environment communication tools like e-marketing on net, social media, targeted audiences and in addition in house communication with customers is the way out. In defined catchment areas hoardings, event organising, preventive healthcare campaigns etc are the devices to be used to target the marketing inputs which answer the needs and questions of the far more aware customer of today. Taking your brand as far as possible to the masses is an innovation especially benefiting metropolitan city hospitals,” explains Avanti Pawar.
Prashant Jhaveri, Head Products and Strategy, Medi Assist, whatever be the percentage of budgetary spend, marketing strategy cannot ignore social media and inbound marketing any more. “While it is true that a lot of activities on social media do not involve a direct cost (you can publish as many posts per day as you want on Facebook for example at no cost), a lot of direct and indirect investment goes into . Creating content that is engaging and,importantly, relevant to the targeted audience is the key to success,” explains Jhaveri.
EXACTLY HOW A BRAND CAN GET MORE WEB VISITORS
Experts feel some of the popular tools of healthcare marketing are e-marketing, social media, print, radio, hoardings/Out of Home Ads, TV, social groups, healthcare events, disease awareness weeks, organising CMEs and doctors for referrals. “Today competition is becoming more intense and quality focused. Social media is playing a significant role not only in spreading latest information but also the actual customer experience. Customer delight is changing from appreciation of experience to sharing experience of others and if not effectively handled, the social media exposures can often work as negatives. Social media or web marketing is yet to be properly explored in hospital marketing,” notes a source. “All of them are equally important tools. For offers, newspaper ads work well, while for a product (like luxurious birthing), continuous exposure through hoarding or online media is important. For brand visibility, radio works well as a good tool,” says Apoorva Patni, Director of Patni Healthcare. He also adds that customers nowadays are more aware and well informed with easy access to internet. “They read up lot of materials even before they visit the doctor. Therefore, the brand endeavor is curate lot of rich content on your website, blogs etc. to engage your potential customer more actively and regularly. Online marketing has increased, which helps in huge visibility. There are review websites or Facebook page as well. So people refer to such pages before going to a particular hospital. Emailers, surveys and online contests are also some of the new elements,” adds the CXO.Image 4
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO GETTING MORE POSITIVE REVIEWS?
Success doesn’t happen by chance in the healthcare sector. It’s not about getting lucky, but more about having a good game plan. It is a no-brainer that to stand out, a company must focus on one problem and solve that in entirety.
“Solving all the problems at the same time does not justify any and lead to half-baked results. It is a journey where you graduate from one level to learning and evolving on the basis of user experience,” says CEO of Lyrbate.
“Lybrate is focused on democratizing healthcare delivery in the country. We are solving the core problem of inaccessibility of doctors in the country by multiplying the presence of doctors. To let this happen, we created a platform that allowed users to communicate with doctors online from anywhere, anytime. Initially, our platform enabled users to reach out to healthcare experts through text only. However, on user feedback, we saw the need for voice and video consultations too and introduced the features to make the communication between doctors and users seamless and smooth. Whatever we do revolves around fixing the core problem of healthcare delivery in India which is nothing but shortage of doctors, and this is what make us different and unique,” says Arora.
WHY SHOULD YOU CONSIDER HIRING A MARKETING COMPANY?
While it’s not compulsory to hire an external agency to do marketing, one might often find best results after hiring a company. Experts point out that it’s hard to find marketing professionals with healthcare experience and vice versa. A good marketing company usually translates to improved user experience and better writers. For instance, many understand the design and user experience of the site is extremely important. Some body, who understands this is an extremely valuable piece of the chain.
Likewise, the role of public relations is very important for multiple reasons. “The key is to send out the appropriate message with regard to company, its products and new developments to the target audience. Given credibility and trust is paramount in healthcare as it is a sensitive space involving the health of people, public relations is an essential tool to build reputation and capture the mindshare with sustained efforts,” explains Saurabh Arora.
