As the health care needs of the population grow, so do the opportunities for health care organizations and providers to meet these needs. Competition is growing, however, requiring health care providers to become increasingly savvy about marketing strategies. They need to effectively target potential clients with messages designed to increase awareness of their services.
Target the Decision Makers
The decision makers in health care are not always immediately apparent. Some providers wrongly focus on the consumer market, when other drivers of health care decisions may be overlooked. For most high-end surgical services--cardiac, neuro, orthopedics--primary care physicians are relied on by patients for making recommendations on which specialist to see, says Lin Grensing-Pophal, author of "Marketing With the End in Mind." That means that specialists in these areas would be wise to develop strong relationships with these referring providers, and direct their marketing dollars at them, rather than attempting to influence consumers through mass media efforts.
Understand the Competition
Effective marketing strategies require that health care organizations and providers understand the competition--including indirect competitors, says Grensing-Pophal. Indirect competition represents any alternative choice to a product or service, she says, and in health care that means "psychic" competitors. Psychic competition refers to the mindsets of potential customers and their decisions to avoid care altogether. They do so out of fears or concerns about procedures, diagnoses or lifestyle impacts. By addressing these "psychic" issues in their communications, says Grensing-Pophal, health care providers can help to allay some of these fears and build trusting relationships with potential patients.
Embrace Web 2.0
The Internet and related technologies represent new opportunities for health care organizations and must be included in marketing strategies. Blogs, participation in social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and a well-designed and interactive website are all ways that health care organizations can connect and build relationships with the general public and potential patients.