Marketing Healthcare Services

Marketing is concept that helps determine the success of an organizational mission. Essentials of Health Care Marketing (2006) define marketing as, the execution of the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of the goods, ideas and services. The author, Berkowitz (2006) goes on to say, “in order to respond to customers, an organization must develop a product, determine the price customers are willing to pay, identify what place is most convenient for the customers to purchase the product or access the service, and finally, promote the product to customers to let them know it is available. Often referred to as the four Ps of marketing strategy; the four main principles of marketing are: product, price, place and promotion. The mix of these four controllable variables that a business uses to pursue a desired level of sales is known as the marketing mix (Berkowitz, 2006). These principles can be applied to business marketing almost any industry, including healthcare. Successful healthcare marketing strategies will combine a variable mix of these principles within a marketing initiative. When considering healthcare marketing, the term, product is applied loosely.

Healthcare products include items or goods such as: wheelchairs, hearing aids and over-the-counter medications. In healthcare marketing, healthcare writing services such as: physical therapy, weight management and diabetes education, can also be referred to as product. Price focuses on what customers are willing to pay for a service (Berkowitz, 2006). In healthcare today, price is a major issue. Insurance premiums, for example; the prices continue to increase, while the benefits and amount of covered services decrease.

Employers are paying a smaller portion of premiums. Insurance companies are now requiring a co-payment from the consumer, whereas in the past, insurance companies paid the entire medical bill (Berkowitz, 2006). This influx, in turn, drives up the cost of the services itself. Therefore, households have less disposable income to spend on desired healthcare services, perhaps not covered by insurance. The challenge in marketing these services, is understanding what the consumer is willing to pay, when setting the price for these services.

A healthcare manager should recognize the difference between a service that is needed by the consumer, and one that is wanted. Sensitivity is required when marketing healthcare services needed by consumers. Additionally, marketing healthcare services wanted by consumers requires an entirely different approach. Another characteristic important to consider in marketing is place. Berkowitz (2006) describes, “Place represents the manners in which goods or services are distributed by a firm for use by consumers. When discussing place as a marketing element, location, is what first comes to mind. Convenient location of a healthcare service is equally important to the hours that service is available. Berkowitz (2006) provides an example: Increasingly, as more healthcare organizations establish managed care plans to enroll consumers in an insurance option that provides for all healthcare needs, the place variable assumes a more critical role. Companies offering prepaid healthcare plans must consider location and primary care access for potential enrollees.

Years ago, a physician would establish an office in a location convenient for the physician. Today, the consumer dictates this variable element of the marketing mix. In this multitasking society, most Americans desire instant gratification. Therefore, considering convenience in the placement of healthcare services; including location and hours of operation, is a key element in the marketing of these services. Those in healthcare management should understand the wants and needs the consumer desires, in terms of convenience. Promotion is the final element in marketing strategy.

Promotion is often confused with marketing, as many believe that marketing is promotion and vice versa. Of course, promotion is only a portion of the marketing mix. Marketing Matters A Guide for Healthcare Executives (2007) state, “Considering what is being promoted is important when selecting a marketing technique. ” The authors, Calhoun and Thomas (2007) explain in more detail: In selling an organizational image, frequent television and radio commercial may be in order. Promoting a new facility, perhaps public relations, open houses and sales calls to referral agents make sense.

If an event is being promoted, we should focus on carefully placed print ads, public service announcements, flyers and newsletter articles. Different products lend themselves to different promotional approaches, and some approaches are incompatible with certain services. Berkowitz (2006) explains, “Promotion represents any way if informing the marketplace that the organization has developed a response to meet its needs. Promotion itself involves a range of tactics involving publicity, advertising and personal selling. When, where, and how healthcare products and services are promoted, is a major consideration when marketing such service. The four main principles: product, price, place and promotion of marketing strategy can be affected by various social and economic factors. Attention to these factors in relating these principles to healthcare marketing is vital in determining the success of a marketing initiative. Social factors include: education level, lifestyle, culture and stage of life. Economic factors include: income and social class.

Without considering the social and economic factors that influence consumers, a marketing initiative will fall flat. A major part of the solution is to understand the target for which marketing a healthcare service is geared toward. The marketing mix and controllable variables for each individual service will vary as greatly as the number of services provided by an organization. Ultimately, each service has its own target market. Social media provides a channel for a brand to learn how consumers feel about its products and services through the likes of forums and chat-rooms (Plimsoll &Thorpe, 2010).

While the internet and the use of social media in marketing help identify the target, the ultimate goal of marketing is to capture face-to-face interactions, which are what truly, sells a service. A healthcare manager must understand the complexity of each target market by being familiar with the four main principles of marketing strategy. As well, it must be understood that marketing happens in all aspects of the patient experience. Quality interactions between the patient and office staff, physicians and after-care specialists must be guaranteed by a healthcare manager, for marketing of healthcare services to be successful.

References

Berkowitz, E. N. (2006). Essentials of Health Care Marketing. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Calhoun, M. and Thomas, R. K. (2007). Marketing Matters A Guide for Healthcare Executives. Chicago, Illinois: Health Administration Press. Plimsoll, S. and Thorpe, A. (2010, July).

Find and target customers in the social media maze. Marketing: Road to recovery, 10-11. Retrieved September 7, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 2109794771).