However, use of brand ambassadors is another tricky feature of healthcare marketing, as many are afraid of the wrath of Medical Council of India. Many often come up with terms like “friends of the organization” to avoid these problems. Yet, when mountaineer, David Liano teamed up with Deepika Padukone’s Live Love Laugh Foundation, it created quite a buzz in the industry. Deepika also took to her social network handle to make this announcement.
Fact is, inbound marketing is driven by the philosophy of “bringing people in” rather than going out into the market to garner attention. It is then immediately obvious that what brings people in is not sales, but loyalty towards the brand. Inbound marketing is all about creating brand loyalty by consistently engaging with your audiences with high quality and relevant content.
As is well known public relations, a perfect example of outbound marketing, are an integral to healthcare marketing. Public relations helps a brand reach out to the masses and increase brand discovery; and brand discovery is the first logical step in inbound marketing; inbound marketing then sustains the engagement that begins as a result of PR activities. Inbound marketing and public relations also go hand in hand for brand building and reputation management. “Public Relations in healthcare play a very significant role in managing expectations of internal and external stakeholders. Since we are in a service industry and directly impacting lives every second, we must understand, maintain and sustain relations with employees, customers, government entities, regulatory bodies and partners who work with us on a daily basis,” says Gururaj Rai.
MediAssist, on the other hand, uses a combination of inbound and outbound marketing. “PR is just as important a channel for us as is social media. We engage with our members continually via newsletters as well. Awareness and empowerment are the common threads in all our brand building efforts.
We are also perhaps one of the very few organizations who use the power of vernacular language effectively. Our website is available in Hindi and we will soon have many more languages out there. Being able to connect with our widely distributed member-base across the country in a language of their choice significantly increases the value and relevance of our content,” concludes Jhaveri.
COMMON MARKETING MISTAKES THAT BRANDS MAKE
So will technology, save the plot and bring some reprieve for Indian brands? Not many are convinced.
Dr. George Fernandes, the head of a prominent hospital chain in Kolkata, feels thats the Indian healthcare marketing is not going in the right direction.
“Healthcare marketing should not be about advertising being number one in your region/state/specialty. Healthcare has two aspects: clinical excellence and patient experience.
“Marketing campaigns doesn’t matter to a heart attack patient, if he has to wait for a long time in the reception. For him NABH accreditation or cardiology ranking doesn’t matter. Similarly, there is no rating of doctors in India. No one knows about success rate, post-operative care of a doctor or average length of stay. Hospitals never publish these details. Efficient hospital marketing would be about informing patients that their waiting time for an outpatient is 5 minutes or the first consultation is half an hour. Basically, patient information or connectivity is missing in today’s strategy . However, Indian hospitals are conservative about sharing this data,” explains the doctor.
DIGITAL CHANNEL HAS TURNED OUT TO BE THE BEST SO FAR TO SPREAD A WORD ABOUT
He also points out that industry needs to compare themselves with other sectors. “We need an environment to attract right talent. For instance, a hospital needs a well-designed front office, streamlined processes. Today, a young doctor would like to go an office which is non-political with a good healthcare information system. We also need a separate marketing strategy for doctors and better processes for patient satisfaction. In fact, they should adopt “a pizza delivery model”, i.e., if the patient waits for more than 5 minutes for registration, then they should be given a discount,” adds the doctor.
Most patients are keen to know about details like infection rate, average length of stay is often not available to patients. However, it’s not available to them. “Today, we are getting compared to other industries. Earlier, there was no competition. The market has changed today. When I was working in India earlier, 0.5 percent of revenue was spent on marketing, today its 5-7 percent ” adds the doctor.
He also points out that hospitals cannot survive merely on insurance. “They will fail, if they are not able to reach out to patients. Then, how should healthcare providers do branding? Our healthcare providers often don’t do corporate tie-ups. A hospital will grab attention of people, if they can tie- up with a company like Cognizant, conduct free medical check-ups for its employees, organize workshops etc thus making it, cervical cancer free. That would be a successful healthcare campaign,” concludes the CXO.